What does it mean to travel thoughtfully? I pose this question while in Kenya visiting some of the inspiring women in our artisan partnerships. I’m here to check on the thoughtful production of our designs, introduce some of my team to our partners, and spend time with the women. This is my sixth trip to Kenya, and while I feel like I know this country fairly well, every time I visit there is something new to discover and explore.
On my first trip to Kenya I was studying African Literature and World Religion through my university for the summer. I fell in love with the country, but the experience challenged me more than anything in my life prior. I didn’t know how to reconcile the poverty and radically different lifestyles (I stayed in a mud hut for a week!). My suburban worldview had been blown away, and I felt raw and exposed. It was the beginning of a deep soul-searching experience that led me around the world for the past 20 years, culminating in the launch of Raven + Lily.
In the world of social media, it’s common for people to broadcast their fabulous travel adventures. That’s perfectly fine, but it doesn’t always reveal deeper level of discovery that I have found travel can offer. When I travel thoughtfully, I am able to encounter people and cultures in ways I can’t as a tourist or constant Instagrammer. As tempting as it can be to document every exciting trip, sometimes simply being present is more important.
When I travel thoughtfully, I have a willingness to learn something new about the world, about myself, and about a completely different culture. When I travel with an open heart and mind, I find myself experiencing the wealth of knowledge my host culture can show me. I encourage you to allow yourself to be changed by your experience, and when you return home use what you’ve learned to live an even more thoughtful life.
This doesn’t apply just to international travel. These principles are true when you’re traveling anywhere, even when traveling to spend the holidays with family and friends in the next town. Listen, learn, and love the people you encounter through travel this holiday. Ask good questions. Don’t plug in or tune out. Focus on celebrating the good and beautiful in people and places. Maybe you’ll be on an exotic adventure with loved ones, or maybe you’ll be heading to grandma’s. Both are wonderful opportunities that should be cherished.
And on a practical note, I always try to pack light. Less is more. That means I have to be thoughtful about what to bring. If I wait until the last minute, I’m usually throwing in way too much stuff, and I always feel like I’ve left something behind. Bring a journal for sketching and jotting down memories, bring note cards to write thank you notes to hosts, and pick up a few little extra gifts to give to anyone who shows you kindness during your travels. I always try to honor my hosts by thinking about the way I dress as well – particularly in other cultures. Finally, wherever I go, I always try to leave a place better than I found it.
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