12 Reflections from a Month in Africa

 

 

By Anna Bodman

Over this summer, I was lucky enough to have the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel around Zambia, Botswana and South Africa for a month. As the longest time I had ever been away form home and my first time to Africa, I came home with so many lessons learnt. Thus, I thought I would share some invaluable African wisdom.
  • Be thankful for the food you have. When it’s not certain where the next plate of food will come from, savour every last mouthful. Don’t be afraid to try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone…you’ll appreciate that extra mouthful in a hours’ time.

  • Acknowledge the importance of religion. Even as an atheist myself, its so important to realise the value of religion in other cultures and communities. If given the chance, go and experience someone’s faith first hand and respect what it means to them.

  • You don’t need to capture everything on your camera! Sometimes the best moments are those which are only seen by your eyes. Cherish these moments and don’t worry if its not stored on a SD card somewhere.

  • Don’t be scared to say no. You are the only person who knows your own limits and you have a right to share this. No-one can force you to go places you don’t want to or do things you don’t feel comfortable with. Whether it’s a leader, friend or seller in a market, be confident to say no.

  • A strong handshake goes a long way. When meeting someone new in a powerful position, a strong, confident greeting can make a lifelong impression and open up doors to new experiences and opportunities.

  • Appreciate your privileges. From the NHS, to our clean streets to having clean clothes, be thankful for the little things. Understand that you are phenomenally lucky and make the most of every opportunity you have.

  • Ask questions! 99.9% of the time people are more than happy to help you and the likelihood is that someone has the same question as you! Clarify instructions that you don’t understand, further your knowledge of topics you find fascinating and remember, you may never have the chance to ask questions again.

  • There is no shame in getting an early night. This is an invaluable lesson for ALL travellers – there is nothing worse than not fully appreciating a day out because you were awake all- night gossiping.

  • Always learn ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in the respective language. It’s impossible to explain the happiness on one’s face when you greet them in their tribal language. Not only does it show respect, it demonstrates that you’ve spent time researching their culture!

  • Leave your phone at home and swap it for a puzzle book. There’s nothing else to say about this one – just do it.

  • No good deed is too small. Whether it’s cleaning the dishes, offering to take someone’s bag or singing songs with street kids (!), try to do a good turn every day. Not only are you making someone’s day better, it gives you such a thrill that is unlike no other feeling in the world.

  • And finally, our motto for the trip: Expect the unexpected.