After nearly two months in Accra, Ghana, I decided to return to Austin, TX. I arrived in Dallas last week and drive into Austin tomorrow to move in with a good friend and start the next chapter of my little life from back where I left off in October.
My experience in West Africa was an invaluable one. I had the chance to spend a chunk of precious time with my brother, sister-in-law, and two toddler nephews — an amount of time that I would never have been able to get away with if I had remained in a traditional job setting. I’m so grateful that freelancing afforded me with that opportunity.
At the same time, after a lot of thought I finally had to admit to myself that I was too distracted to keep up the momentum of my work from there. My nephews are adorable, and playtime with time was always preferable to worktime solo, and so I found myself pushing around work to make sure I got my toddler time, and though work didn’t slip, I knew the arrangement wasn’t sustainable.
There was also the reality of unreliable internet, which you can certainly make contingency plans for — we had two different internet providers in case one went down, for example, and there were coworking spaces and coffee shops available if both of those failed, too. But…if the internet is down that’s a perfect excuse to go jump on a trampoline with a couple of kids, no? Especially if the other option is to get in an Uber and head to a coffee shop where the internet may or may not also be down.
And, to be completely honest, the inherent isolation of freelancing hit me harder in a foreign country. The embassy community is full of wonderful people, several of whom I had the opportunity to meet and get to know a bit. But they all work out of an office — which means built-in social circles and coworker comrades and coffee break buds — and time after hours is precious family time. I found it difficult to make fast friends there, where the people I encountered had busy, full lives and limited time for socializing in evenings and on weekends.
Logically, I know that two months is no time at all to give to a new place, and that making friends takes sustained effort and trying new organizations and reaching out to people directly and repeatedly and with intention. I’ve moved around a lot in my life, and have built social circles everywhere I’ve gone. I know it’s a struggle that may last many months, but one that is well worth it in the end.
And yet, I found myself often thinking of my close friend group back in Austin, and missing the community I had built back there — the easy conversation, the familiarity, and the warmth that comes with trust and history built over time and shared experiences. I decided I wanted that back more than I wanted to move forward with attempting to create a new life in a country that is so very different from my home in the United States.
Ghana is truly a gem of a place. It’s on the beach. It’s in the low 80s year-round. It has a reputation for being one of the safest places in of all of Africa. It has culture out the wazoo and great restaurants and plenty of things to do and explore. But, in the end, it was not for me.
I have a three-year multiple entry tourist visa, and look forward to returning periodically for shorter trips to spend time with my awesome family there. I’m both sad that what I thought I wanted didn’t turn out to be what I actually wanted, and very glad that I tried and realized more about who I am and what I would like my life to look like in the process.
I’m giving this brief update so that readers of this blog will know where I am these days, but also have a backlog of Ghana stories I plan to publish in the near future as time between freelancing allows. After those, I’ll get back to trying more new things and will publish silly stories about that!
Stay tuned for posts about getting down on the dance floor at the Marine Ball in a dress purchased last-minute at a surprisingly affordable price, a study on how coworking in the States differs drastically from coworking in West Africa, and a tale of how a surly waitress at the Ghanian airport gave me a proper send-off. Also, if you haven’t had the chance yet I hope you’ll read my last blog post about the rainforest canopy tour — it’s one of my favorites of all time, but I don’t think a lot of people had the chance to check it out because it was published in the fray of the Thanksgiving holidays. :D
Thank you all for following along with me on this crazy ride. Your readership makes my life richer in a huge way.
Try something scary lately? Leave your story in the comments! I wanna hear it!
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