Tag Archives: africa

How I Drove 2,300 Miles Without My License (And Why You Shouldn’t) Part 2

The Trip Started like most trips begin, the last minute struggle to get everything else together. As soon as the car was packed I headed off towards my first stop on the way to Florida: Nashville. The day went fairly quickly, with a few stops along the way. Around dinner I arrived in Nashville. The busy city stood still in the orange sunset on the horizon. I liked Nashville but it wasn’t my favorite city.

That night I stayed near Nashville. The next day I drove to Jacksonville, FL. On the way I stopped in Atlanta, Georgia. In a Chick Fil A there was a lady who wouldn’t stop talking. She asked me about my day and all of the casual conversation, but she wouldn’t stop talking. I was glad to finally get my food and get out of there.

I arrived in Jacksonville, my first real stop, around dinner time. After exploring a little, I found a Walmart parking lot to stay in and slept peacefully. I explored Jacksonville, including the beach, the following day.  Beach.JPG

The next day I drove to Miami, with a quick stop in Orlando. At Miami I drove the city downtown during the midnight traffic. What a beautiful sight – all those banks and skyscrapers towering above you with lights shinning. It was definitely a worthwhile trip.

I picked a Walmart that allowed overnight parking and started to sleep. Then I heard a knock on the door. “We’re closed now, you’ve got to move.” I heard the voice coming from outside my car. I looked at my phone and realized this was a different location from the one I thought it was. Ooops!

It was 4:30 am. I was so frustrated that I drove from Miami back up to Tampa the next day. I stopped there and went by the beach. But I decided to head back up soon thereafter. I drove all the way up to Tallahassee by the end of the day. But this time I picked the right Walmart.

On the following day I drove though Baton Rouge and took a stop in New Orleans for a stop at the famous Cafe Du Monde. I had a delicious treat and then it was time for bed.

Next I went to Houston the following morning and got stuck in traffic. After sitting a couple hours I explored Houston and thereafter started driving up to San Antonio.

Next was Sunday. I woke up and saw the Alamo – a beautiful reminder of the men who died for everything they held dear. Then I drove an hour or two to Austin. Austin, the Capital of Texas, is a clean, technology-driven city. I liked it but it wasn’t on the same vibe as me.

That night I went to Dallas and tried to take a picture of the skyline. My Dallas Skyline.jpg

The guy next to me, a photographer with a nicer camera, took some pretty awesome shots. I liked Dallas the second most out of all the cities, right behind Jacksonville, FL..

At this point my trip was beginning to look like it had come to a close. Now I was starting to think about heading home…

How I Drove 2,300 Miles Without My License (And Why You Shouldn’t) Part 1

You might be thinking this is clickbait. Or is that a typo? No, I really did drive 2,300 miles, without my license, by myself, at 18 years old across the country. Now before I tell you how I ended up in the middle of Kansas, at midnight, with no license I need to give you some background.

In the summer of 2017 I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted to become. This was around my 18th birthday in July. As the summer finished and the School year began, I started realizing that I could, if I wanted, take a trip that would give me further knowledge about what was out there.

In December 2017 I decided to follow through. During this time I was working full time as well as doing school full time so there wasn’t a lot of access time for spare planning. But I did manage to put together an incomplete document that would start me on my preparation.

Around Christmas I headed over to Zambia, Africa (I was visiting my family who moved for orphan missions, but more on that in another post). In Zambia I finalized my plans, which were fairly detailed, deciding against the 8,000 mile trip I was originally planning.

My new plan was to head down to Florida, explore, head back up through Louisiana to Texas, explore, and then head home to Michigan. All with a few minor stops along the way. The trip was around the corner. I was so excited!

It was a bittersweet moment for me. My time in Zambia was about over. And, in March 2018, I said goodbye to my family after 3 very special months. This had been a great period to rest, learn, and spend time with the most important people in my world.

I flew back to Lansing by myself, pondering and searching for a single feeling to feel. But there were so many. I felt alone. Even though I was going to live with my Grandma (and what a blessing that is), I was missing the people who had been with me my whole life.

I also felt anxiety. Here I was, 18 years old, with so many life changes like college, work, summer plans, and then my trip, all coming up just around the corner.

But I was also excited. My life had been, for the most part, out of my control up till this moment. And now the pen and paper were finally getting handed to me to write my own story. I thought I was ready.

With these emotions and so many others spreading around in my mind and nervous system, I really was starting to grow up. Not all at once, but slowly.

The plane landed.

I got to Lansing, spent time with friends and Grandma, and after one week it was time to leave. Finally, the moment I had been waiting for had come. Again, I thought I was ready. So, in the first few days of April, I left.

 

My Friend Joseph

We all crave for some sort of sense that we’re creating value. As I spent months in Garneton, Zambia, I realized what I was missing was that same sense. I wanted to feel like I was contributing, or producing something in my life.

The simple act of helping out at the LifeSong orphan school did just that. As the day began I started reaching out to kids who looked open to conversation with someone. I told them my name and they said theirs – things that everyone does around the world.

I remember meeting another kid whose name was Joseph. We shared the same name! I got the chance to join Joseph and his friends during class, and even teach for a bit. We talked about the workbench, and how it was used for carpenters and people who worked with their hands.

My friend Dean Leonard, my Brother, and I volunteered to help when a group from Fort Worth came. We each joined in singing, dancing, and coloring with the kids. It was a fulfilling time – something I had been missing during my time in Zambia.

I recall trying the African food, including fried caterpillar – a Zambian tradition. I placed one in my mouth slowly and hesitatingly. I began to chew. It felt chewy in my mouth – almost like chicken but chewier, not actually that bad.

Often I’ve faced moment like this – moments in which I feel like I’m not contributing and not being productive. Many times the best thing to do is to just spend time with people, have fun, build into their life and learn together.

Full-blown Independence

Christmas in Zambia was different. We opened presents under a fake tree. But it was homy. The Christmas lights reminded us all of the Christmases back home. We had candy, candy canes, Christmas movies and games. That was enough. Who needs snow when you have the most important people in your life around you?

It was a time where I truly relaxed. In some ways it was painful – making myself slow down. I read books, hung out with family, and got to know the landscape and people of Garneton Zambia.

After about a month we said goodbye to a missionary family who was living nearby. Probably the biggest thing that happened is that we moved. As soon as the family left we moved in and began getting ready for the start of the Zambian school year. My younger siblings were reluctant to be heading back to school but probably also curious about what it would be like.

As my 16 year old brother and 14 year old sister began getting ready for school I realized that by the time our family’s 3 year commitment to stay in Africa was over, they’d both pretty much be done with high school!

I also started planning for a road trip. This trip was something I had been wanting to go on for about a year. Now it was finally about to happen. As soon as I returned to the US I would begin a two week journey across the southern states, touring cities and getting to know the layout of the country. I was ecstatic.

Over the next set of weeks from January 2018 to early march I didn’t honestly do a lot. I helped out with tutoring high schoolers at the orphan school in Garneton once a week. That was pretty much it.

Then our good friends the Leonards came to visit. Of the four of them only the Husband and the son came (the Wife and daughter stayed at home). Mr. Leonard had always been an elder growing up. He watched over me as I grew up and helped give me Christian wisdom as I learned more about the world. He was also a good friend to my father and our whole family.

Mr. Leonard’s son, Dean was my age — 18. Dean had always been a good friend to me and my younger brother. Each of us had slightly different interests but as kids we had all been into playing online and strategy games. Of course in Zambia we didn’t really have the chance to play all together but it was fun talking about the games we had played as kids.

For a week Mr. Leonard was with us. Then he left, leaving his son Dean with my family for a few months. At this point I had a couple week before my time to come home. I began preparing for the trip home and planned what I wanted to accomplished as soon as I got home.

A couple weeks after that I left. The days leading up to the day, March 25th I began writing notes to my whole family. I took pieces of colorful paper and wrote a letter to each one. I made each note personal and remembered to include stories.

The day came. I woke up and went to the kitchen. It was a strange day. I realized that this was it. This was my last day in Zambia for a while. I finished packing the last things and we headed for the door, giving kisses and hugs. It was a sad time but we all knew that we’d keep in touch.

I snuck the pile of notes behind a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter. As I got in the car with my parents I can remember my 6 year old brother, standing there on the African ground, looking up at the car. Why did I have to leave? There was so many options and adventures in the US waiting to happen yet there was so much here.

Part of me wanted to stay there and play a card game of monopoly deal with that little guy. I wanted to run around the house with toy swords, fighting like a “bad guy” and a “good guy” are supposed to in imaginary games.

At the airport I said goodbye to my Mom and 16 year old brother. I knew I’d see them when they returned to the US for a quick visit in May. But my Dad was the hardest person to say goodbye to. There was a possibility I wouldn’t see him for many months or possibly years.

As I waved through to them for the last time inside the first checkpoint I realized I was alone. I finally was getting what I had thought I wanted all along: full-blown independence. How did it feel? For the moment it felt… lonely.

No Tears

As the time for my family to leave for Zambia neared I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. There were so many things going on – work, school, gatherings with friends and family, that there wasn’t enough time to process it all.

In early November the last week arrived. That week was an emotional-packed week. We continued unpacking everything from the house but there was more finality this time. I kept thinking, “In one week they’ll no longer be in the United States…”. Sobering thought.

On the day a close group of friends came to help us do the final unloading. Eventually everything was ready. We got in cars, riding in groups over to the Lansing airport. This was it.

Close friends gathered together. We sat, stood and cried as each of us said our goodbyes. My four younger siblings said goodbye to me. I knew I’d be visiting. I’d see them again in a month. Everyone was crying except me. Why?

I had never been very emotional. I like to think of myself as a realist in the practical sense – never blowing things up more than they really are. I knew I’d see them again. I wonder what others thought of me. Did they see me as heartless, emotionless, or did they not even notice?

As they went through the first checkpoint I watched them sadly. I didn’t want them to go. I wanted them to stay with me. I was 18. I thought, “I’m ready to take on the world.” But as they went up the escalator for that last time, waving and drawing tears I suddenly wasn’t so sure.

I shrugged it off, knowing I’d see them in a month. I talked to grandparents and friends. We all went our separate ways once the plane had gone. “Next step,” I thought, “finish my classes and get over there.”

Over the next month I finished my four classes, and worked – I worked my butt off. I was working 40-55 hours per week while juggling four classes that were nearing finals. I liked it. The business was less time to think about my family.

Eventually classes ended and I said goodbye to my friends at Cracker Barrel. I threw away my work shoes, which were crusty with all that food I had been making. IMG_0429 2

On December 19 I left for Africa. I arrived 1 day later. Hugging and kissing we got ready for the upcoming holiday: Christmas. I don’t know many people who have had Christmas in Africa. But I guess there are over 1.2 billion people who do it every year.

Africa?

The beginning is where all of us start. Whether we were born into a rich family or experienced a childhood of poverty, every story is slightly different. Mine is that much more strange.

I was born into a middle class family in Mason Michigan. Growing up I was homeschooled out in a big house in the country. The closest thing I had to classmates were a close group of friends who participated in sports, games, and making movies with us.

I was the oldest. Someone had to be right? I was very close to my brother growing up. We would play in the yard, fight with toy lightsabers, and build forts together. It was a blast. For a homeschool family we had a lot of good friends.

Sometimes when people think of homeschoolers they think of people who sit at home all day, reading, staying in their PJ’s all day, and never really socializing. That wasn’t us. We did sometimes stay in our PJ’s for a lot of the day, but besides that none of those stereo types quite fit our description.

We went to Church each week which is where about half of our friends came from – close friends. We made some great bonds with a few families who would come over regularly. In fact you could say that we were so close to some of those families we were distant relatives.

Each Thursday we would see the Barnes family. They’d come over, we’d play all day, and the mothers would talk and take care of the little ones. As kids we loved it.

As time passed and we entered into our younger teens and high school was just starting. We participated in what’s known as co-ops. On a particular day of the week homeschool families get together at a big building (usually a church) and take classes together that are taught by homeschool moms and a few dads.

We’d go home, do our work at home, and then come back a week later to talk about it or present on it. So in some ways it was a hybrid school between public and homeschool.

We made some great friends here as well. We met every Thursday so instead of seeing Barnes at our houses, we did co-ops with them.

Highschool continued. We made more friends, learned some good stuff. And then a couple years ago, while I was in my junior year, my family started talking about going to Africa.

At first they just prayed about it and talked about it. Then they began talking to other families about it. They really felt God was leading them to go overseas and do mission work – particularly orphan care. When I would hear them talk I’d always think that it was just talk. We’d never really move to Africa would we?

Then the news came. My parents announced they would be heading overseas to Africa to visit. I was 17 but very responsible. My parents put me in charge and had our Grandma watch us as well. They left us in very good hands, making sure we had a meal plan for every day and new where everyone would be going.

It was only like a week and a half. So they left in November of 2016. That was the first trip. They took another one – I believe in early 2017. Over this period of time I was beginning to take classes at a local community college: LCC (Lansing Community College).

Duel-enrolling, I would take half my classes at LCC and half at co-ops. During this time I also got my first job at Cracker Barrel. About halfway through 2017 I looked up and suddenly there was talk of them moving to Africa with the whole family. Now it was getting real. They began making plans for the whole family (minus me) to move over there.

I kept working and that fall was enrolled in four classes. At this point they planned on heading over to Africa with the whole family in November. They had to go to a missionary training thing in Colorado Springs, CO.. That was the first time I had ever been away from my family for a full month. It felt very strange living at my Grandma’s house but I was just starting to get used it it when took a brief trip to Colorado to visit them. I was there like one week.

IMG_0343

I came back and kept working. I was working 40 hours a week with full-time classes – so I didn’t have a lot of time to think about the changes going on. Then they came back from Colorado and we all prepared for the next part of the journey…