South Africa and Other Reflections

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Cape Town is officially my new favorite city. It exceeded all of my expectations. Seeing penguins and seals, sand boarding in the sand dunes, going on a safari, hiking huge mountains- there’s nothing you can’t do.

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I was here for six days but it flew by so fast! So, I just want to take a moment to reflect. I write this as I sit at the back of the ship, floating somewhere in the waves of the Indian Ocean between South Africa and Mauritius.

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Every day I wake up and I can’t believe this is my life. Surrounded by the sea, a new country every week. It’s the most surreal thing I could ever imagine. One thing I’ve learned to do while being here is practicing gratitude. This has been a theme of some of my past blogs, but I really can’t emphasize how important it is. To not only understand how lucky I am to be here, but to be active about my gratitude every day. I think the only way to do this is to make sure you are present in every moment, and see the positive side of everything. Traveling can be hectic and sometimes the logistics can get tricky, but it’s important not to let those little things cloud the experience.

I’ve recently been working on being present. Many times, the days go by so fast because I’m so busy trying to see as much of a country as I can, that before I can even process anything, the day is over. Mindfulness is a huge part of gratitude. Being mindful allows you to be grateful and appreciate the moment as it is happening, not only after it is already over. One of the ways I have been doing this is attending the meditation sessions on the ship. They teach us to spend at least 10 minutes a day just focusing on our breathing. I’ve found this tames my thoughts and clears my head enough that I can spend more time on today and not worrying about tomorrow.

Thinking about my last two years at UF, it feels like I was moving into my freshman dorm just yesterday. It dawned on me that I feel like I was not present for any of it. Always thinking about my next move, my exam the next morning, or what I would wear to go out that night. It’s like that quote, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. That has never made more sense to me than it does now.

Why I had to travel the world to find this out, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because this whole experience is a daydream, something I’ve only ever imagined myself doing. I worry, though, that I will have troubling staying in this mindset when I get back. It’s easy to reflect and meditate when I am surrounded by one of the planet’s most beautiful features (the ocean), my peers who are all on the same journey as me, and no wifi or other normal, outside responsibilities to distract me. I think that will be the biggest challenge for me upon returning. Applying what I’ve learned even when the situation is no longer conducive or ideal is the true test of growth.

I think my worries all wind down to a couple of questions I have been thinking about recently.

  1. Can people actually change for the better?
  2. Have I actually grown, or am I just in a new environment?
  3. How do you go about recognizing your flaws, ones that you may not even realize you have, and overcoming them?

Let me know what you think!

Seeing so many new, different cultures has made me think a lot about who I am and where I fit into this world. It’s made me want to do and be better. So many people I’ve met don’t live in environments conducive to personal growth. What I’m realizing now is that if you have the opportunity to focus on yourself and be the best you can be, you must. To help the world, you start with yourself.

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