Coming home from Africa, I was a better person. I learned real life lessons. Every single day we were there. I had moments that changed me. Lessons that will help me out for the rest of my life. And since I’m a good person every once or twice a week, I’ll share these precious life lessons with you.
LESSON 1. HUSTLE OR GET HUSTLED
Africa will teach you a lot of things.
It will teach you the sellers on the beach will scam you harder than a Caucasian housewife in PDA.
It will teach you that bargaining is a skill, but a skill that can be learned and even mastered. My favorite move is to set your price, lock eye contact and then walk away. And just like every boy who rejected me when I had braces and bowl cut, they’ll come running back. They always do.
LESSON 2. DO NOT LOOK DOGS IN THE EYE
Everyone went to sleep except me and Ole. We were high on life, and maybe some other sleeping pills, but mainly adrenaline. We went for a walk on the beach of Tanzania in the middle of the night. THIS. Oh my gosh, something about being in another country and taking it all in for the first time. It’s addicting, and it’s the reason me and 11 other crazy people travel so much. We’re addicted. And Tanzania is the realest. There’s so much to see in Tanzania, you could be swimming in crystal clear blue waters while sipping on a pina colada. It’s freaking cool. It’s beautiful, it smells bad and nearly every man on the beach wants to buy you to be his wife, but like it’s COOL. I would go back every single time. Anyways back to talking about dogs.
There are dogs everywhere. EVERY. WHERE. And I love dogs. Dogs are great. But these aren’t your typical adorable puppy barn breed. These dogs are the spawn of satan himself.
We walked around for about an hour, while talking, and started heading back to the hotel. We were honestly just wandering, not really sure how to get back when we came across a cute little puppy. Except by cute, I mean the ugliest damn thing I have ever seen, and by little I mean GINORMOUS. Ole, my designated dog whisper, said quietly, “don’t look him in the eye.” Easy enough. We keep walking. Dog starts growing. I turn around - - “DON’T TURN AROUND” Ole says grabbing my arm. But I do, and I see two more dogs trailing behind. HE CALLED IN FOR BACKUP. Like a scene from a movie, every 10 feet or so, another dog would come out from a dark alley and follow us. I had always dreamed of having an entourage of dogs, but in my dreams, we are always frolicking through fields in slow motion. This was nightmare. This was Illuminati type of stuff. We keep walking, and I hear Ole say “Sofie. Sofie. Don’t move.“ “fjsasdlkjgswoui WHAT” is pretty much the answer I gave him, and without turning my head I could feel one of the dogs jumping up on me. That was it. I took off. Ole took off. Dogs ran after us. We finally got away from them, after sprinting for what felt like a miles.
I was always the slowest kid in P.E but unleash a pack of wild dogs on a class of seventh graders and I would have Usain Bolt in tears.
LESSON 3. ALL GOOD THINGS HAPPEN IN SERENGETI
Serengeti, my personal favorite. This one was so memorable, probably because it was the first time I got to see wild animals eye to eye, and because it really is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It’s so stunning, it’s almost hard to process. You want to take pictures of the animals & the place, but you know the pictures won’t do any of it justice. So you just stare and try to engrave it in your mind because at that moment, you’re there and it’s real and it’s absolutely unbelievable. That’s the only way I can describe it.
We drove around for hours, saw this incredible wildlife up close, took lots & lots of pictures, laughing, smiling, having interesting conversations with our guides and teacher, and I said to Marie “I’m so content with my life and I’m so happy.” and I was serious. That right then and there was pure bliss. I did not have a care in the world, and my heart was so full.
LESSON 4. DON’T GIVE AWAY YOUR PASSPORTS. AND DON’T FILM IT TO GET IT BACK.
In Africa, and many other places around the world you have to give business owners your passport while you stay at the hotel. I tried to get out of it a couple of times just because giving your passport is never a good idea, right? But three weeks and we had never had a problem with it so I just kept hoping for the best.
This was close to the end of our stay. I come up to the business owner up front, ready to checkout. The young man sitting there looking up and down at me saying,
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Yes, I have a boyfriend back home in Norway.“
All excited he continues “but not here.” This brings him to a fit of laughter. Then he starts saying he needs money to give me my passport back. Oh so it’s like that thennn?
I had a small amount of money left in my wallet, since we had just been on a fleeting market the day before. I attempted arguing with him, and when that didn’t work, I realized my options at this point were limited and we had a boat to catch. So I finally managed to scrape together the amount he asked for only for him to say,
”I don’t have the passport.”
I freak out which I can see excites him even more and this brings him once again to laughter. MANIAC LAUGTHER! He calls his boss and tells me his boss has my passport and it will take an hour for him to come. At this point I could tell he was playing with me and he just wanted for our conversation not to end. I was going to get this man as if it was the last thing I did. And it almost was!
Desperately, I tried all of my usual tricks. The state down. The ignoring. Whispering and pointing. Eye rolling. Crying. Verbal intimidation. This was just fuel to his fire. I was defeated.
I was running out of ideas, and I thought to myself, “well at least this will make a good story.” So I pull out my phone and start filming him on Snapchat. “This boy won’t give me my passport back“ I said, holding the phone up selfie style. He laughed a little bit, and right before those 10 seconds were up, he start reaching for my phone. Suddenly this turned into an episode of Real Housewives Of Africa and things were not looking good for me. I managed to step back from him enough to hide my phone. The filming is what really set him off. All this commotion is what revealed my passport was in his pocket this entire time. Teddy our regular driver, friend and father of the group caught this and stepped in to help me. Teddy, while using explicit language, grabs the passport from him and hands him money (he had a machete guys YES HE GAVE HIM MONEY) and we ran!
I was shaking with rage, fear and adrenaline, and asking Teddy how to say some bad words in Swahili.
We walked down the street as fast as we could, and I was thanking Teddy on my life and a viral video that would put us on Ellen.
Until I accidentally deleted it.
“Should we go back??“ I said. “Just for the video???”
LESSON 5. PRIVILEGE DOESN’T GUARANTEE HAPPINESS
Today we visited some slums, and our teacher and guides - who had been here before - warned us that it would be emotional. I predicted that much, considering we were about to visit the poorest of the poor, and see firsthand some of the most terrible living conditions in Africa.
On the ride over, I was preparing myself for an emotionally draining day, filled with emptiness and sadness. But I couldn’t have prepared myself for what I saw next.
Driving + walking a bit through the slums, there was no sadness or emptiness in sight. Only smiles, and laughter from each and every person, of all ages. We were welcomed with so much love, and treated as family the entire time we were there. I have never seen or felt so much love and happiness in my entire life.
That’s when it hit me, and I realized what our teacher and guides meant when they told us how emotional this experience would be. It was both heartbreaking, and beautiful to see these people who have nothing, who sleep on dirt floors every night, who has every right to feel empty and sad and hopeless... be the happiest of all.
Never in a million years, would I think that I would envy anyone in that slum. But I did. I envied their joy, their light. And all I wanted in this world was to make sure that every one of these sweet, precious children, made it okay in this life. That they were taken care of.
I’m so thankful to these beautiful people who taught me the most important lesson I’ve learned in life so far. That privilege doesn’t guarantee happiness. And when you take everything away, love and kindness is what will truly save your life. Africa will always have the deepest place in my heart, and this day will forever mean so much to me. I want to remember this feeling for the rest of my life.
LESSON 6. LIFE IS ALL ABOUT MOMENTS
I went on a trip with beautiful people. At the end of the trip I would have taken a bullet for any of them. I’ve always said that the best people you meet in life are the people you meet at concerts, on road trips and while traveling.
The people, the warm water, the food, the over 24 hour plane rides. I would willingly walk back into the crazy man’s hotel alone and unharmed if it meant I could relive those couple of weeks in Africa with my favorite people.
So the last lesson I learned while I was in Africa, is so priceless, not even all the money in the world could buy this advice.
Life is all about the little moments. And the people you’re with when they happen.
The moments that over time, shape you into the person you become. I experienced countless ‘moments’ on this trip and it wasn’t something that I’ll look back on someday and wish I had enjoyed more, or that I didn‘t take for granted. I was so aware the entire time, how special each moment was. I remember we were cruising in Kenya one night, my hair was flying in my face, Audor was drawing next to me, I was laughing so hard, tears were streaming down my face and flying in the wind behind me.
I was so aware.
I was aware of how perfect life was for those two minutes. I was still the exact same girl, I still had my struggles, my pain. But for that little moment, everything made sense. This is what life is all about.
And that is why I travel.