What It Means to Truly Travel

Last week I visited Paris, France for the first time and it allowed me to reflect on what travel means to me. I hope that some, if not all of this can resonate with you as you read this.

What did I do in France you may ask? Well, I mostly ate baguettes and crepes, and fell in love about twice a day. So yes, the stereotypes hold.

First I’ll give you a few lessons I’ve learned

Notre Dame de Paris (Paris, France)
  1. When you get to a new place, you are able to tap into dormant talents or skills: In my case it was a survival technique. I had my phone with me, but with no service, so basically without wifi I had no way to communicate with anyone. To get to my destination, I was forced to dig up my long forgotten 5th grade French. It must have been a pathetic scene- my mixing French with Portuguese and pigeon Spanish. People were staring at me like a weirdo, but I think they appreciated my attempts and eventually communicated with me.

I Loved every second!

2.) You get to try out your amazing (or not so amazing) accents: Apparently I speak with a very unidentifiable accent, that most peg as American (this remains debatable). Whatever my accent- I love the opportunities where I get to speak one word in another language and be mistaken for a local (and I have to rush to explain that I actually don’t know any more than that). Let’s just say that my “Bonjour” is as french as the Eiffel tower, but my vocabulary kind of starts and ends around that area.

I believe that no matter who you are or where you come from- you have something to offer the world.

3.) You get to teach the world a thing or two: I believe that no matter who you are or where you come from- you have something to offer the world. I love travelling and proudly holding my worn out Malawian passport. You see… many people don’t really expect Africans to be so mobile (that’s another history/contemporary society lesson for another day ). On top of that, many people have no clue where Malawi is (if you are one of them, go to google maps right now and educate yourself). Please and thank you! I love the look on a strangers face when they carefully repeat after me slowly “Malawi” and I’m like “Yes,Ma-la-wi?” I flash them a big smile and say “Yes, in Africa.” Their response, “Ahhh, Africa!” In that moment, they just received a mini geography lesson.

4.) You learn to never apologize for who you are: I am a Malawian- raised in more than one country. I have always been questioned for my “lack of authenticity.” To many I seem unidentifiable, because the images they project of me aren’t necessary in line with what they find me out to be. If you ask me “Where are you from?”- I can talk circles around that question, because I believe that there is much more to a persons identity than their nationality.

Something I have Recently discovered:

A dream of global citizenship has been instilled deep within my heart.I am unashamed to move, even if I have to battle though the struggle of transnational movement as a black, African woman.To have a globally “non” powerful passport can have its struggles, but I always remind myself that I carry the heritage of black kings and queens in my blood. I have a duty to move though and cross borders. Most importantly, I have authority as the daughter of the most high king who is Jesus Christ, and I hold on to his promise in Psalms 2:8 where the Lord says, “ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance.”

Why black people need to Travel if they can:

The fact is that when you look around and notice who is moving freely (the kinds of people, families and races). It’s not the people who look like me, I can assure you that. After travelling the globe- literally, and spending the better part of my life in airports, its not black people you find. This is changing, and I am incredibly happy, because representation matters. My dream is to have a world that despite its issues, people would be able to mix and travel to experience foreign and exciting spaces. I want people to realize that the world is a huge book filled with things we don’t already know. It’s filled with new places to fall in love with and moreover, new places to heal people with your smile and conversation.

I want people, like I did in France- to experience the kindness of a stranger in a foreign country who goes out of their way to make sure you can make it to your destination. To be in a restaurant where all the waiters (cooks) say “Bonne nuit” with big smiles on their faces after a long day of work, even though you took your sweet time to finish eating and were the last customer in there.

A few tips:

You’ve not really been or experienced a place before you’ve seen the dingy parts and amazing sides- there is always two sides to every coin. I ended up in some neighborhoods that broke my heart and really need transformation and development.

Also- if you’ve not gotten lost, used a paper map or locals to direct you, you’re missing out!

Lastly, It’s not always rosy- human beings are messy and can be unpredictable. You will meet bad ones and amazing ones! That’s the point- I mean you will get looked at funny by some, but you will also get smiled at by the lady baking bread in her bakery. In life you will get the good and the bad, but try for the most part, at the end of your day, to focus on the good.At least, that is what I try to do.

The beautiful Seine River (Paris,France)