Travelling Means Finding Connections: Building Relationships Across Cultures

“…for when I think of this meeting, I think of old friendships and new beginnings, of laughter and warmth, of the vibrant colours and sounds of the people in closed spaces, and of the kindness and generosity of the people I would meet along the way”

When I travelled to Ghana, I did not have a set plan of what I was going there to do or the places of interest to visit. My goal was to go to Ghana and see Mawuu. Perhaps, this lack of a plan was why I paid an expensive amount to reschedule my flight, as I had arrived late for check-in at the airport and could not move with my scheduled flight.

In the afternoon of the day I arrived in Ghana, Mawuu asked me if I had places I had planned to visit, and I responded in the negative. I was only going to meet with my colleagues later that day, and that was it. Oh, and then travel with the Travel Tribe to Southwestern Ghana; this was a plan that Mawuu had sold me when I told her of my plan to visit Ghana. As I bit into my brunch at Starbites Restaurant at East Legon, Mawuu drew up an itinerary on the spot for me and added me to a Whatsapp group with the subject – “Ify in Ghana.”

People gape at me in disbelief when I tell them this story of never having planned my Ghana trip. If only they knew that I had also borrowed the Ghana trip idea from my dearest friend, Doyin.

Initially, Doyin had shared the idea of going to Ghana to rejuvenate herself, and I welcomed the thought. Life was too short to overthink about doing something for oneself. My new ambition is to travel, and I would not waste time worrying about the details.

And when Doyin’s plan of travelling to Ghana changed, the thought of visiting Ghana stuck out like a sore thumb, that I could not shake off. Without further ado, I packed my bags and headed off to Ghana.

In Travelling Just For The People, Derek Sivers wrote of a friend who had travelled a long distance just to come and stay with him. When Derek asked if he had planned to visit any sights, he said No. “I don’t care what we do. I just came to see you!” 

Bewildered, Derek probed him further, and he replied, “Dude. I’m serious. I really don’t care about any of that stuff. I came here to see you, hang out with you, talk with you. That’s honestly the only reason I’m here. You don’t have to take me anywhere or show me anything.”

Reflecting on that experience, Derek wrote, “I remember almost nothing but that conversation. Sometimes we connect with a place, but usually we connect with people. Yet people connect us to a place.”

Yes, people connect us to a place. My journey in Ghana crystallised at the airport – meeting Mawuu for the first time and Eyram for the second time – two lovely people whose souls introduced me to the heart of Ghana. This meeting would define the rest of my journey in Ghana, for when I think of this meeting, I think of old friendships and new beginnings, of laughter and warmth, of the vibrant colours and sounds of the people in closed spaces, and of the kindness and generosity of the people I would meet along the way.

And when I think of Flo, Sol, Nyash the cat, or the good old dogs – Whiskey and Charlie, I will remember Escape 3 Points for all its warmth. When I think of Escape 3 Points, I will remember all these and more – the Travel Tribe’s nightly conversations, the ‘good mornings’ that came with the question of ‘did you sleep well?’ the look of concern when one of the Travel Tribe members so much as breathed a cough, the shared breakfasts. I will remember the picture of Akwasi Mclaren standing out as the man in action, moving around and being there for his guests one at a time. I will remember him coming to our dining table with an antihistamine for Mercy because she had reacted to an ingredient in the food. I will remember Flo, another lodger and the good doctor scurrying over with his travel group to care for Mercy. And when I think of the Travel Tribe, I will remember not just the places we visited but the journey we took together, the road trips, the stop at God is Love Chopbar at Takoradi, the conversations on the bus, the sing-alongs, Efua’s singing wafting into my Instagram recording, meeting Sheila of the travel tribe.

Of course, it’s good to plan. It’s also great to go to places for its landmarks and sights. However, this Ghana experience is very special to me, and I would not give it up for anything. Yes, Mawuu had shared the Travel Tribe’s plan of visiting Escape 3 Points with me, but I honestly didn’t read anything in the chat group. If not, I would have known to go with my Ankara for the 31st dinner.

On the eve of 29th December at Escape 3 Points, Mawuu asked us what we hoped to get out of this trip, and I said something about wanting to get out of myself and feel more comfortable with other people. I had made that up on the spot, but perhaps it wasn’t far from the truth. Perhaps, if I had also said I wanted to slow down, that may have also been close to the truth. But the truth was that I hadn’t thought of anything I had hoped to get out of the trip.

Reflecting on this trip, I think just like Derek Sivers and Amit Chaudhuri, my purpose of going to Ghana was to meet the people I’d had the pleasure of meeting – Mawuu, Eyram – the travel tribe – Sheila, Efua, Mercy, Kennetha, Ama, Nana, Prynx, Fui, Kwaku, Pearl, Jenny, Kelechi, Whiskey. The guests I had connected with at Escape 3 Points – Sol, Flo, Artis3, Eva, Charley, Nyash; the cheerful staff at the wondrous lodge and Akwasi Mclaren.

And these conversations with these people who have become a family I never knew I needed are precious memories I cherish. Meeting them and knowing them, interacting with the places I visited, writing the story of Escape 3 Points, meeting me again.

Travelling means finding new inspirations because when the thought of writing a story about this place came like a guest during my Yoga with Efua, Mercy and Sol, I watched it as it made its visit. The thought flitted around, then came again and again until I made sense of it. Still, never in my wildest dreams had I imagined making a video until the interview day when Eva accompanied Akwasi with her phone and a tripod. 

Travelling means finding new experiences. It means finding new perspectives. It means finding new adventures. It means finding memories and creating lasting impressions. It means finding connections and building relationships across cultures. It means finding more about oneself. Because in travelling, you take pieces of yourself to foreign places where you meet other people who have also brought pieces of themselves. Travelling offers us a chance to start all over again with others without preconceived notions of who we are or who they are. Doyin says, “travelling makes you a new person,” and I could not agree more.

PS: You can watch my travel highlights on my Instagram, or read my interview with Akwasi Mclaren about the Escape 3 Points story on Creatives Around Us.

By Ifunanya Okolie

I am exploring how to become the best version of humanity.

4 replies on “Travelling Means Finding Connections: Building Relationships Across Cultures”

This is beautiful Ify. The time spent at Escape 3 points and the travel tribe is one of the greatest moments in my life. I reminisce every now and then, and it fills me with such excitement to have been part of all of that. To have spent time to care for myself and connect with the marvelous community and tribe Shells created. Miss you so much 🫶🏾

Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.