Open your heart, release expectation and experience a place with brand new eyes.
This post comes from our blog intern, Emily!
I arrive in Ghana, Africa on the full moon. I walk from the plane to the tarmac in the city of Accra. It is dark, and I can’t decipher where I am as I leave the airport. It feels good, though. The air, humid and warm, transports me back to my childhood in Indonesia. I reach my night’s destination and open the curtains to find a beautiful moon glowing over the sprawling city. I know it’s going to be one special trip.
The skies are so different; it’s a world I feel obliged to share. I can’t put my camera down — there is an unspoken desire to snap pictures of everything. But as my trip progresses, I learn to balance that and be present enough to capture at least a few moments with my heart.
It is loud, music playing all the time. Alarms ringing frequently, car horns that never end — it’s the hustle bustle of Accra that fades into white noise and becomes almost soothing with time. Traffic is inevitable and the narrow roads fill with cars and people. The country is vibrant, buzzing with people who wear amazing colors made up of ornate designs and patterns.
There’s a mango tree outside that people pick from during the day. The best part of the morning is breakfast, which consists of heaping amounts of tropical fruit. A woman in blue velvet leggings has been sitting on a “shanti” (handmade African stool) over a tarp and a fire pot. I think she’s making a a traditional local food called “fufu,” made from cassava root and plantain. It’s enjoyed by everyone and produced through very hard work — pounding and stirring over a hot fire for an hour is not easy. A man bathes himself with a rag and a bucket of water outside while another man chats away with him and laughs as he pulls weeds around the area. The rituals of a community, made up of 20 or more people living behind the row of shops on the street.
There are so many things I take for granted. I see a group of people gathered around a table chatting, relaxing, and drawing with a little one. A mother wraps her arms around her boy and holds his hand with a pencil; she helps him draw in the dirt. It’s heartwarming and reminds me that it’s the simple things. Life is short and the people, places and moments are what matter most. I get a little discouraged when I think of the culture I live in sometimes — are we losing that? Connection, on a real level? It’s so alive here. It’s humbling to watch Ghanaians live life.
Fresh coconuts are my sweet daily ritual.
Chickens frolic, cars roll by, the generator roars, wind blows, people chatter and children laugh. People are passionate, gentle and kind. I feel grounded. It’s been a beautiful, real and expanding journey…
Foreign travel can be so very exhilarating, yet so very intimidating. It’s difficult to pack, we anticipate, we fill ourselves with expectations. Maybe we think we’re fully prepared and ready for whatever…or maybe overwhelmed and anxious. Each journey is different.
As I check things off my list before departing for Ghana, a place I’ve never been before, I catch myself going about it differently. When I get ready to travel, I usually prepare items, materials, clothes…but, for this trip, something changed. I pack the essentials, but what I need most is to prepare myself — my mind, or better yet, learn how to empty my mind so I can travel with an open mind. I didn’t build up the usual pre-trip thoughts. I let these go and what I got in return was — freedom. Beautiful, unbeatable freedom.
So, wherever you go next, regardless of whether you have been there before — I promise your experience will be nothing short of unforgettable if you let go of your expectations and open up to whatever may be . Soak it up, baby, soak it up.
+Where are you headed? Do you have any tips on how to really get to KNOW a place? Let us know in the comments below!
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