June 1995. A little girl steps out of an airplane. The woman and man on either side of her swallow her small hands in theirs.
As they exit the aircraft, she sees two black men, in green uniforms, holding machine guns in their arms. She leans in closer to her parents, her protective barrier. As they leave the airport, a group of dark skinned children run up to them.
They’re jabbering in a language the little girl can’t understand. Now they’re stroking her hair. The silky blonde locks feel strange between their fingers.
The little girl in this story is I. When I was six years old, my family moved to Eldoret, Kenya for the summer. The reverberating effects of my time in Africa have influenced my perspective of life, and in many ways, have shaped me into who I am today.
Young as I was, I quickly learned what was important in life and what was frivolous; what was essential and what was superfluous. Surrounded by poverty, I became conscious of how blessed I was to have a home and not a hut, piped water and not a creek. Peanut butter and jelly were rare; when our last bottle of ketchup ran out, I mourned.
I realized the loss of my ‘essentials’, were others luxuries. Since returning from Kenya I have been blessed to travel with my family to other countries- those with high standards of living and those that have only the basics. With each experience my perspectives have broadened and my desire to travel has been further flamed.
This past summer I had the privilege of traveling to Costa Rica. My first solo trip, I was anxious without someone to hold my hand. I stayed with a host family, I took language classes in the morning, and I led a small Spanish speaking Vacation Bible School group each afternoon.
My independence enriched my travel experience, forcing me to reach out, make the first attempt in communication, and solve my own problems. What surprised me the most about this trip was the pleasure I discovered from being self-reliant. I realized I enjoyed learning, discovering, and experiencing on my own, without anyone holding my hand.
The passion I have for traveling and embracing new cultures has been invaluable in my education and more importantly in my perspective on life. Traveling has taught me to attempt new things with an open mind, be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and to embrace cultural and economic diversity. I enjoy the challenge of adaptation that traveling thrusts upon me.
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