I felt at home the moment I stepped off the KLM plane in Nairobi. I’m not sure why. I looked forward to experiencing Kenyan culture. After all, I had never been on the other side of the world, let alone in the eastern part of Africa. Maybe the tropical climate and the cool disposition of the locals made me feel welcome? In New York City, you often expect crazy and a disconnect amongst people. New Yorkers aren’t rude, however the directness and focus can come off that way to newcomers. Many people will move to New York to pursue their dreams with razor-sharp focus. The pace in the city is so quick however, that often times most people experience burnout from the constant energy here. Admittedly, I might have felt a bit burned-out before arriving. Traveling to Kenya would provide me the therapy I needed from the hustle of the big apple.
I learned much about Kenyan culture on this trip. Right now the Western world enlarges personality in pop culture to the point that it causes drama and influences poor decisions. We live in a world of online networking in which people seem more concerned about gaining a number of likes or follows rather than developing relationships and creating substance. I never thought in my lifetime I’d hear stories about teens killing themselves over a thumbs up button on the computer screen.
Traveling to Kenya makes you see the obstacles that many locals face each day. One day when traveling from Iten to Nakuru, I saw the daily struggle for most. I would see strong, fit women cutting down and carrying firewood to town to make the equivalent of one dollar. In Iten, I would see children sleeping without beds. Despite these circumstances I never ran into an ounce of negativity. Every local I saw helped one another. When traveling back to Iten I saw this first hand during a major traffic jam. Our driver communicated with other drivers. Our guide, Songok, exited the car and helped direct traffic until the police showed up. Everyone helps each other.
In today’s world everyone is connected. Since I never carry my phone in training, I see many moments that people miss. In Kenya, connectivity to the outside world can become a struggle. Even in exceptional facilities power and wifi can come and go. However, Kenya is a magical place since technology and media isn’t 100% at the center like in other major cities. Hearing “Hiyo!” come out of the children’s mouths when running made me feel connected; like Kenya had become my home. Hearing that I wasn’t far behind the lead Kenyan group when I participated in the Thursday fartlek gave me encouragement to better myself at running. Everyone helps each other to better the conditions of their country. No one is too big to not help or share their secrets of achieving success.
I found that in Kenya people come through on their promises. Elite level athletes would offer me their pacing services and many still check in on my training from time to time. Generally where I live you don’t see this happen as much or as often in today’s culture. Yes, people have busy lives. However, I think the problem is that too many people try to network with the sole purpose of boosting their own profiles and opportunities. A relationship is built, but it lacks authenticity. Musicians, how many times have you heard a promise from a producer or other industry figure wanting to help you achieve greatness? Did that person actually come through and follow-up?
Everyone living in the Western world would reap benefits from spending time in Kenya. In a world where we complicate, overwork and compete with trying to outdo each other, escaping this cycle would help recharge everyone’s mind. Spending time here would change the perspective people have on life. Although the culture might differ in Africa than the USA, at heart we experience the same facets of life. I would recommend visiting Kenya to gain a different perspective on life to anyone needing to reset.