“Wow God, You’re really doing a number on me!” It was the day before I was to return home, and I had just arrived in Beijing. It was there, as I rode in the back of the cab on the way to my hotel that I found myself crying once again, as I had another revelation. I was closing out a phenomenal month of travel, on what has thus far been the best trip of my life.
Here are a few highlights of what I was blessed to do (pics are up on my FB page):
- I went on safari at Maasai Mara and saw a lion, and lots of other beautiful creatures
- I hiked the Great Wall of China
- I saw the beauty of the Taj Mahal
- I connected with Gandhi and cried my heart out at his memorial museum
- I rode a matatu in Nairobi
- I went to The Bund in Shanghai (but didn’t get to howl at the moon)
Initially, when I set off on this journey, my intention was to go and add lots of value. It all started with the volunteer trip to teach entrepreneurship at a girls school in Kenya. Once that part of the trip was confirmed, I added in the other countries in the hopes of seeing how people live in other parts of the world, and maybe even offering up my services from a business standpoint in the process.
But God had other plans in mind. Even though I did do some teaching and made some business connections, the biggest impact that was made on this trip wasn’t me imparting my “wisdom” on others. Ha! It was the impact that other people had on me. Imagine that. I saw the beauty of God’s creation, and I saw the glorious things God allowed man to do that are regarded as Wonders of the World. But with all of that, I must say the absolute best parts of my trip, the times that I will remember and cherish the most, were those special, seemingly uneventful moments when there were no cameras around. It was in time spent with friends old and new.
In China, two of my favorite moments came in the streets of Shanghai with one of my best friends. As we
kicked off the celebration to bring in the New Year we sat in a park and someone had a Stevie Wonder song playing in the background that I began to sing along to. Later, as we made the long walk to meet the group we were hanging out with that night, we quizzed each other on U.S. state capitals, and Canadian provinces (he’s Canadian). Those unguarded moments when we’re just being silly and shooting the breeze are always special, especially with a dear friend with whom I often have philosophical conversations that regularly contribute to my personal growth.
In Nairobi, with my new friend of only a day, it was walking down the streets of the city on the way to what became my new hangout spot, as I learned and felt Nairobi as a local rather than a tourist. This laid the foundation for an awesome next couple of days where I met even more wonderful people in his circle that became my own “Nairobi crew.” We all spent hours together, and it felt like we had known each other for years rather than less than a week.
In India, my most cherished moments were with my girlfriends (BRCS!) during our talks in the hotel
rooms. As we talked, we were completely honest and transparent about our feelings on our dreams, our careers, about some of the men in our lives. Whether it was in just listening, the endless laughs, keeping it real with each other, or in helping to find practical solutions and action plans that will help get us to what we desire, this was where the magic was.
The time spent with wonderful people wasn’t just limited to my close friends. It extended beyond to various other people I got to spend time with along the way, whether it was:
- Shooting the breeze in a coffee shop with some very cool Canadians who are teaching in China
- Crying together (I had lots of tears on this trip!) while singing the school song to the WISER girls with my big-hearted fellow volunteers as we said goodbye to the students
- Hanging out with a very cool gal from Mumbai who showed us the city, and introduced me to one of the best meals of my life
Why is all this significant? Because I’ve always considered myself a loner. I’m an introvert. I love my quiet time, and enjoy my own company. And over the past few years, I’ve been fully embracing my independence by doing things that I want to do on my own (travel to Paris, concerts, triathlon) when other people weren’t able or available to go with me. There have been a number of other major milestones in my life that I’ve gone through and achieved independently: buying a car, buying a house, selling a house, and starting a business. Being who I am, I suppose that these were all things that I needed to do and experience on my own. Not sure why, maybe it was to prove to myself that I could do all that by myself. And while I’ve enjoyed my independence, I realized while in the back of that cab, that doing everything “on my own” isn’t necessarily what I need (or want) to do anymore as I move forward.
What started this? I arrived in the Beijing airport, and there was no one there to pick me up. I knew there wasn’t going to be anyone there, and I was gonna have to jump in a cab. In fact, there have been many, many times when I’ve arrived in a city and there was no one to pick me up at the airport. That’s actually the norm. But, this time, the feeling of getting to a new city and walking through the arrivals terminal knowing there was no one waiting hit me in a different way. Hence, why I found myself crying a river in that cab a few minutes later. I realized why I felt differently, as I thought about all the great times I had over the past few weeks with such wonderful people.
People make the world go ‘round. I’ve always known that. But I learned it especially on this trip. People make my world go ‘round. My family. My friends. Strangers who become friends. People who I spend a few moments with. People I see, but don’t get the chance to speak to. People I never met, but read or heard about their stories. We aren’t in this world alone. No matter where you are, or what you’re going through, people have a wonderful impact on your life. And people have had a wonderful impact on mine.
Independence is great, but it can only get you so far and fulfill you so much. The best times in our lives, the most impactful moments in our lives, the biggest lessons in our lives, tend to come with and through other people.
So to all the people who were a part of this epic journey: thank you for helping to make my world go ‘round. And thank you for helping me learn this lesson, as I walk into a new chapter in life. There’s more time to be spent, more memories to make, more places to go, and bigger things to do. Hopefully, lot’s of that will be done with you, and with people like you.