09 Apr Culture Shock: Self Exploration in Travel
Culture shock is something every traveler understands. It’s part of the gritty, harsh truth: that no experience can be prepared for, especially speaking about immersion in a foreign world of unknown traditions, foods, languages and perspectives about life. For me, this is the impetus to go. The discomfort, the confusion, and ultimately the epiphany of what it means to be human, reveals who we are underneath the cloak of our context.
In Ghana, my culture shock was like one of those gnarly roller coasters, the rickety kind, that start off with a slow climb, reach a peak and drop you face first through a series of loops, twists and turns. As I traveled north, through jungles and into the dust, away from the salty breezes of the beach, I was changing languages, topography and customs. I was even changing myself.
A realization found me in Ada, after I’d returned to the Southern Volta region and was walking on the beach with a friend. I was traveling through Ghana the same way it was traveling through me, both comprehending it and yet transforming with it, hot, tired, irritated and awed, disoriented, and unsure of everything. After traveling through the diverse tribes and lands of Ghana, I found myself asking who I was.
Just as I was contemplating the universal nature of how the features of land affect the people that inhabit them, I saw a man, crouched down at the edge of the water. Although he was off in the distance and I couldn’t see his face, I had the distinct feeling that he was pondering the same question. He was gazing pensively at the ebb and tide of the ocean, a source that connects humans throughout the globe. I mentioned it to my friend who laughed and said, “I don’t think that’s what he’s doing.” “Don’t shit on my moment,” I replied, but upon closer look, I saw a tail silhouetted in the sunset.