This is Africa: On travelling happy

It might have been taken as a compliment: the minister for mining in Zambia offering me a job in government (never mind my training as a Speech  Pathologist) as I stood in a cemetery car park between two black land rovers with my friend and a multitude of government officials, wearing my  backpacking sandals and a skirt that didn’t meet the knee…

“Welcome to Zambia, TIA (this is Africa)” exclaimed my friend…. and so began my journey through South East Africa, Morocco, Southern Europe and across to Turkey.

When I was approached to write a brief article for Revive about my trip, I was told it didn’t have to be churchy or religious. ‘Good!’ I thought to myself, because the purpose of my trip  was a big holiday; a big self indulgent adventure!

But, as those of you who have traveled will know, an overseas trip changes perspective and exposes you to different cultures, spirituality and self-discovery that you may not have contemplated, considered or expected.

Overlooking the desert sunrise in Zagora, Morocco.

Overlooking the desert sunrise in Zagora, Morocco.

I experienced culture: I was welcomed into peoples’ homes, into peoples’ villages and into peoples’ lives with love and compassion: I sung and danced in celebration and in sorrow. I  was exposed to different ways of life and standards of living: I learnt from a safe and secure vantage about the not-so-safe life of many of those in parts of Africa. I visited hospitals and clinics where there were no nurses. In one hospital the nurses had gone on strike due to poor working conditions; as a result they had been laid off and students were running the  hospital.

I saw HIV positive children, living without a care in the world, not realising they are unlikely to have access to appropriate medications when required. I met 14 year-old mothers,  holding their beautiful big-eyed children, as they begged on the streets – and this was as I travelled through Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya – a region known as the food basket  of Africa.

I was inspired by the natural beauty of our world. I white water rafted down the mighty Zambezi river, swam at the edge of Victoria falls, flew a ridiculously light aircraft over the  Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe border and held onto the tail of a lion as I walked behind it. Awe inspiring things: highlighting the immensity, the beauty and power of the natural world  we live in.

I learnt! I visited Ephesus, Troy and Pamukkale in Turkey, seeing the incredibly preserved ruins heard about in history. It was particularly interesting to see the physical location of  the Roman persecution of Christians in the early centuries of the church and envision some of it. I gained a greater understanding of religions and beliefs different to my own. I hiked  through the Rif Mountains and looked down upon Chefchaouen as the call to prayer echoed through the city: a hauntingly beautiful sound which offered a glimpse into the dedication and conviction of the people.

'Tail gating' a lion in Livingstone, Zambia.

‘Tail gating’ a lion in Livingstone, Zambia.

I met excited travelers as well as lost souls; people travelling the world to avoid their own worlds, to escape their lives and hide out in hostel rooms in places as far away and as  different as they could find.

I realised I was traveling happy. I loved the experiences I had, the places I went, the people I met, the knowledge I gained and yet at the end of the trip I came home. I returned to  Perth and I was happy. Sure, I look forward to travel in years to come, but I have a job that I am passionate about, I have amazing friends and family. A spectacular backdrop to life,  that is the Australian landscape. I have the freedom and the choice to stay here as long as I please. I am blessed.

Enjoy where you are in life, enjoy those you are with. Soak in the offerings of your home towns and, if the rest of the world calls, travel happy. Go knowing that you have safety here and a beautiful place to return to, even though you might not get a job offer from an Australian official in the cemetery car park… then again, maybe that’s a good thing.

Belinda Morrell

Belinda on a micro-light flight over Victoria Falls and the Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana borders.

Belinda on a micro-light flight over Victoria Falls and the Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana borders.

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