My middle name Nyaguthii which comes from the Kikuyu tribe of Kenya translates directly to ‘traveler’. And my surname Muchendu pretty much means ‘those who like to move (or travel) often’. With these two names, how could I be anything but passionate about travel?
In my experience, names become who we are and vice versa. My parents, my family and close friends often laugh about how much I have always lived up to my name. And according to my father, so did my late grandmother whom I was named after (a Kikuyu tradition). He notes that as far back as he can recall, she never could sit still. She loved to travel. And even though she never had the same opportunities I have had to travel, as far across the world as I do, she went as far as she could around Kenya. Which was more than her peers did back in that day.
So yes. I am my names. I think in a way we all are.
Even my first name translates to my character in various translations. Please indulge me.
According to Dictionary.com, Caroline relates to Charles I and II of England. A blue blood? I might need to check my gene pool. I could be related to a royal. Jackpot! I wish.
According to sheknows.com, in Italian, Caroline means strong. Then there’s the Urban dictionary which takes it to a whole new level. Frankly I was impressed. Even strangely flattered. Considering I didn’t always like my name. But I digress. Back to the Urban dictionary.
‘Caroline is the definition of sexy’. In fact, they even use it as an adjective. ‘You’re lookin’ Caroline today!’ Really? Yes. I know what you’re thinking. Tooting my own horn. But no. I dare not. It is there in black and white. Google it. And they do not stop defining her there. No.
“She is the most gorgeous woman in the world!..amazingly awesome, funny, intelligent, caring, loving, hot, beautiful...and the most wonderful girlfriend in the world!...” Ha! Ok. I had to cut the rest out. I have a book to write.
While I can’t stop smiling with pride and joy at this obviously very flattering definition of my name, I have to agree with you out there who are thinking, whoever came up with it, must have been trying to impress a Caroline. And boy did he. On behalf of all Caroline’s I say thank you to the fellow at Urban dictionary. I choose to ride this wave. They don't come by easy. Haha. I only hope that every name on Urban Dictionary does not have the very same definition...sigh.
Way before I began traveling internationally, I enjoyed going to new places, and seeing new things, and meeting new people. Long before the class trips to various cities around Kenya and East Africa later in high school, when I was between 5 and 10, I remember dragging my younger sister Ruth to little adventures I created for us around our home. We would wait for my folks to go to work and then we’d pack some food into our little back packs and head out into what was luckily a secure wooded area that had a dam on one end and a river on the other. Basically a little bit of paradise for kids. And we’d walk. Sit for picnics. Lie by the water. Play. Dream. Chat about everything and nothing. And other kids would join us sometimes. As we grew older and my father and his friends took us fishing, we began doing it on our own with little home made fishing rods and we enjoyed it. We lived for our little excursions. We rode our bikes far out into the woods. We traveled. As far as our little creative minds and our permitted radius would let us. And we always yearned to go further. I know I did.
And there began my passion for travel and everything that comes with it. Experiencing new things, new cultures, new foods, new places, new weather, and meeting new people. These are things that make me feel alive. When I can’t travel I feel claustrophobic. Fortunately, I try to do it as often as I can. And it has very much shaped who I have become over the years. Every single experience I have had traveling, positive and negative has taught me something valuable and shaped the way I think. It is one of the things I am most grateful to my parents for giving to me. I dare say that the single most important thing a parent can give their child is the freedom to travel and get out of their comfort zone. It is the beginning of open-mindedness.
What has consistently surprised me in my years of traveling internationally though, is the attitude, the reaction, the level of ignorance and lack of knowledge that so many people outside of Africa have had towards me as a traveling African girl and woman.
The kind of questions I've had to face through out my travels have been hilarious. Shocking. Unbelievable. Unfathomable and sometimes just dumb. Questions that are no doubt a product of ignorance. Or a lack of what should be common knowledge.
Fortunately, experience and a good sense of humor have taught me how to deal with these kind of questions whenever I encounter them. And this is what I want to share in my writing. After all, I’m not going to quit traveling any time soon.
I do hope that in the least my writing will help someone become more open minded and help them think twice before posing ridiculous questions or making assumptions about new people that they meet from all over the world. No matter where we come from, the world is big, beautiful and filled with the wonders of God’s creation. If you're not big on traveling maybe you should give it a try. It'll change your life.