Now that I’m finally rested and back on Eastern Standard Times, I can really talk to you about my birthday trip to South Africa! The time I had, albeit short, left a lasting impression on me and I would do it all again in a heartbeat (and for much longer)! Although I could write for days about every single thing, I want to focus on the two firsts: my first international trip….and my first solo trip. Let’s start with the physical distance first.
I never knew how many hang ups I had about travel until I watched people who looked like me traveling to places I wanted to go. They’re young. They say you should travel the world in your 20s. Oh, they have a job that travels a lot. They don’t have kids. Oh, you have to be a travel blogger. You name it, it crossed my mind. For years, me and my friends would gush over wanting to go to Paris, Madrid, and the like. But when it came down to it, there was always this wall up or maybe a tether on our leg that kept us from taking that step forward. I had to tell myself that if it’s possible for them, it’s possible for me…and on December 25th, the glitch heard around the web made it possible for me to stop talking about traveling and just do it. Which, once I got over the excitement and terror that I was actually acting on an opportunity, was difficult but worth it.
When I bought my ticket, I only purchased one. This decision shocked everyone in different ways. My friends and colleagues were elated for me; giving me their well-wishes and good lucks on my excursion. I even got stories of traveling abroad alone. But my family? They hated the decision the most. I was told of civil unrest in the country and diseases (all in places I wasn’t going to). They found articles on articles of robberies of tourist and Boko Haram. My mom even compared my trip to the plot of Taken. I was told often to count my losses and cancel; to wait until I had someone else to go with me. That I would be taken advantage of, and I would be spotted a mile away. All of these “concerns” quickly started sounding like fear and even a deep resentment, and the weekend before my trip, I embodied them.
When I was at the airport, I kept telling myself “just keep going”. I wasn’t trying to see my trip as a whole; just one step (or connecting) flight at a time.
Just keep going.
Got to Johannesburg safely and made it to my host family. The neighborhood felt a lot like home. Just keep going. Then I was invited to an engagement party where I made some amazing friends. Just keep going. I flew out to Cape Town where I tried local cuisines. Just keep going. Then shopped at a popular open air market. Had a five-course lunch. Partied all night with locals. Made it back home, no scars, no scratches. All in one piece, much to certain people’s dismay.
Before I left, I felt that this trip would spark something in me. I knew…before I even boarded any flight…that the simple act of believing this was possible in my life would open doors for me and within me. I plan to do much more international traveling now, setting my sights on Thailand and Amsterdam for the future. I just needed that one trip. That one moment to see for myself that it is all possible.
Just keep going.