My trip to Jalingo was the first time I was going to be away from home for more than a week. Well two weeks, if you count the holidays I spent with my grandparents as a child. And home has always been Port Harcourt, of the Bole and black soot fame. When you’ve lived in one city for over twenty years, it sort of grows on you and makes it difficult to adjust to any other place.
Although I love to travel, I wasn’t enthusiastic about this particular journey at all. The only bright spot was that I was going by air and the entire trip would be over in less than four hours. So that Monday morning in November, I dragged myself to the airport at 8, boarded by 9, and less than an hour later we touched down Abuja amidst the blistering heat. After some thirty minutes of back-and-forth at the check-in counter, I was able to secure a seat on the only inbound flight to Jalingo airport. The flight itself was pretty uneventful asides the constant panic attacks of the white lady who sat next to me whenever the plane was in turbulence. And oh, I think the state governor or the deputy was also on the same flight.
But I wouldn’t say any more about that journey or the details of all that went down during my three-week stay in Taraba state. Instead, what I will talk about is the journey back to Port Harcourt, a 20-hour road trip spread across three days, six different states and countless villages. I decided to come back by road for two reasons. First, the flight tickets were a bit pricey and since I wasn’t quite sure the exact day I was going to leave town, I didn’t want to risk it. Besides, somewhere in my heart I also wanted to experience the upsides of a road trip like seeing actual landmarks and crossing boundaries.
To get the most out of the journey, I had planned to travel from Jalingo to Markudi or Onitsha (relatively close towns) where I could find a decent hotel to lodge for the night and then continue the following day to Port Harcourt. Sure enough, this journey didn’t disappoint with some of the thrills I’d expected, but a few lessons got thrown into the mix as well and these I want to share with you:
1. If you know the details of the journey, you may not be willing to take that first step
On the day the journey was to begin, I had to wait until mid-day for the green light to leave Jalingo. When it eventually came, I was still determined to leave and I frantically searched for a bus leaving town immediately. Soon enough, I joined a Volkswagen headed towards Wukari (a border town) after the driver and some other passengers reassured me that the journey to Markudi would last no longer than five hours- just in time to get a decent hotel.
As the journey progressed, I realised that Taraba was much larger than it appeared on a map because we spent almost four hours getting to its border with Benue state. At the border, we also had to switch vehicles because our driver had no plans on going further. I was lucky enough to join the last vehicle en route to Markudi but then had to wait an extra thirty minutes for it to fill up. The journey to Markudi wasn’t any easier, and barely two hours away from midnight, I was dropped off at a lonely bus stop in the middle of town.
Although I still do not regret leaving Jalingo, this experience has taught me a few things about life and making plans. A straight line from point A to point B during the planning stage could turn out to be squiggly during execution. But this shouldn’t deter you from making plans or leaving the confines of your comfort zone because if you knew beforehand every twist and turn along the way, you’d probably lose the courage to start anyway. And while you can seek the counsel of mentors and coaches, bear in mind that their experiences are unique and won’t necessarily be the same as yours. At the end of the day, it boils down to trusting that there will be grace and strength for every stage of your journey.
2. Be careful not to make assumptions
It was no surprise to me that we finally got to Markudi late into the night. In fact, somewhere along the line, I’d begun tracking our position with Google map and the app gave an almost accurate prediction of our arrival time. What I didn’t expect though, was that I’d be left stranded in Markudi at such a time. If you’re close to me, you’d probably know how much I hate being caught unawares. In fact, halfway through the journey, I’d already made alternative arrangements as to where I was going to pass the night since it’d be too late to search for a hotel.
The only thing left to do was to find someone who knew their way around town and could help me locate the address I was given. And who else but the driver? I did the most logical thing and asked him, “Sir, do you know so-and-so place in Markudi? That’s where I’m going to stop.” He looked at me, nodded several times and even repeated the name of the place I mentioned with an air of familiarity.
So, you can imagine my shock when few minutes after we enter the city, the driver stopped without warning, brought down my luggage, and gestured for me to come down. He zoomed off before I could put myself together. It was only in retrospect that it dawned on me what actually that night. I had assumed the driver knew where I was going to. Worse still, I assumed he was going to drop me off at that place. And all the while I was busy making assumptions, the driver couldn’t hear or speak English!
And this leads to the second lesson I learned, albeit in the most unfortunate circumstances: A nod doesn’t always translate to understanding or agreement. Before you go ahead with any decision, you need to be certain it is founded on fact and truth and not mere assumptions. One foolproof way to avoid the assumption trap is to ask questions and keep asking again and again. Even more important than asking questions, is asking the right question and demanding appropriate answers to the questions you’ve asked.
3. Be grateful for the littlest of things; your trash may be someone’s gold
Of the numerous thrills of road travel, I particularly looked forward to watching the changing scenery as we traveled down south and enjoying the breeze as it rushed past my face. Fortunately, I almost always got a seat by the window of the vehicles I boarded. In fact, I spent a greater part of the entire journey staring out of windows than sleeping or fiddling with my phone.
Though I recall seeing a few breathtaking hills, plateaus and rivers, what left the most impression was observing the lives of the locals as we passed through their communities. I took note of the children playing semi-naked, mud houses so small you’d wonder if there would be enough space for your legs, and the absence of transmission lines and pipe-borne water. Once or twice, I even caught myself looking for some form of discontentment or sadness in the eyes of the hawkers who pressed against our windows urging us to buy their wares.
But then it struck me that this was life, as they knew it. I could only feel discontented because I was opportune to grow up under different (and probably better) conditions. Rather than whine and grumble because things don’t pan out the way I want, I’ve chosen to fill my heart with gratitude for what I have. Yes, I didn’t attend Harvard or any other ivy-league, but I was privileged to have a decent university education. Yes, I can’t afford to vacation in the Bahamas, but I have access to the Internet and books which inform me of the existence of such places. And though I cannot have dinner at a fancy restaurant as often as I please, every night I’m surrounded by a loving family with food on our table. I think you get the point so I wouldn’t stress it further.
Finally, I discovered in the process of documenting this journey that certain details and memories became hazy as though they never happened (and to think it’s been barely three months!). So, one last lesson to wrap this up is: learn to enjoy each phase of your journey, for very soon all you may have would be vague memories. Like a blogger-friend once told me, don’t be so focused on tomorrow that you lose sight of all that today affords. Be intentional, do life on purpose, and embrace your journey.
– Fae for AEW.
About our guest writer
Fae is a girl of many parts: engineer-cum-numerical analyst, amateur baker, travel enthusiast, fiction lover, logophile, speaker and most recently blogger. But don’t let this fool you because her perfect day is spent curling up on a couch with a good novel and she hopes that one day she’d be paid for this.
She is also the host of Shenonyms, a yearly workshop for young women to network, learn about God and live purposefully.
Connect with her on Facebook @faenomenal, and also on her blog faenomenal.com where she creates light-hearted and relatable content weekly.