Thursday, February 17, 2005


Last night, it struck me that not knowing when I need to be back in Toronto isn't the only thing that's been holding me back from buying a plane ticket.

When I was gearing up to visit Europe after finishing undergrad, I was happy and excited until right before I left. Maybe a week before departure at most, I suddenly didn't want to go. I did go, but as I was travelling, I happened to be chatting to someone on a train and found out that he went through the exact same thing. Just didn't want to leave home.

Recently, I've noticed this unwillingness to leave home start popping up again. So, it got me to thinking - why? I mean, you're going to be exploring all sorts of fun places, so why would you suddenly get cold feet?

It's not just fear of the unknown. I've never been to, say, Tunisia, but would have no problem heading there.

It's not just fear of heading someplace where your personal safety may be in question. Let's face it, my highest risk of injury on this trip will probably be an Oasis concert ;)

Then I noticed that my cold feet seemed to appear only in relation to one thing. Travelling to West Africa. One month, in some of the world's poorest countries. With only rough transport systems and little tourist infrastructure. Little first-hand information and only regional guidebooks available. Yellow fever, malaria, bilharzia...not souvenirs I'm keen to have.

I pondered what connection there might be between West Africa and Europe and came up with one possibility.

Maybe in the back of your mind, you know you're about to do something which will leave a lasting impression on you. You're going to be taken completely out of your comfort zone and there is absolutely no way you can be prepared for every eventuality which occurs. No one is going to be there to take care of you. You'll come back changed in some way. Of course, everyone sort of subtly changes over time. But when you come back, you don't know if there'll be anyone still there for you, much less waiting for you. Instead of the gradual process of change we usually see, you might wind up with much bigger, sudden surprises.

That's an overly dramatic exaggeration, of course, but I think hidden somewhere in my hyperbole (big words are fun!) there does lie some small nugget of truth.

And don't get me wrong - I'm still hell-bent on going to West Africa.

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