We were without a road map, and in a foreign country with barely $20 in our pockets. Yet we continued on our tasks to find, feel, taste, smell, see – to experience.
Six years ago, I started a journey that – without sounding incredibly cliche – changed my life. I signed up for a study abroad experience to Cape Town, South Africa.
In preparation for the trip, those of us participating joined our study abroad director to prepare and learn more about the South Africa culture. We came to appreciate the idea of Ubuntu – a belief that we are all ourselves because of each other. I am because we are. We were ready to speak the lingo, or so we thought.
Before our last meeting stateside our director asked us to trust the journey, to understand that every step of our trip – packing, airport security, the flight, arrival, everything – was part of the journey.
I thought I understood. Ubuntu and trust the journey. Simple ideas that made sense. But it wasn’t until I was on a scavenger hunt in the middle of Cape Town did it truly sink in.
Our first full day in Cape Town, my first day in a foreign country period, my friends and I were split into groups of three. We were given a list of things to find around the city. The goal: to taste, touch, see, smell and experience things we never have before.
Remember, no map, and barely much money. Oh yeah and no phones. Without these tools we were forced to really take everything in. Look around. Really see it. See where Table Mountain was in relation to the our bed and breakfast, in relation to the mall, the statues and the ocean.
We were to rely solely on the people. To trust the stranger that heads of site to return with your appropriate change (he did). To trust the other bystander to point you in the direction of the appropriate taxi to take you to the next location on your scavenger list. And to trust the assurance of your friends when you become confused and wary.
During our trip across Cape Town we saw a historical statue, tasted a fruit we had never heard of before, dipped our toes in the ocean. We learned how to ask for the bathroom (not bathroom, or restroom, but toilet).
We opened our eyes and observed the world around us. We became one with the community with a simple goal of just relishing in the journey.
On our way back to our bed and breakfast we had crossed off everything on our list except one: hug a stranger. I don’t remember if this was explicitly on the list or whether the list said “do something we’ve never done before,” and that’s what we decided. Either way we stopped a passerby to ask for directions. When asked the simple question “Can we have a hug too” this man from Zimbabwe looked at us with surprise, wonder and awe. He thanked us being caring enough to give him a hug, a bright spot in his difficult day.
Ubuntu. I am because we are. That’s what it’s all about – connecting as one with the people around you.
By the end of the scavenger hunt every one of us reached our destination right on time. Trust the journey. More than just believing that the journey will play out as it should, but truly trusting in the journey and fully experiencing it as it plays out.
I learned these lessons while traveling through Cape Town. But sometimes, too often, I forget. This new blog will focus on remembering these lessons highlighting moments of inspiration and creativity to motivate myself and hopefully my readers.