I’m proudly South African. Despite the trials and tribulations we regularly encounter our potential outweighs the darkness of our past. We can’t deny the effects our history has had on us wether we acknowledge it or not. We still carry the burdens of yesterday upon our shoulders. The weight can sometimes feel suffocating and cloud your thoughts. It’s as if you feel there is always someone out to get you. That you can’t trust someone who cant relate to, or understand your pain and suffering. Lets be honest as a country we are quite divided and it’s usually along racial and economical lines. This unaddressed animosity breeds contempt and narrows our minds further perpetuating the victim mindset many of us have fallen into.
As I prepared to travel to Europe for the first time I was overcome with numerous emotions. I’d like to think of myself as a woke individual so my ideas around Europe are steeped in colonialism, slavery and the exploitation of black people for centuries. I’ve heard people say it’s racist, watched documentaries about how foreigners and immigrants are not welcome. The picture painted wasn’t a pretty one to say the least so my guards were up. Levels of wokeness were at an all time high. But as I began my journey via Dubai I remembered the stories friends told me about their wonderful experiences while traveling to different countries and how the perceived high cost of seeing the world is all a fallacy. You can’t put a price on piece of mind. It breaks down the mental prison we too often place ourselves in. I realized this during my brief layover. I met a guy from Italy traveling to Asia for the first time. We shared a mutual excitement, though language was a barrier the emotion of joy was one we both exuded. I then met another gentleman from Bangalore, India. He had travelled before but for the first time he and his brothers were going to link up outside of India and spend some time touring France.
When I reached my final destination, Paris France, I was exhausted. Couldn’t sleep from all the excitement; not to mention Emirates was kind enough to move me into Business Class. Everyone says the French aren’t the kindest of people which I understand but the minute level of patience we show to people who don’t speak English is no different from how they feel about our inability to speak French. If anything I admire it. As a country with eleven official languages its about time we learn to communicate in a language other than English so more power to them. If anything they were very hospitable and not once did I feel unwelcome anywhere. It’s more than I can say for some places back home but that’s a topic for another article. The first thing that really caught my attention is the efficiency that comes with living in a first world country. The infrastructure and public transport is mind-blowing, The architecture is something straight out of a blog, aesthetically I was overwhelmed and in a constant state of awe. It’s a city so rich in culture and heritage, mind you the summer is tourist season but there’s something about a big city that just captures your imagination. From hanging around the same bars and cafes Picasso and Monet would frequent in Montmatre, to browsing through the countless exhibits at museums scattered around the city, it really was a lot to take in. What really caught my attention though was their affinity for African culture. They embrace the culture of the same people they colonized and celebrate as if it is their own. I’m not going to get into the politics of it but for me that was commendable. It also made me realize how a lot of African countries colonized by the French still see France as a home. Its made their society more liberal and diverse. To be honest I actually felt more free and proud as an African to know that one of the most celebrated cities in the world provides a platform for African talent to shine and in no way does it feel contrived.
All in all it was dope experience and whetted my appetite for traveling more. It reemphasized the fact that your work will always find an audience and sometimes it will be in the places you least expect. Also don’t to limit yourself to the immediate world around you. You’ll never grow. Get out of your comfort zone. Dream big and embrace the fact that you can find a home anywhere in the world.
Writer: Suku Gulube