The months leading up to my Botswana term were extremely nerve-racking. I’m an overthinker. I constantly think of the worst things that could happen. I thought way too much about showers, food, beds, wifi — the whole camping situation in general.
I cannot recall the exact moment my mindset changed, but it was somewhere around the first time I got on a bus with thirty other students my age for a twelve-hour bus ride. We were all starting an adventure together, and our first stop was the Tuli Block.
The Tuli Block ranges from dense woodland to vast desert in a matter of minutes. There are ridges overlooking empty river beds and sunsets more vibrant than pink lemonade.
I remember the time I first saw an elephant. I was in a car with a Canadian, a Bosnian, a South African, a Vietnamese, a Mexican, and a Singaporean: the most diverse vehicle I have ever been in.
Photo by Charlotte S.
The elephant family of four crossed the road right in front of us. The old bull reared back at us, flapping his ears, telling us to stay away from his family. They walked with so much confidence, it made me think the grey giants were the most ancient animals on the planet.
On the fifth day in the bush, all three camps came together to play soccer in a dried-up river bed. The first mistake I made that day was taking my shoes off. I had a great time being goalie for the first fifteen minutes of the game. The second mistake I made that day was deciding to kick the ball with my toe.
I remember the sickening crunch of my toenail bending back. I can still feel the panic coursing through my body like a tidal wave when I saw the blood. I limped over to my South African friend Jess sitting on the sidelines and climbed out of the river bed.
I sat down and tried not to cry in front of my peers. That didn’t last. I started sobbing the minute Elyce attempted to clean my toe out with a DIY syringe made out of a plastic bag. I sucked it up and took some Advil.
Seeing the elephants and breaking my toenail made me reflect on how much I had changed that week. I stopped caring about what I look like because the elephants made me think more about what lays under the surface and not just on the exterior. I could live without seeing my reflection everyday in the morning when I wake up. I don’t need makeup to give me confidence anymore.
I have learned to appreciate things I used to take for granted, like having a clean pair of socks everyday or a dishwasher. I stopped missing my computer as much as would have back at home. I could live without the constant need to check my phone for the ping of Instagram likes or Pinterest followers. I felt free; for the first time in a long time I didn’t need that recognition from social media.
All of these memories made me realize how obscene my worries were. I need to stop having these preconceived ideas, that everything will be awful. I need to live in the moment. Just go with the flow and accept things will be the way they are. The only thing you can change is yourself, and your own misconceptions are made to be proven wrong.