I’ve been wanting to put down in words the changes that I feel have taken place in my life since returning home from South Africa. It’s taken me awhile to fully recognize and absorb them, but there are so many little shifts in the way I see the world and what I want from my life now.
Before I left for my trip, quite a few people said to me, “this will change your life,” but I think I brushed off those remarks. They sounded a little cliche, like something people are obligated to say. I’ve been surprised by how true those words have proven to be. My time in South Africa has changed my life.
So many aspects of my life in America have lost value to me. I find I can no longer watch the reality television shows I used to love or read entertainment magazines without feeling a kind of sadness and emptiness. I can’t listen to a lot of the music I used to love because the lyrics jump out at me and affect me much more now. I also want to be outside much more often and sometimes get urges to leave the city and drive into the more peaceful countryside or mountains. I’m more fascinated by animals and nature and I love observing how everything works together so miraculously. It’s not that this didn’t amaze me before, it’s just that I didn’t take the time to observe the world as closely. In general, I just want a much simpler life now. I crave things in their purest, most genuine form, whether that be the food I eat or the relationships I have with others.
In a way I feel like I was sleeping through my life and now I’m awake. And it’s weird because I have traveled relatively often throughout my life, but nothing has affected me like this. I went there so nervous, and ended up making such amazing, lifelong friendships with my housemates and with Mary and her family. I observed the contrast of the harshest poverty I’ve ever seen right alongside the most gorgeous scenery I’ve ever seen.
I’ve been home for six months now and I’m about to embark on another journey, this time moving to a new city and starting a new career. I’m nervous and scared again, but I know all of these changes are good for me. The past few years have been tough ones for me and I don’t think I would have had the courage to take action and make real changes in my life if it weren’t for Africa. It was a true turning point for me. I thank God for giving me such a positive and life-altering experience. It’s funny how you can think your life is going to go one way and then it turns out completely different yet better in so many ways. So thank you South Africa for being so beautiful and for altering the course of my life.