Traveling And Personal Growth


Let me tell you a personal story and share my reflections with you. Today I'm a seasoned traveler and I've preferred to set out on my own since the early days. When you go alone you meet more people which effects the overall learning experience and I just love the thrill of traveling on my own.

As a one-man team you got the freedom of a soaring bird, you go where you want and you can change your plans anytime en route. Anyhow, from time to time I team up with travelers I meet along the way for a refreshing change.

Spending Time Abroad


On an average, my trips last for 6-18 months and spending that much time abroad has a powerful affect on you. Generally speaking, the younger you are the more you change. While away we're exposed to foreign cultures, foods and languages. We bump into plenty of fascinating people and the occasional oddball. The number of new experiences you can have in a limited period of time really has an affect on your values and thinking, in short, you grow up!

Traveling is a great eye-opener. Anyone with an interest in traveling and personal growth has everything to win. I find it surprising, how I can spend 6 months round the Middle East without noticing any changes in myself.

But once I've been back home for a month or two, I start noticing it. You really have to go home to see these changes clearly and to understand how the new experiences have affected you. Your point of reference awaits back home...

Hitchhiking In Africa


I had been to northern Africa twice and really enjoyed Arab culture, especially the rich history, foods and down-to-earth people. But when I left the UK heading for Southern Africa, I had no idea that this was going to become the most life-changing trip of them all.

Hitchhiking is great and I just love meeting the locals, wherever I go. Sure, I've had bad experiences while on the road but with some healthy common sense, hitching is just fine. I started in South Africa, which still was in a noticeable state of change after the recent fall of apartheid. Besides, it's a stunningly beautiful country and getting a ride wasn't that hard.

South African Culture


>The South Africans were all good to me, I found them a helpful bunch of peoples. At the same time, I experienced things I had never seen anywhere else in the world. Having grown up in Sweden, the South African culture was miles away from what I was used to. One evening, I saw a fight between a Zulu man and woman who ended up wrestling in the middle of the street.

I witnessed ugly racism like I had never seen it before. My experiences of South African society called forth strong emotional and mental reactions in me, some, very painful. What I'm touching on here are experiences that trigger reflection which in turn makes for personal growth. Progress on this path may be painful, yet liberating in the long-term.

The Zambezi River


I continued hitchhiking and reached into Zimbabwe and Zambia. After a few days in Lusaka, Zambia, I slowly started to cover the long way back to South Africa. There are many stories to tell about my experiences along the African roads, but let me just share one of them with you, the most painful one of them all.

I had just crossed the Zambezi river, from Zambia into Zimbabwe. The Zambezi is one of the longest rivers in the world and it's full of crocodiles. When the British ruled, in what today is called Zambia and Zimbabwe, they dammed up the Zambezi river and built a gigantic hydroelectric power plant. The water from the Zambezi accumulated and formed a lake, called Lake Kariba. The lake later became a popular destination amongst South African holiday makers who would spend a few days relaxing on luxury-house boats.

Zimbabwean Culture


So there I stood, just across the Zambezi, waiting for my next ride. I flipped through my passport checking how many days I had spent in Zambia. I put it back in the travel pouch and continued waiting. There wasn't a whole lot of traffic in the Kariba area, but before long a beige pickup truck pulled over. There were only two seats in the cab. The driver was white and next to him sat a black boy.

The driver who looked like he was about 50, rolled down his window and asked me where I was heading. I told him I was on my way to Harare, the capitol of Zimbabwe. The driver said they were going the same way. I would have been perfectly happy sitting in the back of the pickup as I was ready to do just about anything to get out of Lake Kariba, but the driver signaled to the kid to change places.

I didn't like the idea that the black boy had to give up his seat for me, however, I had learned by now that this was the African way and I decided not to argue with him. The boy kept eye contact with me as he got out of the cab and jumped onto the back of the pickup. I could see the pain in his eyes and that made me feel even worse.

The driver was a friendly man and told me about their business. They were on their way to Harare where the 13-year old was going to take a written exam to qualify as a house-boat skipper. I realized it was a big day for him and that I had ruined it by having taken his seat.

The African Experience


Powerful experiences definitely have an affect on your values and the way you think. A few months later, I returned to Sweden. Normally, I would have to spend a month or two back home before realizing how a trip had changed me, but this time I was in for a big surprise.

It took me a full-six months to clearly understand how the African experiences had affected me, and those were six rather confusing months. It was as if my subconscious had to process every single impression, one by one...

Best of luck!





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