Taking this journey to Rwanda has inspired a lot of deep thought, reflection, and preparation. There is the practical side, which I will get to later, and the mental/emotional side. My own reflection and inner work has been a fabulous side effect of the preparation. It is vitally important to me to answer the question; why are you going and what can you offer? This is not a material offer, this is, “How can my presence be of service without doing harm?” What I have come to discover is the power of a hug and a smile can greatly inspire. This is not just any hug and smile… it is fully engaged, with every cell of your body, an open-hearted hug and smile. It is putting yourself out there; it is being vulnerable and allowing that emotional risk be the catalyst for deep human connection.
So, I will take that discovery with me to Rwanda and strive to have sore arms and face muscles from hugging and smiling. I will let you know how it goes!
Before I dive in to the practical side let me first say thank you for the support from friends and family! Your comments, emails, and conversations have been very meaningful to us. I am watching Darren grow from this experience of sharing his thoughts and feelings in a more public forum. He is collecting lots of goats and food baskets so he can help spread loving kindness – now he needs to figure out how to fit them all in his suitcase!
I fully admit that I am a planner (readers who know me well will chuckle at that understatement!) but my philosophy on travel is a lot of planning with a whole lot of letting go mixed in. My view on travel is that luck happens when you have carefully made plans and have remained completely flexible, so when the changes happen you are fully present to experience amazing things.
Here are some of the things we’ve been doing to plan and prepare. Many of these I have gleaned from years of travel and others I have graciously adopted from fellow travelers with worn boots.
- The U.S. Department of State has a smart traveler program that I use. Once registered the U.S. embassy has record of your trip and how to get hold of you with important alerts.
- U.S. embassies have an American Citizen Services (ACS) department that can assist you if you run into issues.
- Leaving a photocopy of your passport at home and a copy with you is a good idea. I also have scans of passports and scans of all the cards in my wallet that I upload to a cloud (I use Google Docs.) so I could go to a library anywhere and print it out if needed.
- Global Entry/Trusted Traveler is a program that clears you for customs. At participating airports around the world you are already cleared for customs and don’t need to fill out any forms. Another plus with this program is that it ties in with TSA so with domestic travel in the U.S., you can go through different security lines where you just walk through a scanner and not get undressed!
- Carry toilet paper and wet wipes.
- Aluminum foil is really good at blocking light from windows so you can sleep.
- Have a good white noise app to help drown out sounds so you can sleep.
- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, or long sleeves and long pants.
- “Empowerment Envelope” – I have put together an envelope for Darren that he will keep in his day pack. It has a copy of both our passports, the address and phone number of where we are staying, the address and phone number of the US embassy, a phone card, and some Rwandan money. We’ve talked about everything in there so he knows what to do if we were to get separated for any reason.
So there is my short (ha) list – if you have any travel tips please share!