I once had a conversation with someone about fear, according to him, fear is best conquered through knowledge; the more you know about something, the less you fear it.
I was of the opinion that fear is best conquered through action; taking a step into that dark unknown uncomfortable path demystifies fear and shines a light on your illusions.
Let's just say we agreed to disagree concerning who was right or wrong.
But with a wide grin on my face, I can now say I was right (mostly, since his opinion was right too).
And I can say this now because I took a plunge into the unknown by choosing to do two things for the first time ever:
1) Travelling solo - I always imagined travelling solo would be so boring and from the opinions I got before I took the plunge, many people think so too.
2) Travelling to the most unlikely destination ever - To be fair, this happened by chance as my first destination was cancelled due to visa requirements so I picked the lasttttt spot on my travel list - Rwanda (yep, it is OK to be shocked that I would do this, I was still shocked even when I was in the last leg of my flight especially after having to answer the weirdest questions on why I would choose to go to Rwanda - the amusing one was when someone said Customs ought to search me again, he just couldn't understand why a young lady would choose to go to Rwanda on her own).
In my mind, I was thinking - "My brother, I am still trying to let the effect of my decision sink in too, so it is OK to think such thoughts".
I was scared out of my mind but I had two choices: To stay back in my comfort zone and always wonder what could have been or to take the plunge thinking what is the worst that can happen?
And the worst did happen....
The worst-amazing-liberating thing did happen - My serendipity
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
synonyms: chance, happy accident.
Fear is nothing but an illusion:
Our fears are literally amplified by our imaginations and the fastest way to separate an illusion from reality is to step into it despite your fast-beating heart and wet palms and after the first step you just realize it wasn't that hard after all.
The power of Hello:
I met really nice people during my trip and we got on pretty well, went to have dinner and visited an art center together before we left and it was so easy to get along, all it took was "hello" and a smile - travelling solo is not so bad after all, it is actually awesome - you get to experience your new location at your pace, meet new people and experience every single detail through your own lenses.
The world is a blend of beautiful hues:
"Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God" - Kurt Vonnegut.
Rwanda may not be a top vacation spot but I realized every location is unique in its own story, history and culture and that in itself makes it worth every single moment of exploration. I met people totally different from the kind of people I was used to and it was wonderful to sit back and observe how different yet similar we are as a people joined by common sentiments like love, hope, sadness and laughter.
Curiosity is a gift:
I would tell my kids to do more, ask more and seek more - sometimes we are too afraid of falling flat on our faces that we rather not try and trust me that was my perception about going into water - I had this illogical phobia for water and after trying (for lack of a better word) to learn how to swim and drowning in a swimming pool (please don't ask further questions concerning how someone can drown in a pool she could comfortably stand in - hides my face in shame), I just concluded water was not my thing and ruled it out as one of my phobias.
So imagine my fear when a tour guide tried to convince me to go on a boat ride on Lake Kivu; the guy triedddd - using all the English left in him and I said NO, and then a thought came into my head (which seems to be my best phrase now) what is the worst that can happen? another thought came quickly and replied "you drown and die" and another thought retorted "what if you don't drown, you will miss out on a once-in-a-life-time opportunity.
That did it for me, I called back my tour guide (Mick), who turned out to be one of the most entertaining people I met during my trip and off I went - scared as hell but just like how I bought my ticket in a state of fear, I stayed in the boat in a state of fear (besides did I have a choice? I was in the middle of a large body of water!!!).
And it turned out to be the most serene relaxing thing I did during my trip, watching the hills (Rwanda is not called the land of a thousand hills for nothing) and just realizing how small I am in the scheme of things - thinking of the awesomeness of God who created such a beautiful world for our pleasure and gradually I relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I also ate the best fish, had a massage at the hot spring and experienced being in a boat while it rained (OK, to be fair I got a bit scared when it started to rain but I figured; you know the phrase now - what is the worst that can happen?) and just like that my fear of water was conquered!!!!
Erhmm, at least most of it.
Lesson - Life indeed does begin at the end of your comfort zone.
Asides the sheer pleasure I got from traveling solo, I also got to learn a lot about Rwanda and for those still wondering why in the hell anyone would choose to go to Rwanda, here is why:
The Come-Back Kid:
A lot of us must have seen the popular movie Hotel Rwanda; that depicted the events that occurred during the genocide, and unfortunately that is where most people's perception about this beautiful serene country stops (myself inclusive until I visited) but do you know that:
The Country sets aside every last Saturday of the month for Umuganda which translates to mean "coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome", on this day people come out to collectively carry out community projects (building schools, hospitals etc) - talk about communal unity especially knowing how the genocide turned these same people against themselves and now seeing them set aside the pain to collectively build up a nation destroyed in tragedy is truly impressive.
Going to a memorial site is not only a moving experience but it also shows the quiet strength the people carry around, choosing to live a despite existence (focusing on moving forward and rising from the ashes) instead of a because existence (focusing on the past and having a victim mentality), they did not hide their scars as this is constantly seen in the memorial sites and the country's policies but instead used the stones thrown at them to build a stronger and better society.
Cows are treasured in the country and they have the most delicious warm milk ever - the people do not joke with their cattle and a popular compliment to give a girl is to say "she is as beautiful as a calf" - (as soon as I heard that I imagined a guy telling a Nigerian girl that phrase and wondering which of the hospitals he would end up in...lol). So if I say you are as beautiful as a calf, don't be upset - I am simply saying you have clear, glowing and beautiful skin from the intake of fresh cow milk while growing up.
Art is a huge form of expression in the country ranging from the graffiti on the walls used to promote communal unity and policies to popular art centers like the Inema Art Centre in Kigali.
The place is squeaky clean - I mean no refuse dumps, no nylon bags littering the street and most drivers (at least all the cars I used) obey traffic regulations; patiently waiting at red lights and driving within specified speed limits.
Now let's talk about how serene and green the country is, I woke up each day and stepped out just to watch the mist above the hills and enjoy the cool weather as the sun came out. The weather is just perfect - not too cold and not too hot.
A visit to Rwanda without visiting Gisenyi is incomplete; asides the beautiful scenery while heading there - Lake Kivu (which is obviously bigger than a lake) just does it for me - clear blue water stretching out far and wide between Rwanda and DRC. It is absolutely beautiful and can only be seen to be understood.
The country is developing pretty fast and is currently a hot spot for foreign investments with popular hotels like the Marriott and other popular franchises opening up within the country. The country also has a health scheme that is classified according to income rates and the less privileged are given free health services.
Now can we talk about FISH - yep, I had the tastiest fish gotten from Lake Kivu, these tiny fish were so tasty I was tempted to order another plate; do not forget to try this out when you visit - there are beautiful places close to the water front where you can relax, eat your fish and listen to Nigerian music playing in the background (yeah, our music is hot like that).
Coffee is one of the country's top export commodity and it is awesome.
If you have seeing a gorilla as one of the items on your bucket list then head out to this country known for its gorillas, wildlife and volcano.
Overall, Rwanda is nothing close to what is being depicted over here - my last thought as I left was "this is a beautiful country and I would miss it". The people are hospitable, calm and pretty much humble, the only flamboyant expression I saw were the brightly painted buildings - mostly painted in bright blue, yellow and green.
Rwanda turned out to be my serendipity - my happy "accident" that left me with nothing but sunshine and beautiful memories. I learnt to flow comfortably in the unknown (not having every single thing figured out) and see God place things one perfect line at a time.
As Chuck Thompson said "No place is ever as bad as they tell you it is going to be".
Look at all I would have missed if I had listened to my fears or opinions; I guess I was right after all - the fastest way to conquer fear is to take action.
So go explore, remember - what is the worst that can happen?
You are in luck if you are considering visiting the country this year as Naijanomads (a tour agency) is organizing a trip to Rwanda in June, click on the link to view more - Remarkable Rwanda.
Do feel free to share your what is the worst that can happen moment with me, I love to hear from you.
Smile my beautiful calf...lol