Almost exactly two years ago, when I arrived on my own in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, I didn’t know what to expect. Africa was a place I had dreamed of my whole life and when I arrived, it felt very much like coming home. I knew that travel wouldn’t be easy, but I was prepared for the challenge, and even though I was on my own, it wasn’t lonely, it was liberating.
After a day of exploring the Falls on my own, I headed back to the camp site, put my belongings in my tent, and watched small animals jump from tree to tree, while waiting for our first group meeting. It was there that we met Cesar, our leader for the trip. He explained everything we needed to know, while we signed waivers and forms. Then, he ended his talk with these words, “This is Africa, we may be delayed, but not denied.”
This was our lifesaver on the trip because when anything went wrong, from break downs to long border crossings, we would all repeat Cesar’s words, laugh, and let the events of the day unfold. It was what it was and there was nothing that could be done. That was part of travel, and it was okay.
After coming home, I began to adopt these words into my travel vocabulary, and I truly believe that they have made me a better traveler. The fact is when it comes to travel, and life for that matter, we don’t always have control, and sometimes the delays we meet serve a purpose that we are unaware of.
Some delays are big ones that cause us to miss entire trips, or part of those trips. This was the case in my trip to Southeast Asia when plans to visit Cambodia didn’t work out, and again in the beginning of the summer, when I was unable to reunite with my friend, Jade, in India. Others are much smaller: missed connections, lost luggage, or weather delays, which can still manage to ruin our trip, if we let it.
With travel, delays are common, and it’s amazing to see just how quickly people’s emotions unravel when that’s the case. That isn’t to say that delays aren’t frustrating, but if we keep in mind that we’ll eventually get where we need to be, then I do believe this helps our overall mindset. This thought has been especially helpful for me this summer.
As frustrating as the process with my visa has been, and the fact that it’s not entirely remedied, I do believe in many ways that it will be fixed when it’s meant to be. That isn’t to say that I haven’t put in a good fight, I most certainly have. But, no matter how hard I have been fighting, there are certain aspects that still aren’t working out the way I had hoped, even with my passport and visa back in my hands.
Take today for example. It’s the launch party for the Mongol Rally, and although my team is there, I am not. After what I’ve been through since the end of June, I’m still not in a financial position to leave the country. It has put quite a wrench in my plans, and while there were various offers of help, I couldn’t accept them due to the instability of current financial situation.
This led to quite an emotional breakdown yesterday when I couldn’t make things work the way I wanted them to. Thanks to a few of my friends, I was able to calm down, but there was one friend who took it a step further. He consoled me for hours and asked the hard questions, while helping me break down the situation financially and working through the process with me. With this person, I was able to rid myself of my emotions and think logically about the situation. I was being delayed, but I wasn’t necessarily being denied.
The Mongol Rally happens every year and India is always going to be there, these aren’t once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Right now, for whatever reason, I am not currently able to make my summer plans happen. Am I disappointed? Of course, I am, but I can’t focus on what is out of my control. Plus, things may change and unfold in a way I didn’t previously expect. At this point, I’m not exactly sure where my plans are headed, all I know is that they are not what I was anticipating.
From Cesar’s words, I have learned that it’s all about attitude and keeping a positive one when things don’t go the way we expect. We may not get to where we want to be today or tomorrow, or even this year, but one day, when the timing is right, we’ll get to where we always wanted to be, and because of the delay we experienced, getting there will have that much more meaning.