July 25, 2009 was the first time I ever stepped foot outside of the United States. I remember so clearly the preparation that went into the trip and the butterflies I felt within my tummy. This trip was kind of spontaneous to say the least and for those of you who really know me, know that this is not out of the ordinary.
I tend to be an “on a whim” kind of girl.
Why did I go to Kenya first?
I do not have a good answer for you, but that the opportunity just landed in my lap.
It is hard to believe that it has been 8 years! When I look back and see how much I have learned and the global perspective I now carry around in my back pocket, I am extremely grateful that I was able to be a part of this original trip.
At that time I had just graduated High School (SPOILER ALERT. You now can figure out how old I am. Do the math.), and I had this urge to do something greater than myself. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to experience cultures. I wanted to go to a foreign land and feel misplaced for a bit. I wanted to get lost. I wanted to explore and I had barely spent anytime out of Texas. I just wanted to get out my comfort zone. I am not sure if it was my excitement of moving to another city for college or if it was simply my first encounter with wanderlust, but what I did know is that I wanted to break free.
This opportunity came and I did not blink. I took it. I went and applied for my passport, secured the funds and two months later hopped on a plane to Kenya.
Little did I know that this spontaneous trip would change the course of my life forever.
I tasted it. I took a bite into adventure and wanderlust took over my soul.
All of a sudden I refused to settle to be ordinary and my free spirit was unleashed.
I vividly remember walking hand in hand with the kids in the Mtepeni village soaking up my surroundings.
I remember the dirt that covered my feet at the end of the day.
I remember the taste of my first cup of chai paired with a warm chapati.
I remember the laughter from the kids as they ran through the fields.
I remember the strange feeling of my tongue as I tried to form my first Swahili word.
I remember it all.
I remember being overwhelmed by the immense poverty and surprisingly shocked at the simplicity of life.
I remember staring at the women in amazement as they balanced water on their head for miles.
I remember feeling out of place, scared and inadequate.
I remember saying under my breath, ‘I will never come back’
I left saying goodbye knowing that I had checked off the box of “exploration” in my life.
I convinced myself that I got ‘seeng the world’ out of my system and now I could concentrate on finding my new norm. I sought the traditional schedule for my life that was instilled in me since childhood, but I soon found out that this plan did not suffice.
I not only wanted to see more, but I wanted to be more. I had left a part of myself in Kenya and the Lord kept drawing me back to the foreign land I now call home.
I did not want to be ordinary, but I wanted to join the global community and continue to learn. I became a wanderlust soul and wanted to not lose any opportunity around me to see the world and all its beauty.
Kenya changed my perspective on life. It showed me that I could be extraordinary. That even though I am one soul, one person, one mind, that I could see change in this world. At that time, I had no idea what that looked like or where it would lead me, but what I did know is that I would not dismiss those ‘gut’ feelings anymore.
Those feelings drive my every sense of being. I want to motivate. I want to inspire and I want to continue to seek the discomfort that being a foreigner can bring.
I want to continue to be brave, take risks and know that nothing can substitute my experience.
This trip in 2009 gave me the beautiful gift of seeing my first glimpse at this world and I am forever thankful. I left telling myself I would never be back and I am so happy I listened to my heart rather than my mind because my heart has led me on an adventure that only continues to get better.
To all my wanderlust souls. Never stop exploring.