Africa. While there, I am acutely aware of my impermanence on the continent. Beginning from that foundation limits my tendency to procrastinate; it pushes me to live each day fuller. However, as I reflect on my relationship with the continent I wonder whether it is the physical space – or something more – that inspires me to live immersed in each day and without regret.
I first left Canada for Uganda as a volunteer, with a head full of notions spawned by Hollywood. In thirty days, I changed in a profound way. For the first time, I began to question my lifestyle, my relationships and most of all, my aspirations. Throughout that month, I challenged myself to live each day submerged in my work and the culture around me. My journal reminds me of my determination to appreciate the sour taste of posho, my enthusiasm for a ride on a boda boda, and my obsession with feet perpetually stained red with Ugandan soil.
Everything was extreme in that first month, and it propelled something new into motion. Upon returning to Canada, I found the strength to begin a fight against a long-standing eating disorder. Formerly a reserved introvert, I found the motivation to participate fully in my education. I found the inspiration to involve myself in something bigger than (and other than) myself. I was 19 years old and, in retrospect, obnoxiously enthusiastic.
I returned to Africa a year later, this time as a painstakingly optimistic intern. I secured a placement in a primary school at a West African refugee camp. Over the course of three months, I found the determination to collaborate with local organizations and build an international non-profit that would advance local initiatives. Under the shade of mango trees, I devoted each of my precious ninety days to building this project so it could be sustained it through my impending return to snowy Canadian winters. Having faltered during the year with my eating disorder, I once again found motivation to eat palm butter, cubbish stew, fufu and pepa kala. The parallels between nutrition and human capacity were so abundantly clear that it became a primary tenet of the emerging charity. I have never suffered from a shortage of irony.
In the years following, I matured as I explored Africa. I learned self-sufficiency and independence while stranded for 21 days in Egypt. Optimists and pessimists alike encouraged me, each of whom was vigorously pursuing a different dream. That said, corruption, and deceit became reoccurring themes in my day-to-day, and a fatigue began to set in. I returned to Canada temporarily, only to grow restless again.
This time, I had fallen in love. He was moving to Mozambique, similarly restless, looking for more from life. He envisioned opening a safari lodge; I hoped for inspiration and a new path. There was no defined plan for return – we wanted to build a life. It felt natural.
For a year, I bounced between the familiar feelings of extreme invigoration and fear. I tackled the ambiguity one full day at a time, plunging myself into Mozambique’s turquoise waters. We bought a tiny Pajero Jr. We adopted an Africanis puppy. We learned Portuguese. We explored nearly every nook and cranny in search of a life. By navigating untrammeled bush with sporadic rests on dhows sailing through archipelagos, we found total bliss. Bliss, which unfortunately I soon realized, was fleeting.
As our relationship came to a close, I crumbled. Paralyzed by the fear of an ending, I felt my ability to embrace each day dwindle. Anxiety consumed me. A preoccupation with the future had transformed me into a person I never wanted to be. Thankfully, his irritating comfort with finite time showed me how to salvage the final 25 days of adventuring together.
Having since returned to Canada, I feel my ability to live in the present slowly returning. With each day, I work to worry less about the next. Fewer unwritten emails to him rattle around in my head, questioning what happened and what will happen next. Less of my time seems wasted on hypotheses. I try, as hard as I possibly can, to be present for those around me today – to be mindful of the opportunities I have in front of me. I go to yoga… a lot.
And with that, my answer shifts. No longer do I believe that Africa is a place that inspires me to spend my time consciously. For me, it is a state of mind – one cultivated over years in Africa, which I can carry forward. It took a few hard shakes, a couple of hard falls, and many tears to realize this, and I am sure there will be more to come before I truly live each day fully and wisely, independent of my geographic location.
About the Author: Lindsay Seegmiller is a curious adventurer/travel writer/avid researcher with a passion for people and open spaces. She has traveled Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe both personally and professionally, learning from individuals along the way.
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