SOJOURNERS’ STORIES

Why I keep going back

Erin West

I took my first trip to Africa in the 1990s. I will make my seventeenth journey there this September. Why do I keep going back when there are so many places to see in the world? The short answer is Africa, to me, feels like home. I had that sense the second I walked off the plane on my first trip there. It’s pretty inexplicable. At that point nothing had happened. I hadn’t met any people, hadn’t seen my first gorgeous sunset, hadn’t seen any of the amazing animals. But a strong sense took over my body and told me I had come home. I’m getting choked up just thinking about it.  

It’s a little hard to describe for those that haven’t been. But for those who have, many I have encountered know exactly what I’m talking about. Firstly, every experience is unique. People ask me which trip has been my favorite and I can’t answer because they are all special in their own way. Firstly, there are the animals. There is nothing quite like seeing a herd of 60 (at least…I lost count) elephants walking past your tent not 20 feet away.  Or 4 cheetahs lying in the middle of the road and really couldn’t care less that they are blocking your way. Want to see a lion sleeping in a tree? I have. How about baby gorillas frolicking around while a giant male silverback is napping beside them? What about witnessing a lioness and her cubs in a standoff with a hippo for the rights to an elephant carcass? Yep, that happened. The birds are magnificent. The sunrises and sunsets (always accompanied by a chilled glass of wine!) are unlike anything I’ve even seen. Stunning is not a strong enough word to describe them.

But more than nature I find the people the biggest draw of all. Life is not easy in Africa. Poverty and disease are everywhere. Yet, in the midst of it all, the people are joyful. They are warm and welcoming and there is a sense of hope amidst the daily struggles. While they don’t have the luxuries that we are accustomed to (many are struggling just to get food, shelter, and for the children, an education) yet when they sing and dance you’d think they weren’t lacking for a thing. I was fortunate enough to walk 3 miles (each way) with a group of Masai women to collect the daily water. Returning from the watering hole with a gallon of water strapped to my head was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. We didn’t speak the same language but we laughed and sang through it all.

The children are especially full of this feeling of hope. Visiting communities and projects supported by Global Sojourns Giving Circle has given me the opportunity to interact with many children who are so excited to have us there and are eager to demonstrate their English skills, perform a play and yes, sing and dance.

For me, everything about Africa is magical. And funnily enough, it’s the place where all my anxiety falls away, allowing me to simply enjoy the hippo that is blocking the way out of my tent.

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