This is my home.
Many of you know I live in Kenya and some of you know I reside on the coast of the Indian Ocean, but what most of you do not know is that I am settled in a historical neighborhood, Old Town. There is beauty within the old staircases, alleyways and Swahili carved doors. There is a vibrant culture that lives within the poverty of the streets and there is a simplicity to life. We live all amongst each other and probably know too much about each other but isn’t that still beautiful?
I actually know and love my neighbors.
I actually engage in conversation, share meals and laugh with my neighbors.
And I am actually one with the community, and mothers who make up my neighbors.
I am continuously surprised and blessed by the way my neighbors open their arms to my family and I.
Relationships are important in the culture I live in and time is irrelevant. Some days this drives me crazy and other days I find bliss in losing myself in the moments of laughter.
I have grown a lot over the years living abroad, but what I have found the most important is having awareness of the world your stepping into and becoming a better listener to the locals around you.
I call myself a local because Old Town, Mombasa is currently my temporary home but we all know by the blonde hair I wear and the accent I carry that easily does not pin me as a Swahili, which means I am a foreigner in my homeland. This can be tough on many occasions. I have to barter harder for my mangoes, endure tour guides chasing me down my street to tell me history I already know, and wrestle in my heart how to respond daily to the sweet children who beg to me because through their lens, my skin tone reflects money.
It is not easy to be fully immersed and live amongst a culture who most definitely puts me in a box of stereotypes, but what is rewarding is building relationships, developing friendships and breaking down those barriers of preconceived notions.
Immersion is the best way to know the people you live among. Hiding behind a wall does not do you justice to knowing the culture you are in.
Before I moved to the city, I lived in the village. I traded my single life to a married one and in return traded my rooster calls to the horns of the tuk tuks on the city streets. It was a major adjustment and I had to learn to be okay with stepping out of my box and personal space. I had to become comfortable with making mistakes and learn to not give up trying to get my best price for a mango! (Supposedly, word on the street, I am a pretty good barterer these days!)
Knowing the culture I have immersed myself in has molded me into a better version of myself and has taught me to value friendships that have no boundaries. I have learned to love deeper, be a better listener and forget that personal space was even a thing. I have learned that a relationship always trumps being on time to a meeting and sleepovers still occur when you are in your thirties.
The people that surround my life are lively, full of energy and passionate. They care, are kind and some of the most generous people I know. They remind me that simple is bliss and to be honest, less complicated.
People are what define wanderlust. It is the people that make traveling this world worthwhile. So, immerse, engage and know the culture your going into. Be ready to listen, learn and follow the locals. Respect the culture, immerse yourself in the experience and take home the memories.
And if your like me, you just might make the road your home.