By Celece Seegmiller for The Spectrum Newspaper, July 31, 2012
I enjoy a good quote and last week I received one from a friend which read: “Travel is one of the only things you buy that makes you richer.” As I reflected on my personal travel experiences and those of my customers, the quote seemed to ring true and really hit home. Perhaps it was because I was also witnessing my daughter, Ashlie go through a life changing travel experience in Ghana for the past three weeks.
Ashlie has always been an independent traveler, from the time she was five years old. It seems like just yesterday I was walking my little girl out to board the plane at the old airport for her flight to Salt Lake City. This was something she did every month and each time, she returned proudly wearing her own little pair of wings courtesy of the friendly SkyWest flight attendants who watched over her during her flights. Her love for travel continued as she got older and by the time she graduated from high school, she had the opportunity to have traveled on many vacations and cruises. It was no surprise when she informed me a few months ago that she wanted to study in Ghana with the University of Utah this summer. I am very grateful for modern technology and Facebook which allowed me to experience the trip with her, almost every day. Ashlie kept me updated on her daily activities by emailing her daily journal entries to me. Every morning, I looked forward to receiving my email as her experiences had an impact on me as well. Because I found her comments to be so touching, I asked Ashlie to summarize her experience in Ghana for my column this week:
“Before traveling to West Africa I had visited a few different countries on cruises throughout the Caribbean and on a vacation to Mexico. I thought that my travels along with my college education had given me decent exposure to other cultures and ways of life. Little did I know how much three weeks in Ghana would open my mind and my heart to life in the third world. The official title of my trip was Public Health in Ghana, a study abroad through the University of Utah. My assignment was to disseminate healthy lifestyle presentations throughout the Barekuma district. While I was stationed in Kumasi, I spent the majority of my days traveling to surrounding rural villages. Although each community had its own personality, the generosity and welcoming nature of the Ghanaians never changed.
I was consistently welcomed by big smiles and genuine handshakes. Many households brought out whatever benches or chairs they had for me to sit on during my stay while they often stood. Each English speaking Ghanaian I interacted with treated me with a kind of attention and sincerity I had never before experienced in the United States. They laughed at my silly jokes, and genuinely seemed interested about my life and what I had to say. Literally almost every day I was in Ghana I came upon some sort of dance party, and was always invited to join in. In the U.S. it seems as though we need a reason or planned event in order to dance, but in Ghana dancing happens spontaneously, frequently, and is always accompanied by smiles and good feelings.
One Sunday afternoon I was walking along a main street into Kumasi when I noticed a church service in passing. The Ghanaians inside waved me in and immediately gave up several chairs for my peers and myself. I looked around the room and noticed the Ghanaians were all wearing their finest Sunday clothes, while most of us were in shorts and t-shirts. When the musical number came up, we were invited to the front of the “chapel” to dance, sing what we could, and clap in front of the entire service. The church goers didn’t care where we were from, what we were doing, or what we were wearing, I got the overall feeling that they were just happy we were there to join their worship.
The absence of certain comforts and amenities I am used to having in the U.S. was well worth the experiences I had in Ghana. Now that I am back home in Utah I am compelled to speak a little slower, and give my undivided attention to whomever I may converse with. I now realize that the fast paced American lifestyle I had previously been leading often neglected what should be the most important part of our lives: people. While I originally traveled to Ghana to help teach and provide a service, I now realize that they have taught me much more than I could ever teach them.”
I am convinced the life lessons Ashlie learned in Ghana during her three week stay are priceless. There is not a text book or class at the University of Utah that could have provided that kind of experience. As a parent, I am truly grateful for her journey to Ghana and it truly made her life richer… just like the quote said!