If you have any phobia in traveling to Africa, you are not alone. When it comes to great travel experience in Africa, most people can feel intimidated, overwhelmed and almost feel like they are stepping into the unknown. And with so many crazy stories about the continent, most people wonder, or don’t know the truth from the crazy or some just settle to the "single story." Every new experience calls for an open mind, the willingness to learn and trust in oneself.
We have all heard the stereotypical descriptions about Africa many of which are false, misguided and don’t reflect the true nature of the cultures, traditions, and the people. Which is why at Trailblazer Travelz, we are committed to being fearless in our pursuit to challenge the status quo and changing the narrative about Africa as it is the core of our mission. When was the last time you tried something new and different from your normal routine? Personally, I have a very strong aversion towards routines. A life that doesn’t get my creative juices flowing is the life of routine - and that kind of life is a very boring one. We are dynamic beings built to survive and in fact thrive in most conditions and change, therefore, is the only constant. Hence, we should not limit ourselves or our experiences to just what we know or are used to.
There’s more to life than playing it safe or letting fear hold us back from making impactful and lasting leaps or better yet experiencing and immersing ourselves into other cultures especially when those cultures are very different. When those differences aren’t fully understood, oftentimes leads to unnecessary conflicts, ignorance and all forms of stereotypes such as the use of a single story to collectively describe an entire continent who’s diversity in culture, people, traditions, language is second to none. This is the danger of a single story when complex human beings and situations are reduced to a single narrative and that narrative spreads like wildfire. Single stories tend to tell part of a story, but not the whole story. By definition, they leave out a lot of information and leapfrog over nuance and detail.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie eloquently states, in her 2009 TED TALK, “The Danger of a Single Story.” Adichie argued, “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” In this world of information, being ignorant is a choice. There are so many good resources to fact check and validate assumptions rather than believe a single narrative as a representation of a collective culture - it just doesn’t add up.
The psychology behind such claims can be triggered by many things, but one thing for sure is that it's stereotypical and perhaps fear also a factor. As humans, we tend to invoke fear in situations that we don’t really understand. As a result, we avoid critical thinking at all costs and the discomfort that comes with finding out, understanding and knowing the facts. The fact is that “better knowledge and recognition of our respective differences leads ultimately to better mutual understanding, with particular regard to those objectives we hold in common.”
In reading “Creativity Inc,” a book by Ed Catmull one of the creative geniuses behind Disney’s Pixar. Catmull elegantly distills that, “In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that’s been good enough in the past.” Hence, why people would rather travel to the same places they have been over and over again without seeking new adventures and experiences that oftentimes and surprisingly become quite fulfilling. “He who does not trust enough will not be trusted,” lament the great spiritual teacher, Lao Tzu. Therefore, it’s fair to say that we earn trust by becoming or being trustworthy — when our actions are consistent with our words for example. And Ironically, we earn the most trust when we respond well to fear. Part of building trust is being forthcoming on the challenges and opportunities rather than being coy.
Life can only be fully experienced by engaging in it and getting out of our comfort zone to experiencing and exploring what the world has to offer. “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,” states Saint Augustine. Moreover, according to Charles Feltman In The Thin Book of Trust, Feltman asks the question What Is Trust? And answered it eloquently. One can argue that there are many different models and definitions of trust, however, the focus of Feltmans book is to learn to build and maintain trust in the workplace. Though work-related, however, his definition is very much applicable to this topic.
For this purpose, trust is defined as choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions. In connection to travel, on the other hand, you are trusting yourself and allowing yourself, trusting the people you interact with (hence intuition is key here) to be vulnerable in unfamiliar territory. And since you trust yourself, then you have faith - faith in yourself and your creator. To paraphrase Catmull, talks about the difficulty in dealing with failure and its ripple effects. If trying new things leads to making some mistakes, it also leads to leaps forward in understanding. We become better at not making the same mistakes again (or so we hope) and learn from the mistakes we make. Just like in trying anything new, our first experience will never be perfect, however, with practice we become good. Traveling to a new country is the same way. Your first experience will never be perfect, however, you will be glad you did and you will know better next time what to do and what not to do.
Life is meant to be lived, live it fully each day like it's your last. Feel free to let us know about overcoming any of your fears in traveling to a new country.