Through life experiences, I have learned that our lives are meant for growth and development. Upon this realization, I decided to take personal responsibility for my continuous growth into the best version of myself. Now, I embrace every opportunity for an adventure, and I have learned that it is imperative that I surrender when I feel uncomfortable or afraid. I like most people, do not always want to surrender, but I have learned that I have no choice in the matter, because life keeps presenting more opportunities until I surrender to the present moment which leads to grow. Growth only happens when we are pushed to our edge. Reaching the edge is never comfortable for most of us, because of the storm of emotions involved. However, the reward of pealing back the layers to reach a deeper sense of self is worth more than gold or bitcoin. As I learned while hiking up Lion’s Head Mountain with Kobi, a Brazilian woman who relocated to Cape Town, South Africa, life is all about getting used to new things. Once you take a small leap of faith, it becomes easier to take larger leaps. I have noticed that when I give new experiences a chance, when I surrendered to the present moment, I later see a truer version of myself.
In addition to the spiritual gems and life lessons we learn from others we meet while traveling, traveling also presents unique experiences for growth. While traveling we are continuously pushed to our edge because we are no longer in the town of familiar. In the town of familiar, we have a false sense of control which gives us comfort. The truth is, we are never in control of our lives. The first time I realized this, the perfectionist in me was screaming “No, that cannot be true! I was told if I work hard I will be successful.” However, once I rose above the emotions and chatter in my mind, I knew with certainty that something greater is in control, and that something is God. I know that God is on our side and only wants to see us grow. Therefore, when we relax and surrender to life, we are surrendering to God and the universe where peace abounds. As Michael Bernard Beckwith says, life is for us and not against us.
During your travel there is a good chance that things are not going to go as you planned and a greater chance that situations will require you to practice patience, forgiveness and kindness. What will you do when you feel your grasp on control slipping? Will you attempt to take back control or will you surrender to the unknown by letting go? How will you respond when someone does not provide a service to you within your defined timeframe? Will you wait patiently? Will you be kind and forgiving?
I travelled to South Africa in October 2017 and experienced unknown situations that nudged me to the edge of myself. In December 2016, I decided that I want to travel to more international countries to explore new cultures, peoples and lands. I asked my closest friends if they would join me, but none of them could take leave from work or school for seven days. I was afraid to travel to another country alone, due to the living abroad safety and security training I received as a federal government employee. In my relentless pursuit to be more adventurous, I researched travel agents that coordinate group trips. I found Travel Noire (TN) Travel Experiences, which offers local group trips with a professional photographer. I figured this should be fun, I want to meet new people right?
In January 2016, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and booked a TN Experience to Cape Town, South Africa with eleven strangers. Later that year, one of my friends that I previously asked to join me on the TN Experience, decided that she wanted to join me in Cape Town. I was relieved to have a travel partner and excited to travel with her because we had not traveled internationally before. I was a bit concerned how this was going to work because the TN Experience was sold out. I had to step out on faith and believe that everything would work out well. Shortly after, we began planning our trip and decided we wanted to go to Johannesburg for about one week following Cape Town. I was excited to meet new people, but a small part of me was more excited that a friend was joining me, because I would have a loyal confident if the group was not as adventurous and open as I am. Life has a wonderful way of ensuring that you have the experience you need, rather than the experience that you want.
As God and life would have it, my experienced travel partner and close friend, missed her international flight to South Africa. Yes, I said that correctly, she missed her international flight. It was unlike her to miss something important, and unlike anything that I had ever experienced. I was presented with my first challenge of many on this trip. My mind was flooded with negative thoughts and emotions as I sat alone in Dulles International airport. Reoccurring thoughts such as “Who is going to explore London with me during the layover? I cannot possibly do it alone, it is twelve hours in London. Her friends were going to show us around London, now what am I going to do? What happens if she never makes it to South Africa?” started to make my heart beat a little faster. Thankfully, I have been through emotional storms before, and I know that when our minds think that something is wrong, our heart rate elevates, which excites our mind to generate more irrational thoughts about the current experience, which leads to an increased heart rate and the cycle continues until breached. The breath can stop or slow down this negative cycle. Through meditation and mindfulness, I noticed the irrational thoughts cycling in my mind, so I smiled and took a deep breath through my nose and exhaled slowly out my nose. My focus was no longer on the irrational thought cycle and I could see clearly in my heart that I was going to be fine.
I let go of the fear and began planning my layover during the flight to Johannesburg. I used the headrest screens to review information about historic and must-see destinations in London. I also remembered a few recommendations that my friend mentioned during our planning. The layover in London was amazing, and something I will never forget. I learned a lot about London that I will use for a future trip to the beautiful city. Read more about how I maximized the 12-hour layover in London, here on my blog. Before you leave this page, please share how you believe that traveling has helped you grow into the best version of yourself. I would love to hear from you!
I carried that fearless spirit with me as I got off the plane in Johannesburg, walked to customs to enter South Africa, collected my luggage, and walked to the Mango airlines counter to check-in for the connecting flight to Cape Town. I knew that I was in for an adventure, and I was ready for all that life was about to present to me.
Travel well and often,
PHOTO: Kibuuka Photography, taken at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa
OUTFIT: Skirt: Made in Sierra Leone, Top: Topshop