Ndenu, or, Why You Should Travel

How should I describe this place to you, a friend, family, a stranger? How should I describe the run down buildings, the vendors selling the same things, the broiler chickens rustling and crying in their cages, ready for selling. The dusty streets, the chipped tarmac running through the middle? How do I describe the gas being pumped into old liter sized plastic beer bottles to sell for people’s motorbikes. The smell of dust before the rainy season descends. The winds that pull in just as the sun is getting a bit too overwhelming in the long afternoon.

What can I say, but travel. See the streets and the vendors and the dust. See all of the dust, different each place you go. Go anywhere. Go everywhere. Go different places so that you can start to say that it felt a bit like those rural towns in Vietnam at times, and then realize how little you really know about these places that you have gone. And how much more there is to see. Then tell yourself that someday you will go back.

Travel so you can see your life through new eyes. So you can see your world in a new way. Travel so you can meet others who have traveled too. Who have traveled more. Who can teach you. Who you can teach, too.

Travel so you can hear the songs in the different languages. In Hindi and Swahili and Bemba and Lunda. So you can ride the crowded buses pushed in with the mothers holding screaming babies and farmers and sacks full of things that will be for sale in the next town, and truly appreciate your seat on your crappy Greyhound bus when you go home.

Go where you are scared to go. Where you are uncomfortable. Stay until the discomfort subsides or until you find peace within it. Take that strength back with you when you return home.

Travel so you can meet people. So you can see the little girl in fourth grade in her hand me down dress and ripped rubber shoes who says she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Hope that she reaches that goal. So you can talk to the thirty five year old man in his school uniform, back learning after so many years so that he can retake his secondary school exams and go back to be a nurse in the village where he has lived his entire life. Talk to them. Eat with them. Wonder about their lives. Wonder about your own life. Keep traveling.

Travel so you can learn. Travel so you can realize how much there is to learn. How much you have to learn. Pledge to try.

Go where you can’t communicate. Where there are no common words. Where it is imperative that you simply make it up. Learn to take it slowly. Then even slower. Learn to be patient with things you don’t know. Learn to make common ground. Learn to make yourself understood. Learn to understand.

Wake up in a new country, in a new city, in a new life. Never get tired of that feeling, of that feeling of curiosity and amazement that pulls you out into the day. Travel without plans, without goals or destination. Travel for the thrill, for the wonder, for the adventure, for the excitement of it all.

Travel so you can see all the different sunsets and star filled skies. Wonder at them. Realize how amazing it is that each one of those sunsets and each one of those star filled skies are the same. No matter where you go, or how things change those skies will always stay the same.