Unboxed Life

Boldly existing outside the box through conscious living and constant learning.

Life Lessons from Slums and Soccer Balls

There was a time when I was convinced that every child who lived in a third world country was miserable, hungry, dying, or otherwise living a low quality life. Looking back I clearly understand how I came to that conclusion. We are constantly inundated with images of children with swollen bellies walking through piles of garbage nearly naked with looks of utter despair and defeat on their faces. Commercials, magazine ads, internet publicity and social media campaigns all utilize these images to target the people they need to support their cause.

Fast forward. I am in Kibera slum in Nairobi Kenya which is the largest slum in Nairobi, and probably all of Africa. I walk through the claustrophobic alleyways surrounded by deplorable conditions not fit for any person to inhabit. Human waste flows through the channels like muddy water, garbage piles up almost reaching shoulder height. I think to myself, “No one can be happy here.”

Just then the misplaced sound of children’s laughter rings in my ears. Where is it coming from? What is causing it? A quick search of the surrounding area brings me to a small open area right in the heart of the slum. There, amidst the decay and destruction, a soccer game has broken out! Around 2o children are engaged in an epic battle where goals are made with bags stuffed with trash and the ball is a tightly wound collection of string and plastic. Where were the swollen bellies and fly-covered-faces? Indeed these children displayed real joy. Unencumbered delight brought on by a simple game of soccer.

I learned that no matter where you go in the world, kids are kids. They love to run and play and be care free even when they have no reason to be. These kids don’t know they go without Xbox’s and iPads. They have each other and they have soccer, and that’s all that matters.

That single experience changed my life forever. I, at once, realized that the larger world is not represented by what we see in the media or hear from commentators with agendas of their own. Truth comes from new experiences, enlightenment from unique “uncomfortableness”, and knowledge from seeing with open eyes. This is how travel can help us break free from our boxes and open our mind to a whole new world.

Unboxing the Benefits of World Travel

First hand experience vs. second-hand knowledge: It has been said that “the core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences.” I would take that one step further and say that the depth of our understanding stems from familiarity with reality. Becoming intimate with the world allows us to formulate opinions, thoughts, and ways of thinking that are bred from experience and not from taking someone else’s word for it.

Knowledge of self is deepened: When we leave behind what is comfortable, familiar, or otherwise common to us our true self comes into sharp focus. Placing ourselves in situations, cultures, or places where our fortitude might be tested or our longstanding views challenged we become aware of a self that might have been invisible in our boxes. Testing ones self against the unrelenting beauty and at times unforgiving road breeds a more accurate representation of the true self.

Every action takes on new meaning: Through exploring the world and fortifying our knowledge of other cultures and people’s our everyday decisions take on more significance. We start to understand that the choices that seem inconsequential here, where we are insulated by the boxes we live in, are actually capable of affecting the rest of the world. Things as simple as food and drink choices or supporting businesses are now an exercise in the appreciation of our connection to the world.

World travel and the exploration of the infinite corners of unknown places has innumerable benefits, most of which have been left out of this post. I challenge you to think about this: Without seeing at least a part of the larger world how can I ever break free from my boxes? I appeal to you to make travel a priority in whatever way suits you. There is no right or wrong way to do it; it’s paramount to just do it.

Where have you always wanted to go? If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? What are you doing to make it a reality? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us, I love to hear other people’s travel aspirations.

Now get out there and break down some boxes!!

All Photos: S Lunetta

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11 comments on “Life Lessons from Slums and Soccer Balls

  1. Scholar Mel
    June 23, 2012

    Reblogged this on 1 Million Reblogs.

    • Tanner Colton
      June 23, 2012

      Thanks for the reblog! Much appreciated.

      • NGC300
        June 23, 2012

        The link got purged by the Reddit’s spam filtre, however, I approved it.

  2. Scott Miller
    June 23, 2012

    I’m looking forwad to seeing Kenya in 2013…possibly India/Nepal as well!

    • Tanner Colton
      June 23, 2012

      Me too, the anticipation of travel is almost as fun as the actual act often times. Kilimanjaro should be pretty awesome and a once in a lifetime experience. Thanks for the comment Scott, take care.

  3. Elizabeth
    June 26, 2012

    I couldn’t agree more on the experience being better than second hand knowledge. Traveling to Kenya last year made me realize that poverty is subjective. I had to drop my Western view of poverty and observe my surroundings and the people in it. These people were no more impoverished than I was and seemed abundantly happier with their lives than many people I know. Traveling brings on a greater experience than one could every hope to have by vicariously visiting a place online, through a movie or a book.

    • Tanner Colton
      June 26, 2012

      So true Elizabeth. Like I always tell anyone who will listen, what I gain from travel and from the volunteer work I do is so much greater than what I can give. Each time I visit a new place I come home with far more than I leave there. Travel is the great educator in my opinion and can reveal our true selves to us better than any other practice. When tested against the, at times, unforgiving landscape of the larger world what we are truly made of becomes clear and allows us to have much better self-awareness. I appreciate that fact so much each time I leave home, even if it somewhere nearby. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Pingback: How Over-Consumption And Materialism Box Us In « Unboxed Life

  5. soccer ball
    July 13, 2012

    Thanks for sharing wonderful experience about soccer game and the soccer ball.

  6. Pingback: Day Zero Project: The Beginning « Unboxed Life

  7. Pingback: Oh Bother!: What Winnie The Pooh Can Teach Us About Listening… And Learning Too « Unboxed Life

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This entry was posted on June 23, 2012 by in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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