Ciao, comfort zone – Hello, Sierra Leone

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June 2017 was one for the books – with memories I will carry for the rest of my life.

— Notes from my travel diary. Call it soul striptease, inspiration or just gratitude for every life we touch in our lives. —

I pushed aside any uncertainty I had. I decided to surrender completely and to go for it.
I’ve never expected how far I would push my mind and body into a new level of wholeness. Or emptiness. New lesson: These two are sometimes closer than they appear.

This discovery wasn’t the original purpose of my journey. The purpose was work related. But plans change. And you don’t always need a plan. But you need to deal with this -no-plan-at-all-thing. I tried to just breathe, trust (or try to), let go, see what happens.

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“There is so much power here. I feel it without touching. It’s everywhere. It’s the air of an upcoming storm. The land, the people, rich fertility and the history beneath my feet. But in the same time I feel weakness and the struggle of so many.” (Note from my travel diary)

I’m blown away by the vulnerability of each human I’ve met. I’m deeply impressed of each fight I was told. The raw humanity I was greeted with has me completely humbled.

Each one of us is here for a reason. Most of us are brought by work to Sierra Leone. Some are led by faith. I thought I knew my reason when I packed the night before my flight. When I entered the plane to Paris and from Paris to Freetown in Sierra Leone, a country with more prejudices in the minds of many rather than facts. What?! You’re travelling in a country of war? In a country of Ebola? (Note: War is over, Sierra Leone is Ebola-free) But I didn’t know as I’ve learned. And somehow I still don’t know.

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I pushed my body, my mind and my spirit again beyond my comfort zone. This time we’ve been to a state where I’ve never been before – not even close, not even with an idea of the direction. I didn’t know about the existance of this mental place I’ve visited. I greeted myself with honesty. And besides the environment that surrounded me I took off the last bits of armor – feeling the naked soul life and its purity. Some emotional baggage I carried for my whole life was taken off this way somewhere in the jungle, in the buzzling market streets of Freetown, in the Atlantic Ocean and sitting on some rocks watching the nature passes by. Don’t ask me where exactly. Don’t ask me why I obviously had to be in Sierra Leone and surrounded by such an extreme environment. But extreme situations already taught me in the past to be honest with myself, to feel myself and every  glimpse of emotion and to exactly know what or who wastes my time and energy. So I’ve learned to listen carefully in the middle of the chaos.

I discovered the certainty that the path each one of us is on, is meant for us – including all the successes, failures, opportunites, missed chances and lessons. Don’t be afraid of the path. Let it be and enjoy the journey. Don’t forget to breathe. And do what you’re afraid to do. Everything you want is here… right here – on the other side of fear. The battle between what you know and what you feel belongs to us human beings. Do not fight against it. Yes, the battle will hurt your heart. Sooner or later. But a late “what if” or a regret is not healthy for your soul either. Embrace this battle as it’s part of your journey to grow.

I embraced the now as I’ve rarely done it before. But I learned this now is mine. I’m humbled for every experience, every smile I received back, every person opening a little bit the heart for me. Thanks for letting me trust and thanks for trusting me. These people hold my heart now and inspired me to push further.

Thank you for my new friends. You rocked my soul. And maybe we will rock again together, sometime. Somewhere.

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No, it wasn’t my happiest trip. To be honest, it’s been the most emotional trip I’ve ever ever ever had. I had incredible and desperate moments that truly showed me more than I’ve ever expected. I’ve found answers to questions. And I gained so many new questions. But isn’t it exactly the way how life works?

You set yourself up to see and to learn one thing. Maybe to find an answer to this one bold question.

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You expose yourself to the unknown. You open your heart to strangers. You somehow feel connected despite the circumstances. You trust. You follow the dance of your heart.

And the universe hands you a completely new and even more radical life change and lesson to work on.

I’ve got a few lessons – and they’re not “done” yet just because I left the country. They will move on storming around. They hurt. They suck. But I guess, that’s ok. That’s when life has its moments. It’s natural. I’m still “high on life”.

I reminded myself in Sierra Leone to slow down, look around and to be with my breath – feel the present and its pace, breathing in the sea breeze. Sharing silent moments is precious. I’ve learned how it fills up my marble jar of trust too quickly. Note to myself: Learn your lesson.

One day, the Atlantic Ocean appeared black. The dark colour of the water impressed me and somehow calmed me down. While swimming and diving I knew, how disconnected I am. My mind tried to be strong while my body was weak and exhausted, my heart was hurting. “Great” state to go out for a swim in the nowhere. It took time to get back to the shore – but there is no greater reward for trusting yourself to be in the unknown. And there are no words describing the gratitude filled my entire body to know someone somehow cares.

Every journey is a milestone on your personal map. As a geographer I’m a huge fan of maps and I love to discover my milestones where I collect new memories and understandings, where I overcome my previous fears, shame and insecurities, where I put in action what myself and my instincts learned from the past. Self acceptance – it has always been a big roadsign that kept hitting me in the face. That’s my story. And I believe everbody has similar moments now and then. I’ve been furiously fighting to be present. Now.

Sierra Leone reminded me to slow down and breathe – A reminder the hard way. I’ve learned to fully hear myself and not only these voices around me. It’s nice to experience now to hear these two voices. I’m honest with my present and being.  And I’ve learned: Silence is a wonderful state.

To experience new places is such a heart-filling experience. It’s always been my passion and the fuel on my travels. Never stop exploring. Never. Never. Never. It awakens my free spirit, always.

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I could not be more humbled to have had the chance to unplug for a while from my world in Germany, to meet and to learn loosing dear friends, to tune into this adventure, into new surroundings and into myself – high on life. What impact has my work for a better world?

I will carry this journey with me always in the lessons I’ve learned or I’m still learning – in deep connection with myself. Thanks to everyone on this special map. You rock my soul.

Notes from Katie’s travel diary, June 2017.