By Kylie Castleberry
Driving through the bush one last time, I was reminded of the ways I felt before boarding the plane to South Africa almost one month ago; I was nervous, excited, and uneasy about what laid ahead. Similar to my feelings that morning in DIA, a time that now seems so far from the present, I was feeling something inside me that I could not quite place. I realize now that it is something that we have all felt, in one way or another, and it is the core of this experience: it was the various energies of those around me, the people that have been with me throughout this journey.
When traveling alone, you come to understand a sense of being that is so internal you feel you can accomplish almost anything. Without the diverse personalities of people impacting your day, it feels easier to navigate the issues that arise and allows you room to digest the events of your day through your own lens. Having done much of my travels alone, (I never had to confront these feelings of compromise/etc...idk) some days I found more challenging than others and it is only now that I understand more of that feeling.
The individuals that make up this program each brought with them to Africa their own energy. Those energies are made up of their past experiences, the support of people they love, their opinions, beliefs, and the stories of their lives that comprise their sense of being. Having been surrounded by such strong personalities, there were days that were harder than others, but I have come to see those days, those moments, those energies as a pivotal piece of this adventure.
As we all sat around a candle lit table for our very last dinner in South Africa, I realized that although there may have been days that we struggled with one another, that is all part of this process. Without these people, without these energies, I would not have had such profound moments here. These people showed me so many things about myself that I didn’t know and were the glue that held the process together. Lying at the nucleus of this trip was not the beautiful elephants that we saw, the leopards we came across, or the exuberant children at our homestays. While they were important aspects of this journey, the heart of this trip was each other. It was the people we have lived with, cried with, argued with, and learned some of the most influential lessons of our lives with that are at the center of this experience.
Although we all come from wildly diverse backgrounds, believe varying philosophies, and enjoy different hobbies, this experience would not have been the same without them. As I say goodbye to Africa, I think back to all the people that walked this journey with me and I say thank you. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for being part of this amazing, crazy, dysfunctional, and absolutely exhilarating team that we have made. When reflecting on this experience, it is the people that we have met that lie at the core.
We may all be different, we may disagree, but this time in South Africa was something that we all shared together. The people that we met, the families that allowed us into their homes, the friends we have made are all part of this adventure we went on together. It was David that said we are all very individual; none of us will meld into another as all the personalities here are very strong, but that is what made this so transformative. We are all primary colors; we are all independent, and we brought with us our own colorful energies. It is those energies that painted a picture of our time here in South Africa and I will forever be grateful for the primary colors that made up this team.