WHY AFRICAN YOUTHS DON’T TRAVEL
Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018) the late celebrity chef, travelled wide and he gave an advice I couldn’t disagree with. In his view:
“…If you’re twenty-two (22), physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go…”
In all fairness there is a strong school of thought that argues that travelling is instinctive and is a part of human nature. “We are made to be mobile” they argue.
Yes, we humans have an extraordinary virtue of seeing, experiencing and learning, and that is precisely what makes our journeys more rewarding. Humans have traveled from time immemorial for a variety of reasons.
At a time when there was no infrastructure or transportation, even for long-distance travel, people traveled on foot or on animals. Sometimes these trips were extremely long and tiring and it took a person, weeks, or even months to reach their destination. A person who was on a long journey was returning home after years. Until then, his family had very little knowledge of his location and well-being. In extreme cases, a person would never come back. Despite all these barriers and difficulties, people have traveled; not always because they needed it, but several times, also because they loved it. Traveling does not only take us to distant lands and puts us in touch with different people, but it also tends to break the monotony of our lives.
With people, with their culture, their opinions and their ideas, they travel too. When they go from one place to another, they are forced to meet people and share their thoughts and experiences. This is where the exchange of ideas takes place and that definitely expands a person’s perspectives. It makes him/her think in a different way, from a different point of view. When we talk about cultural influences and exchanges, food is one of the important factors. People’s eating habits say a lot about them. It is very interesting to discover new and unknown methods and values. They really add spice to life.
As true as all the above may be, as the world has grown more sophisticated and despite the effect of globalization, the ability to travel for many have actually shrunk not broadened. That has been in part due to the need to effect more stringent immigration rules and the desire to protect citizens from the devastating effect of terrorism.
Problems or not, barriers or no barriers, the allure of traveling for many has not waned. Traveling creates memories for life. It doesn’t matter whether it’s solo or in a group, traveling often creates pleasant and exciting stories that can be shared with others. How many of us still keep memories of interesting places we visited more than two decades ago? Many I would imagine!
In addition to the above, traveling and getting away from home allows us to spend time with ourselves. It makes us more subtle and tolerant of others. It also makes it easier for us to meet and meet different types of people, and to live our lives to the full.
Traveling is also by and large a leveler of some sort. Granted some would travel first or business class but majority travel economy. In your typical hotel lobby, at the bar, swimming pool or restaurant, there are massive opportunities to meet new people, network and share stories and experiences with others. In short, on a journey regardless of destination and duration, you could learn a lot about the world. There is an apt Moorish proverb that states “…He who does not travel does not know the value of men…”
I have been fortunate to be able to travel to different parts of the world and I am always struck by the fact that I rarely see young Africans at airports, on planes and on my travels.
That lack of their presence has plagued my mind and left me wondering why don’t African young men and women travel as much as their counterparts from other parts of the world?
Someone told me it’s very simple “…most Africans especially youths, consider that traveling is a waste of time, energy and money. Some also find that traveling is an extremely boring activity.…” Is that really the case? I would argue that is too simplistic. Then again, I have come to form an opinion that even when Africans tend to travel, they do so with focus only on the main capital cities of the world; London, Paris and the likes.
REASONS WHY AFRICAN YOUTH FIND IT HARD TO TRAVEL OUT
- Travel Restrictions and Logistics
Human beings generally love adventure. It is in the nature of youths to seek fun and adventure through travels. One major limiting factor is the difficulty in processing visa especially for African countries. Even when the passion and motivation is there, all of it is dashed to the ground by visa denial. Without visa being granted, one cannot freely travel to another country. It is usually very difficult for Africans to get visa to other countries, hence even when the drive for traveling is there, it doesn’t come to actualization because of this visa issue which is a possible deterrent.
Travelling can be quite very expensive. Getting to save for flight ticket, hotel booking and other expenses is also one of the limiting factors that stop Africans from travelling to other countries. The cost alone discourages an average youth
- Societal expectations
Very unlike their counterparts in the developed world and many parts of Asia, African young men and women grow up with a weight of expectation to get into a career, get into work and start earning money and perhaps get married and settled. The whole concept therefore of a “gap year” as an example is neither popular nor encouraged.
WHAT DOES ALL THESE MEAN FOR THE CONTINENT AS A WHOLE?
Traveling or lack of it especially at an early age is profoundly limiting because there is a level of exposure that comes from traveling and yes its one you cannot get by reading about the world or from browsing the internet. There is a depth of understanding and shifting in paradigms, mindsets, perspectives and ideologies that one enters into being exposed to other cultural backgrounds and conditioning. That is what we are denying our young men and women.
The place of travel in making the African continent a better place cannot be over emphasized. If African youths travel the more, they will gain the experience, exposure and understanding that is needed to make Africa a better continent.
Karamo Brown, the popular US actor perhaps sums everything up perfectly when he said,
“… I always encourage people to get out there, travel the world, see new things, experience new people, experience new food, experience new culture. What happens is that helps you to grow and be your best self…”
ABOUT THE WRITER
Adesola Harold Orimolade is the Head of Treasury at Hogg Robinson Plc, UK. He has also had previous spells with leading global firms and companies including Bank of America, Citi Group & Standard Chartered. Adesola is also a public speaker & storyteller who enjoys sharing his experience, especially in leadership, management and capacity building.
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