One of the best parts of the world cruise for me was the Asia tour! I loved it because I had absolutely no idea what to expect as we cruised towards each port and I was blown off my feet with each city! I will start off with Japan, one of my favourite countries.
As you can guess from the title of this post, this is not just your typical travel post, because I truly rediscovered myself whilst travelling around the world working onboard as a holistic health coach and international personal trainer for 9 months from November 2018 to August 2019.
From the title, one would think that it’s just hair…but your hair is not “just your hair”.
After losing my dad and separation from my ex-husband all in 2017, it was so freeing to cut my hair and “just be me”, but did that really make me…me – that act of cutting my hair? I must admit that I struggled with it in the first weeks, even closing my eyes as the barber snipped away and thinking “mama what am I doing?”
Why did I struggle? Because I too, like many others worldwide, had gotten so attached to the concept that long or longer hair is what contributes to my attractiveness and that my kinky, curly hair would only serve to separate me further from this concept. At that time, I cut my hair in a mixed act of defiance; rebellion; a desire to run away from the grief that consumed me by cutting off any physical reminders; and the rise of what I now know as bubbling self-love, which was rising to the surface like a volcano ready to erupt!
When you look at it, having my natural, afro kinky hair in today’s world awash with straighter, longer styles is much like someone else embarking on their fitness journey. You might start out looking at your bulging belly and thinking “I want to get rid of this”.
But once you start on that journey, what I aim to teach as a personal trainer is that it’s not about the aesthetics of it – it’s really about ensuring that your inner organs like your intestines and liver are healthy, then the aesthetic result many want…will follow later.
When I left Melbourne in October 2018, I needed a breather from all the trauma that had happened. I had no idea then that the breather was not really a breather, but so much more than I ever imagined. I didn’t know that in travelling and with each difference that the countries I went to had, I would pick up the missing puzzle pieces from my soul.
I had always gotten questions about my hair on land, and it was the same onboard – so don’t think that I’m differentiating between physical locations. Questions and phrases such as “why don’t you grow your hair?”; “you used to look so much prettier with longer hair”; “but why don’t you straighten it” etc would come from women, men, African and non-African alike.
I really stood out onboard with my little kinky Afro and as I went to different ports, often I would stand out even more. Coupled with the comments, I began to think a bit more deeply about my hair and my journey. I would look in the mirror often and think, “maybe I should grow it, maybe they are right that I can’t wear my hair like this”.
Then I would think, “but I don’t want it straight, I don’t want a weave” etc. This might seem like simple logic, but we have this self-talk with ourselves in varying areas – it might not be about your hair, but how about when you look at your body; your career; your relationships? What do you say to you about you?
There was even a time I bought a short, straight wig. I felt like an imposter. It felt like a sleek mop on my head, plonked on top of my blossoming soul, a soul that was like a flower petal about to open in full bloom.
In Japan, we went to Nagasaki and Kagoshima. What stood out to me was not only the beautiful, historic architecture but the spirit of Japanese people. The air there felt light, intriguing, and accepting.
The lady in the mall
One day I will never forget is sitting in a mall in Nagasaki whilst waiting for one of my ship colleagues and friends to buy something. I sat next to a group of elderly Japanese ladies. The lady closest to me looked at me and grinned widely. She spoke to me in Japanese and because of her warm, inviting smile I decided to try and figure out what she was saying to me.
She mixed a lot of Japanese with a few words of English and I made out words like “where?” I immediately thought she meant where are you from? I said “Zimbabwe…Africa…but wait…” Then I took out my phone and showed her a photo of the Arcadia ship that I was on. She said “ahhhhh” nodding and turned excitedly to her other friends. They all started smiling and nodding, looking at me still with more curiosity and such loving kindness that I hadn’t felt piercing through my soul with such ferocity for weeks.
The first lady continued to speak in Japanese and even though I had no idea what she was saying I kept telling her little things like “yes, we are going around the world! I love Japan, the people are so lovely”. She chatted on in Japanese, smiling at me and nodding when I was talking even though I could tell she was grasping little bits here and there.
When my colleagues were ready to go, I said goodbye to them and they said “ahhh ship ship”. I said “yes” and waved as I left my new friends.
Well, what does that have to do with my hair you ask? A lot. I remember feeling such warmth after that encounter. When I got back onboard, I saw my wig lying on the bed and I decided to pack it away – far, far away.
What that encounter and the spirit of Japan had taught me is that I am me, it doesn’t matter whether my hair is short or long, straight or curly, whether I wear a weave or not – I am enough just as I am. It doesn’t matter whether anyone else chooses me (with or without my afro), what matters is that I choose my inner me and accept all parts of the inner me. When it’s all said and done, and the makeup and hair is not present – who am I and do I accept that soul? That is what matters – the external is a decoration.
Our external decorations come in all shapes, colours and sizes and that is what makes the world exciting. When you learn to embrace your inner world, whether you have a weave or not, blue or black hair, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to conform to what society expects of you. We have one life, live it having a love affair with yourself first.
See you in the next blog where I go into my lessons from Langkawi Island, Malaysia!
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