October 7, 2011

To feel untethered

The concept of freedom keeps recurring in conversations I have about living in Kenya.  Not the human trafficking/slavery concept, but rather the nuances of what allows a person to feel untethered.   I've heard from multiple people who have lived here-- past and present-- that living in Kenya has bestowed upon them a feeling of complete autonomy, free to jump in a truck and ride off into the wild sunset at a moment's notice.  To wake up in Nairobi and greet dusk over the Maasai Mara or Serengeti.  

And it's true, there is something grand about Kenya's big sky that beckons the adventurer, the throwback cowboy.  

Big dawn sky over Tsavo Park

Big day sky at Soysambu

There's a timeless thrill in driving through the great wide open, not another soul in sight.

But I wonder whether a large chunk of this perceived freedom, this autonomy, isn't simply the result of an ex-pat lifestyle.  Maybe it's less about the "big sky" and more about being disencumbered of the commitments that were left behind.  When one picks up and completely moves their life to another country or another continent, many of the expectations that bind us together are severed.  No one telling you what to do or expecting you to spend your time in a particular way.  No schedules or people demanding social accountability.  And perhaps that's really the underlying freedom that people feel when they jump in that truck and drive off.  The farther you drive towards something, the greater the distance between you and something else.  

And even then, nothing comes without its cost.  I can view this country like a playground of options, but due to security concerns I can't walk outside after dark.  And in that sense it doesn't feel much like freedom at all.

But for now I'll turn a blind eye to that price tag and go pack my backpack for another weekend in the Rift Valley.  Luckily, it's quite the easy task as I've simply stopped unpacking it.  Bandaids, flashlight, bug spray, REI sleeping-bag liner, advil, and SPF15 chap-stick have taken up permanent residence in my bag.  And since I only have about 5 T-shirts here, packing consists of just grabbing the clean ones.

And we're off again!


  1. Your pictures are great. I hope you're doing well, Kara, and thanks for occasionally getting tethered to upload the photos.

  2. Thanks, Mathias! To be honest, it's rather difficult to disengage oneself from the internet for any real stretch of time. It's a nice way to keep connected.