the journey quotes

Preparing for Rwanda

the journey quotes


Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.  – Rick Warren


The first time I set foot on the red clay slopes of Rwanda was in November 2014.  I remember taking my first breath off the plane -the familiar scent of burning wood wafting in the air. A scent that told a small story of societies around the globe that rely on firewood for survival. It was in these first quiet moments that a journey was birthed.

I began the journey thinking that it was the road to humanitarian work. What I later realized is that we all are doing humanitarian work each and every day. When we show compassion, when we listen, when we educate, when we lend support – we are doing humanitarian work. You don’t need to fly across oceans or work in a conflict zone to help others.

Looking back, I realize my journey has been an experience of love. True, unconditional love. The kind of love that tests to see if after being knocked down, burdened, scared and lost, you still choose love in the face of fear. And I’m not referring to my experiences in Rwanda – no – those have been incredibly uplifting, educational and enriching – some of the best moments of my life. I’m talking about my inner demons, the ones that make me want to flee when things get hard and tasks seem insurmountable. I’ve learned the only way to fight these demons is with love and compassion. The more one resists, the more the demons persist. Once we choose love, we have surrendered and the only thing left is inner peace.

Each time I visit Rwanda, I can feel that love deep in my bones. I can smell the firewood and feel the red clay on my skin. I can see the faces of the women and children and sense their struggles and their dreams. I am them and they are me. Or as the African saying Ubuntu goes: “I am because we are.” This journey has made me a better human being. I no longer feel like I am “giving back”, but instead working with a community hand-in-hand to add to the good in the world. When one person rises, we all rise because we are part of a collective whole – a greater good.

Each of us is on a journey and it is our job to recognize the path. Is yours one of fear and striving? Are you trying to live someone else’s journey? Do you feel the spark in your heart – that knowing that you are on the right path – or are you sacrificing the life you desire to please others or to avoid that which you fear?

The journey is about eventually arriving at a place of acceptance and possessing a knowing that in the end, all that matters is love. Love for oneself and love for others. It is important to experience those mountaintops and valleys of despair and find out why we climbed, summited and fell, so that we can learn about ourselves. This is the purpose of life. To know oneself and to understand our individual experience.

On February 3, I will once again step off the plane and smell the scent of burning firewood. I will feel the red clay stick to my skin under a harsh African sun and I will embrace the people I have been working with for the past three years. This piece of the journey will be different from others as no two moments are the same. I will learn things I did not know before and I will laugh and cry and love. I will inevitably fall walking up one of Rwanda’s 1000 hills, as I always do, but this time I know I’ll be ok. I’ll know that it is all just part of the journey.

With love & gratitude,


Co-founder, The Culture-ist

Photo: Anthony Russo

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