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My Travel Log – the Road to Africa and Back

Queenslog: July 15, 2023

As promised, I’m writing this from the road. I’m sitting in a darling hotel room in Brussels. We are here overnight as we make our way to the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali, Rwanda. We arrived early this afternoon after 3 days in London.

I got to ride in a black cab just like on Sherlock, and I watched Shakespeare at the Globe -- so my little nerd heart is happy.

Because I live in small, rural towns I tend to forget about life with other people. Life in the city takes a lot of energy. There is so much to see and do here it can get overwhelming. My travel companion and friend, Morna, and I are not morning people so we have started each day off with a late but tasty English breakfast, which includes a poached egg, some hash browns, roasted mushrooms and tomatoes and sausage. A good hearty breakfast is essential, as there is a lot of walking to do each day. Morna used to live here so we wandered through her old neighborhoods and checked out some of the obvious tourist sites.

We ate lunch in the West End and took photos at Trafalgar Square. I took the subway in London’s Underground and yes, you really do need to “mind the gap”. We took a double-decker bus for some sightseeing and boarded a water taxi for a tour from the Thames. I heard Big Ben chime at 6 p.m.

We put in a very full day on Monday. According to my phone, I’d walked well over 18,000 steps, and I crawled into bed thinking I’d be asleep before my head hit the pillow. And I was …. for about an hour. And then I was wide awake. I had eaten a late night dessert of tiramisu so I’m not sure if that amount of coffee would keep me awake or if it was just the energy of the city or traveling… but I was wide awake. Turns out Morna was, too. We met in the hotel lobby for a late morning breakfast and agreed to go back to bed.

When you’re on vacation and you know you’ve spent a lot of money to get to the destination, it’s easy to want to pack every minute with activity so you get your money’s worth. But I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older to also identify the cost. If I’m exhausted, how much will I enjoy the day? Plus, for me, there’s always a risk of getting sick. So instead of leaving the hotel for an all-day adventure, we opted to spend the day in the hotel bar enjoying great conversation and brainstorming about our visions for the future we want to create. That evening, we went to the play and took several long walks around the city. I’m so thankful for the restful day. And I know I’ll enjoy the rest of the trip without being exhausted.

Because I don’t live in the city, I forget about city life. First of all, it’s dirty. After a day walking through the city and riding public transportation, I was covered in grime. I wore sandals and my feet were icky. And by the end of the day my chronically bad lungs had enough. I also tend to forget about the time it takes to navigate around people. The subway can get you anywhere you want to go quickly, but I forget about the time it takes to get through the gates, maneuver around other humans, wait in line and walk to and from a destination.

I also forget that roads are narrow and buildings are old. Stairs are steep. In my head, I don’t worry about my heavy luggage because I figure I will just have to roll the suitcases into the lobby and then to the elevator. But old buildings have stairs and rooms in places not always accessible by an elevator. Today, I had to roll my very heavy luggage three blocks over cobblestones because my hotel is in a place that doesn’t allow vehicles. While my room is on the first floor, in this hotel, the first floor is up three flights of stairs. Narrow stairs. I was sweaty and grumpy, but I survived.

I’m fascinated by the way humans move around together. On a plane or train you sit right next to a person. Touching them. But rarely do you talk or interact. You’re sitting so close to someone you can see the freckles on their face, read their book and smell what they had for lunch, but no one speaks to one another. I think that’s weird.

Here are some other things I think are weird: European toilets are just the bowls –the backs/tanks are behind a wall. It looks nice, but I don’t understand how they get fixed. Wash/face cloths aren’t always a thing. Some places have them but a lot don’t. How do you wash your face without them?

The best part of this trip is the conversation with my friend Morna, the founder of Revolutionary Woman Global. I’m attending the conference as a delegate of RWG. One of the things we spend a lot of time talking about is leadership. What does it mean to be a leader in today’s world and how can we train more people, especially women, to be impactful agents of change? In most cases, I think we have to teach women to get out of their own way. I know that is the case for me. So in the middle of the tourist adventures, I’m watching, listening and learning. Not just about being a better voice and agent for change in my community, but also for myself.

So, that’s the update for now. More from Africa next week. In the meantime, I’m headed for Kigali and another big city to navigate with my dirty feet and curious mind. Wouldn’t have it any other way!

What am I reading?: Life After by my dear friend Genalea Barker. It’s gut-wrenching and powerful and entirely beautiful.

***** Giveaway time! Genealea and I are doing a giveaway for our followers! During the month of July we are challenging you to donate one hour of your time to your favorite community organization or charity. To participate, pick an organization to donate one hour of time to. Take a photo of yourself doing the work and send either Genalea or me a DM with details about what you’re doing and why. You’re not required to post the photo – but if you do, tag Genalea_Barker or me at @adventuresinkarmalot. August 1, Genalea and I will enter everyone’s name in a drawing for a free autographed copy of her book and some special treats from me including a souvenir from my trip to Africa!

What am I listening to: This American Life, Jane Doe. The story makes me so angry and sad. The producers also had Fiona Apple record Idaho’s state song for this episode. It’s a haunting version of the song for me, but other people have had very different reactions. Let me know what you think?

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