I’ve been frequently asked what made me decide to leave everything behind and start a new life in freedom. So here’s the story about my inspirational moment.
The wonderful island of Zanzibar was the place I chose to volunteer as an English teacher about one year ago. I was on a mission to teach English basics to children from age three to nine. I immediately fell in love with my work and the place, which was marvelously beautiful. I connected quickly with the locals, who have an awesome and open mentality. Often, I felt speechlessly joyful and full of gratitude for such a level of connection with strangers. It took a couple of days only, until I felt like being at home.
As the village was quite small I knew almost everybody in the blink of an eye and everybody knew me. “Jambo teacher Sina”, they called me, when I passed by on my way to work or to the beach. (Jambo means “Hi” in Swahili. )
Paradoxically, even though I was their teacher, it was actually me who learnt so much from them. A game-changer in my life was when I learnt how little in life I need to be happy and how powerful the smiles I have shared were.
I felt humbled to feel their positive attitude towards life. It was so much more powerful than the energy I felt when I met tourists who may have enjoyed the luxury of being at this wonderful place, but often were lacking of inner happiness.
Sharing was another important part of the lives of the locals. Often, we just spent time together, chatting away while improving their English and learning more about each other’s cultures.
One day I was walking along the beach looking for broken shells, which I could use to make jewelry. Out of the blue, there was this little girl walking next to me, who observed what I was doing. We connected with a few Swahili words that I had learnt by then, and to my surprise she began to collect the same shells like me.
When we arrived at the end of the beach, the girl gave me all the shells she had collected and smiled her biggest smile. I hadn’t even realized that she had collected the broken shells for me. I embraced her with gratitude.
On the next day, my flatmate looked for me and told me that there was a girl waiting for me by the door. It was the same girl from the beach, proudly offering me her hands full of more broken shells, which she had collected. I was speechless and asked her to stop collecting shells for me. But I wanted her to come again the next day, which she did. “Teacher sina, teacher sina”, she said when she arrived with awe and wonder. I had prepared a small bracelet from the shells we had collected together. Again, she smiled her biggest smile when she saw me. I told her to open her hand and put the bracelet I had made for her in her palm. The happiness in her eyes was crazy! Soon, she ran around the village to show it to her friends.
Moments like this may seem small, but there is such great meaning behind them for me. It made me think about the lifestyle I grew up with in Europe.
Back home in winter in Switzerland, I suddenly began to miss the positive energy and the sun from Zanzibar. It felt like people were so unaware of what really matters in life. Even though we have so much wealth in Switzerland, people were complaining about the same small things over and over again. I knew it had always been like that, but after my time in Zanzibar, it was just more obvious than ever before. That was the moment I decided to leave my home country for good. I am not sure when I will go back.
That moment was four months ago. I have quit my job, left my flat and sold almost everything I had to travel the world with only one bag. Till today, there wasn’t a single day I missed anything material or regretted my decision.
Every time someone asks me why I made the decision to leave Switzerland, I tell them how Africa has inspired me to change my life.
Hopefully you will remember this story, so that it helps you to be more grateful for the small things in life and to share smiles every day even to amidst strangers. 😉