“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance, nothing is yours except the essential thing- air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky- all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” Cesare Pavese
I for one cannot identify with this statement in the slightest. Senegal is nicknamed the ‘paye de tarranga,’ meaning the country of hospitality; I have been aided and welcomed on several occasions by complete strangers. You create your own niche and learn to thrive without that which you once thought was vital; you learn to minimize and roll with the punches. It makes you honestly grateful for what you have stumbled onto and hungry to see and experience more.
During the three months that I’ve been in Senegal, I have also gone on week long trips and weekend trips- further removing me from the home away from home I have made in Dakar. I think that it is actually quite the opposite of the above quote! Yes, traveling forces you to trust strangers, but if you have your wits about you, that is not always a bad thing and you end up meeting really cool people in the most random situations. On my trip through The Gambia, for example, I met these two brothers at a hotel we were staying in for a few nights. We had tea and talked and I was even invited to dine with their family for lunch. It was fantastic; I had made a new friend in one afternoon! And when my traveling companions and I had to set off the next day, he helped us to get where we were going simply out of the kindness and kindred ship we had formed the day before. And this type of situation where I have been greatly helped by strangers is not an uncommon occurrence. This has taught me how closed off and individualistic the United States are. Everyone is looking out for themselves, not for the good of the whole or strangers- at least that’s not what I’ve noticed in Chicago! It is so refreshing and instead of having nothing, everything becomes yours! And not yours for the taking, but yours for the sharing! You find new comforts that you didn’t even know you enjoyed and make new homes with your companions! Unfamiliar things become familiar! It was a turning point for me when we were coming home from the Gambia and realized when we got into Dakar how much it felt like we really were coming home! The car rapides, the herds of goats, the cacophony that is the market- all things that were once so foreign to me and now I can navigate with ease.