With a great love of travel I continue to have encounters with other places and the people in them which is a rewarding experience. The most important part of my travels is to encounter new cultures and I discover so much about them through the people. In my opinion to dip into another culture means to immerse yourself within and participate in the dynamics of that culture and it’s people. I choose not to be a tourist as my mission is to discover and be a part of the culture and to live and feel that culture whilst taking an active part in it. I am not afraid of the places and people I encounter as they are people as myself, each living their lives within their cultural boundaries but with the same basic human goals in life.
So this is the story of my travels and endeavours to discover the world as I am a strong believer that travel is itself an education. Whilst I travel I begin to ask questions about life itself and seem to be on a quest to answer them possibly unconsciously but to answer them nonetheless. The more I encounter poverty, the more I encounter a richness that I had never seen before. My travels always seem to take me out of Europe to places far and wide. The more the culture is far from European culture the more I am drawn in that direction. Something I have always believed and continue to believe is we can buy travel which can make us richer in the sense of knowledge and experience we gain. In our world of materialism and consummation most other things will not last in our memories or will fade away such as that new pair of trainers which cost one hundred pounds. Travel is an investment which will last forever more, in the heart and in the mind.
Whilst I feel privileged to visit the slum of Nairobi, of course I am conscious of the dwellers trying to escape for a better life. What the slum taught me was that people don’t just set up shacks to enable them to approach the city to hustle and work. They are born generation after generation in the slums. Likewise those shacks made of corrugated iron; plywood and plastic sheeting are not actually rent-free.
We can see the dwellers escaping the slum on the top of the hill and sitting in contemplation of the endless ocean of corrugated iron. My story is not their story of course. I don’t have to sleep in the slum; I have a privileged life many miles away. Not only does this open my eyes to reality, it also makes me realise that in my reality in Europe I really should not complain. Not only do these people and places give you an insight, they also change the essence of your being if you are receptive to them. I for one became a charitable person, learning the true essence of giving and how in the end you receive so much more.
Yes, my travels have been my education, no matter how much a university education can teach me about intercultural competences, I believe you should live them.
My travels have also educated me with regard to the meaning of charity. Whilst initially there is a tendency to give through guilt the process will eventually teach you how to give and to whom. What is the point in paying a young boy to drive you around on the back of his motorbike for a small amount of money when you can pay for him to get his licence? In turn the police no longer harass him, compound his bike or send him to prison. Surely it is better to pay for his licence whilst letting him transport you around for the rest of your stay free of charge.
It is through scant meals where true friendships are forged. Meeting those that have nothing but are always willing to share what little they have. This is an education, one far from the egotistical lifestyle in Europe where things have more value than people. These are the people I see as mentors that give me a glimmer of hope for humanity. Yes, encountering places and people can open our minds as well as any educational institute can do.
The Ethiopian ritual of making coffee will always have more meaning compared to sitting alone in Costa coffee or Nero’s paying extortionate prices for elaborately named and fashionable coffees.
No need for Islamaphobia in my books as my travels have given me an open mind which I could never have found in a book of academia. My travels allow me to live within other cultures rather than just read about them. All this can be taken away and kept in our hearts and minds as life lessons.
Some of the most beautiful people I know are those I have encounter on my travels, if only life did not keep us so busy making money and far from discovery. If only the world could be even smaller, I would so like to re-visit these forged friendships so far away. Alas, here I am in Europe facing a society which is evolving in directions which do not always appeal to me.
So in the end I believe my questions about life are answered. I believe through travel I have at least found what is most important in life and that is not always materialism. Whilst I agree that materialism is an important part of capitalist society, I can see the loss and detriment of things which are equally important. It seems the less we have the more we have a sense of humanity but with ‘means and wealth’ often there are losses. Whilst I see immigrants clambering to gain access to Europe I also see all that they will leave behind them. So this is my story, one which I am still writing and will probably write until the day I die.