“And all that is gold does not glitter…”
I have been travelling
alone by myself very often. It is actually the kind of travel I enjoy the most. It might appear more challenging, some might dramatize it and say ‘It’s you against the world’. It’s not. It’s you with the world, and the world with you.
Through all my travelings, I have met amazing people, shared delicious meals, discovered hidden little places, and made friends for life.
This journey is no exception. When you open yourself to the world and allow it to come close, you will be welcomed anywhere you go.
Flying from Paris, I was sitting next to a French writer, in need of inspiration and hoping to find it in Egypt.
When I arrived in Egypt, I had a bit less than two hours before my next flight, and was desperately looking for the transit gate. Cairo Airport is quite large, and there were arrows pointing to the transit gate in every possible direction…That’s when Tommy and Fred happened. Two frenchies desperately looking for the transit gate as well. We end up finding it, check the time, and realise we still have time for a drink. They happened to be professional fishers, traveling around the globe to find the best fishing spots, and challenging themselves to get the largest fish. Man vs Wild. They were on their way to Socotra Island, and had loads of stories to tell from previous travels, all very interesting, most extremely hilarious, and some that I wouldn’t repeat.
Time for my next flight. Cairo, Egypt ==> Nairobi, Kenya.
The plane is an old Boeing, not the fancy kind, but it’s a night flight and what strikes me as most important is that I can have three seats to (try to) sleep. Hurray! I get all comfy, get some pillows, a blanket, the latest Harrison Ford’s movie is playing on the screen above me, we get some ‘food’ and I am about to happily hide in Morpheus’ arms. But that did not happen.
Instead, there is this man in his mid-forties that decides to jump and sit next to me. That’s what happened. Suit and all, business type. He had some random connection to Tunes(Tunisia), and was genuinely pleased to meet me and have a chat. He got very interested in the purpose of my traveling, and we ended up having nice discussion about arab politics and societies, differences between our countries, influence of religion and whatnot. Him in Egyptian dialect, I in Tunisian. Communication is never an issue. It is 3:40 am, we are arriving to Nairobi. At the airport, he refuses to leave me alone there in the middle of the night and decides to take charge of me. He happened to be the East Africa director of a large shipping company and had his driver waiting. So I get an awesome Nairobi-by-night tour, we stop at a 24/7 supermarket where he buys me food and water for the long road ahead of me. He manages to find a place for me to exchange money to local currency so that I do not over pay anything while in Kenya. Then we go and check out the bus company, which is still closed. Hence he invites me for coffee at the Hilton in the meantime (say what?!).
The sun rises over Kenya, shops start opening, we head to the bus station again. He makes sure that I get a good seat, that the price is correct, and only leaves me about 15 minutes before departure. I cannot be thankful enough for all that he did for me, genuinely, standing up all night just so that I do not feel like a lost stranger, but rather like a friend that was invited in a new country. When I couldn’t find the words to express my gratitude, he said something. “Sometimes, God puts someone on your way, someone that might need help; when that happens, you have to do everything in your power to help that someone, because a greater plan is being designed”. On those profound words, he left me to pursue my journey.
In the bus I meet Shivam, from Dar Essalaam, who will be my friend for the ride. We are about the same age, he is Tanzanian, finishing his university studies in Dar, and was coming back to Tanzania from a Hindu religious conference in Kenya. Shivam was the perfect person to share this long ride with, introduced me to the Tanzanian culture, made me feel comfortable, made me laugh, and taught me new things. I will definitely have to see him if/when ever I go to Dar. Arriving in Arusha, waiting for my contact to pick me up, dying from exhaustion and starvation, he sweeps me in to a very nice Indian restaurant, and makes my arrival in Arusha even smoother. Thank you Shivam, thank you Life for putting me on the way of Shivam.
I finally arrived in Arusha, this journey was amazing, thanks to all those people I have met on the way.
You have to be aware of one thing. Hospitality is not a one way thing. It is not one person giving and the other simply enjoying. It is a moment of sharing, both open up, one has the ability to welcome, the other has to embrace that, open up, be thankful, and give back as much as possible. Welcome hospitality!
In Arusha, after a few days of resting and getting settled, I send out a message out there, pretty much saying that I am new in town and would love to meet some people. Five minutes pass, and I receive a message. This is Abbas, and he offers to help me in any possible way. Tells me about an event happening outside of town. He can’t go, because he has a surgery. But he can pick me up, take me there, and then even bring me back after his surgery. As anyone in his right mind, I am questioning this. But something inside of me tells me that, it’s fine, all will be fine, you can trust. So, I trust. And all is fine. And he is so generously kind and helpful that I am in awe. Some good star is definitely watching over me. Or good karma. Or something. He tells me about his life, that he lived in Canada and when he first arrived, he was completely lost and stuck. Then someone appeared out of the blue and simply helped him out, just to help him. Since then he decided that whenever he can give back this gratitude from life he would do it.
Truth. When you help out someone in your life, do it genuinely, do not expect anything. Because even if this person might never return the favor, life will. In time of need, there will be someone for you, wherever you are. You will be put on that person’s way for them to help, so that they will in their turn be helped.
African lesson n°2: On this continent or another, you will never be alone. Karibu!