I sat in the stairwell of the hostel, listening to my sister cry on the other end of the telephone.
“Why don’t you want to be with me?” she asked. “Do you know how shitty that feels?”
It was December 2017. I was in Chefchaouen, Morocco, nestled in the Rif mountains. The bite of winter was encroaching. I was cold, and filled with self-loathing.
“There is some part of me that feels like it really needs to go see about this woman,” I said. “I can’t stop thinking about her.”
Five years of planning, interminable delays, and the trip my sister and I had planned to take together around Africa would never occur.
I had fallen in love.
The phone call ended without resolution.
She needed to do something, or I did. I sat on the stairs and felt a blackness in my heart. I was blazing a selfish path of destruction, I knew. I had burnt a hole in the middle of my oldest, strongest relationship — to go see about a person I’d known for only three days. Que romantico. ¿No?
I shot a message to a friend back home: I contribute nothing, M. My lifestyle is so selfish. I only hurt people. What’s wrong with me?
I felt lower than I had in a very long time, But I couldn’t stop. One has to follow one’s heart. No matter the risk, no matter the damage — love is the only force of meaning in this world.
Or so I thought.
This is youth, after all.
Last week, you heard Dan’s arguments against becoming a digital nomad straight out of college.
It just doesn’t do to talk someone out of something without providing a suggestion for an alternative, so today I’ll tell you about why joining the Peace Corps straight out of college is a great idea if you have a wandering spirit but you don’t think the digital nomad lifestyle is for you.
[ed. note: I’m off exploring Taipei. Our ski town correspondent is skiing pow. In the meantime, here’s a guest post about general travel in Benin, West Africa. The writing’s courtesy of my sister, who served 2.5 years of Peace Corps service there. It’s a fascinating piece—I guarantee you will learn something new!]
I am a geography nerd who loves maps and learning about the world, so I knew about the country called Benin, but I probably would never have visited had the Peace Corps not invited me to serve there. (More on Peace Corps service later!)
Benin was colonized by the French, and there is still a small contingent of French voluntourists who visit the country, but in the English-speaking world, it is largely unknown. It deserves more recognition.
Benin is a small, key-shaped (or so they say) nation on the coast of West Africa. It is bordered on the east by Nigeria, and on the west by Togo (which is one country over from Ghana, perhaps the best-known West African nation and a poster-child for international development).
Yes, you will need to have some French language skills to get by here. Very few people speak English. Though once you get out of the capital, you’ll find that many of the people you encounter don’t speak French either. They will be thrilled to teach you a few phrases in the local language, though.
Here are some interesting facts about Benin and advice for your travels there.