Open advice from my first-hand experiences in Rwanda:
You may feel anxious in the days leading up to your departure. However, you will know that the universe is guiding you when you see your lucky numbers: 517 on your boarding passes. You may feel anxious while on the long flight, especially as you fly into the sunset when it's only 2:30pm EST. If you watch the flight path on the screen in front of you, you'll learn that you flew over France, Italy, and Egypt. You may not enjoy the turbulence of your second flight, but you'll enjoy the food they serve. When you look out of the plane window and see that you're in Africa, remembering how long and how much you've wanted this trip, you will shed a tear. For the first time in your 20 years, you will truly have a sense that dreams do come true. In these early moments, you will have already began breaking down any assumptions or fears you had about Rwanda and also about your own self.
Like me, you may have a difficult time finding the right words for all of the feelings that this wonderful place ever so gently blankets over you. The serenity that delicately quiets your anxiety and the true sense of security that is evident on every street corner and in every voice that speaks to you. You may be shocked to find how current everything is here - the music, clothes, cars. At the end of a long day without any power at the hostel, when you don't have any technological distractions and are left to your own thoughts, you will understand the dichotomy of being a sensitive person. The juxtaposition resembles the way that this country generally feels. It will remind you of the wise words of Ghandi:
"For I can see, that in the midst of death,
Life persists, in the midst of untruth,
Truth persists, in the midst of darkness, Light persists."
IF you are a sensitive person like myself, you will finally appreciate it as you recognize that it directly correlates to vulnerability and the chance to be open to good and bad.
You will bring in the New Year of 2016 like never before, with the wonderful live music downstairs, cheers of people at the hostel, and the sounds of singing coming from the thousand hills. You'll be a tiny bit sad that you couldn't bring it in with your loved ones back home, but they'll understand.
Your body will struggle to adjust to the 7 hour time change, and you'll wake up at 3AM. But, you won't be alone. You will be glad that you have 4 roommates and bunk beds. This idea will feel strange but delightful. The conversation you have on the porch between 3AM and breakfast with your roommates will be meaningful and comforting. The sunrise will instill the feelings you had as a kid on Christmas.
Along with the help of a few friends on the trip, you will learn how to use your new camera. Your brain and soul will emerge from the fuzziness of travel, and your journey will really start.
This is only the beginning.