I have slowly, very slowly, been preparing for my upcoming trip to South Africa. I booked my tickets many weeks ago but have not had a chance to think about my trip as I have been so busy at work and life in general. I just fully moved to Los Angeles, had family members visit immediately upon moving in, and am trying to still get my footing at work. That trip has basically snuck up upon me.
I do not have much of an idea of what I will be doing while there besides presenting at a business conference. I did manage to get myself to a travel clinic and now my arm has been extremely sore for days. I had never gone to a travel clinic before but so many people started telling me all sorts of odd warnings about South Africa I figured I should get some health guidance. I went to the travel clinic and was told that I should not eat berries and that I needed both a hepatitis vaccine shot and tetanus shot. I got both shots in the same shoulder and I paid for that for days. I had trouble, at times, lifting my arms. Sadly, I have finally started to think and write about my trip while my arm is in full ache throbbing mode.
I was also told to not drink water and to not eat salads. Done! I have no hesitation in following that set of advice. I hate water. There was never any chance I would drink it here let alone abroad. As for salads, I have worked at a health department and have seen the effects en masse of salad bars. Truly, avoid them.at all costs. So I am good on the salad front.
Now a few weeks ago, I met a woman who had spent some time with her missionary family in Durban where I am heading out to shortly. I was excited to get her take and advice tidbits. I excitedly asked her how great was her past expetience there. She shook her head at me and told me to be careful, very careful. She even mentioned that people she knew there, in particular her family, had guns. I nodded and noted her concerns and advice. While I will make up my own mind about the city and country once I am there, I did pay heed. What does one do when you get such dire or pessimistic travel advice?
I have learned that just how all politics are local and art is in the eye of the beholder there are not many universals when it comes to travel. Each person experiences travel based on the city one is visiting as well as one’s upbringing, sense of adventure, race, gender and even height. It is all personal. I have a dear friend that utterly loves Rome. I loved the architecture and historical sense of Rome. However, there were times where I was not treated so well. My friend is an older white women, while I am not. Meanwhile, I really like London because of how welcomed I was made to feel. Of course, this was before Brexit.
I grew up in the South Bronx and I work in South Los Angeles. Just thus past week later, the Bahamas put out a travel advisory warning to its citizens about traveling to the United States. Travel is truly an experience at the intersection of you, history and the present.
Now back to my upcoming South Africa experience. I’m open as I always am. I understand it’s history and I bring empathy, curiosity, a sense of adventure but also a sharp New York sense of scanning my environment.