Reflections: What were my top 5 travel adventures of 2014 – 2015?

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Masai Mara

My favorite place on earth. Majestic landscapes, interesting animals, fresh air, peace. Something spiritual happens to me when I enter the Mara. It’s hard to explain. I have now been on safari in three other places (Ol Pejeta in Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa) and while each safari is unique and amazing in its own way, nothing compares to the vistas of the Mara. Savannas for days. Open. Wide open. It’s really the most remarkable place in the world to me.

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Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda

This would be my most remarkable experience in the world. Trekking through the Virunga Mountains to find a family of 16 mountain gorillas and watching them from just a few feet away for an hour. Gentle. Beautiful. Unassuming.

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South Africa

South Africa is a beautiful country and offers distinct experiences throughout its land. Two of my best friends flew there to meet me at the end of my time on the continent. We enjoyed Cape Town for a week then flew east to Johannesburg on the way to safari in Sabi Sand Game Reserve. It’s not only a beautiful place, the people are friendly and the infrastructure makes you feel like you are in Europe. It offers the comforts of Europe yet the exoticness of the African continent. We all agreed we would return one day.

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Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco

This was a bucket list item for my Dad and I was just lucky enough to tag along. For years, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, the TV in our living room blasted the sounds of open wheeled racecars zooming through the streets of Monte Carlo. It’s one of those nostalgic sounds for me that will forever remind me of my Dad. He loves Formula One racing. Since I’ve been an adult, I’ve said, “Dad, we have to do that one day. Go to the Monaco Grand Prix.” 2015 was the year. I was living in East Africa, and we could meet half way in France for vacation and check that item off the bucket list. It was all you can imagine and more. We attended the practice rounds on Saturday and the main event on Sunday, watching from a suite on the famous hairpin turn. In addition, to the race, we explored Cote d’Azur, enjoyed amazing weather, food and wine and had one of the best vacations of our lives.

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Uhuru Peak on Mt Kilimanjaro

Saved the best for last. Watching the sunrise at 19,341 feet is by far my best travel adventure of 2015, maybe of a lifetime. Of course getting to the summit was the highlight, but the entire experience of climbing the mountain, camping under the star-lit skies and laughing hysterically with two amazing friends will forever be seared into my mind.

Reflections: What did I learn?

Sitting, thinking by the fire in Ruhengeri, Rwanda.

Relaxing, thinking by the fire in Ruhengeri, Rwanda.

What did I learn living in East Africa?

Well, overall, I learned that living overseas changes you in ways that are not immediately clear but become apparent as time passes and you re-enter your home country. I’m still in the process of this.

But, here are a few things that come to mind now… I learned…

Nairobi is a long way from home and it feels like it.

I can make friends and build a life anywhere in the world – especially with the help of a local church and Christian friends.

I love East Africa and in some ways it feels more like home than the US.

When the sun comes up early, I prefer early to bed, early to rise.

I love animals and the outdoors even more than I thought and I’m a secret conservationist!

When working in a cross-cultural setting you must have patience and humility.

Honesty and integrity are not valued by all cultures even though I believe they should be.

My values and beliefs are well established and not everyone thinks the way I do (Okay, maybe I already knew this).

I can be wrong many times and need to admit my mistakes, but sometimes I am right and I need to be bold enough to stand by my convictions and conscience and not doubt myself.

There is a line between my own mistakes and someone else’s and I need to learn to tell the difference.

I love driving on the wrong side of the road and, deep down, I am a non-conformist!

Doing meaningful work that impacts lives brings me more joy than I ever imagined.

About God – I learned that He cares deeply and intimately for me. I learned that He grows my faith apart from my works. He is good. He is love. He is all sufficient, sovereign, omniscient, all-mighty, omnipresent.

The Time of My Life

My time in Nairobi is winding down, and I’ve begun to reflect on my life and work here. It has truly been an incredible year – probably the best year of my life so far. I am not really sure what has made it so great – maybe it’s the simplicity of life in Kenya or that every day living in East Africa is an adventure; maybe it’s because I’ve gotten to do something I’ve only dreamed about doing; or maybe it’s because I feel so satisfied in my work – like what I am doing really matters.

Ultimately, I know that God is the one responsible for the contentment and satisfaction I have felt this past year and a half. He has been so kind to me. I have experience joy and peace like never before. The Lord has grown my heart for others and deepened my understanding of who He is and how He works in this world (and how He works in my own heart). I am left with one feeling – gratitude.

I am grateful for my God – because He not only saved me but has given me an amazing life with Christ. I am grateful for my family and friends back home who have supported me along the way. I am grateful to Sandy and Karen Baird for giving me this opportunity. I am grateful for my Kenyan colleagues who have received me and loved me so well. I am grateful for my Kenyan church, EBC, and for my Kenyan and ex-pat friends in Nairobi . You all know who you are.

I still have a few weeks left in Africa, but, while I’m on holiday, I wanted to take this time to say, thank you.

I am currently on holiday with two of my most dear friends in the world. We drove down to the southernmost point in Africa yesterday - Cape of Good Hope.

I am currently on holiday with two of my most dear friends in the world. We drove down to the southernmost point in Africa yesterday – Cape of Good Hope.