when in burkina faso

Two weeks ago, Thursday morning 23rd of February, I woke up and I had barely got any sleep that night. There was so much adrenaline in my body that the whole night I had been twisting and turning, dreaming and worrying about my next adventure. I had decided to go to Africa in two days. I had no ticket, no visa, no nothing. What I did have was a knowing. A knowing that I had to make this real, that I had to go to Burkina Faso with a woman I just met the night before. I didn’t know anything more than that she seemed like a kind woman. In a few days, she was going to the biggest film festival in Africa, and was very open to the idea of me coming with her to collect folktales and take photos with her. Besides all the knowing I felt so much joy when I was talking with her, and at the idea of going to Africa within such a short time. Some people could call this behavior “impulsive.” I’d rather call it “showing up for life.”

Since I was young. I’ve wanted to go to Africa. I wanted to experience the wilderness and the different cultures. I wanted to go there as a doctor and a teacher at the same time. It was before I knew about mosquitoes and other things you could be afraid of (or die). It was before I knew I was so bad at mathematics and physics that I thought that I would never be a doctor because I wouldn’t get through secondary school. It was before my mind was filled with stereotypes and I made myself think that there was only war and starving children in Africa.

It was before I got a little bit afraid of going to a place that just seemed to be a totally other world, so different from the one I had known all my life.

In the beginning of my twenties I was afraid for a lot of things, even going home by night on a bike in Amsterdam was something that have caused me quite some stress even when I was not on my bike yet. I was afraid my father would die, when I would be away, I was afraid that something bad would happen to me and I would die. Traveling was not one of my priorites because of that. I wanted to go but I didn’t really dare to go. But fear takes away the joy. It’s like sugar eating the magnesium in your body. At a sudden point you cannot take it any longer. So when I was 24 I went to Hawaii for two months and I had never felt so happy and free before. It was a beautiful experience but it was not always easy. To swim with dolphins in the wild I had to go far out in the deep deep blue sea (and when I say far, I mean really really really far). I had to trust that there would be no sharks, because there were dolphins. Like there is no darkness when there is light, no fear when there is trust. The first few times were incredibly scary, but the reward of swimming with dolphins in the wild was enormous and I felt like a fish in the sea myself.

Traveling not only took away a big part of my fear but it also made me trust more. It taught and is still teaching me to trust myself, to trust the occasions that arise and to trust in the world I am living in. Traveling pushed me to cross certain boundaries of my comfort zone that I wouldn’t have crossed in Amsterdam. Simply because I sometimes had no other option than sleeping alone in a big empty house and walking home alone in the dark streets of Vancouver, or be home before sunset (they have very little street lighting and no cheap taxis), I started to trust myself more; to trust the walk that I walk. Every time fear got to me, I imagined what it would be like if I didn’t have that feeling. I started to feel marvelous, and I enjoyed the freedom that I gave myself by changing my thoughts. Every walk home after sunset would empower me a little more. When I came back to Holland after a three week road trip with my very dear friend, my sister, Yuliya (A.K.A. Ukrainian Daredevil, who sometimes drove like crazy, wanted to sleep in the car without any curtains no matter where we were, and had totally different take on the concept “safety”), I thought 2017 might be the year I would be ready to go to Africa (thank you Yuliya).

Of course, I have only been here for a little over a week, and I have not seen much yet but I am amazed. I am amazed by all the dusty, rusty beauty, and the smiling people with an enormous amount of kindness in their eyes. I am amazed by the beautifully dressed women everywhere. I am amazed by all the life that is behind the gates at sandy roads. I am amazed by the moon, the light that is poured down in the little sickle and fills up until it is full instead of going from left to right or right to left.

To be continued. Love, Charlotte

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