I admit going to Africa was never on my “bucket list”. Earlier this year I was offered the opportunity to travel there with the Kansas Farm Bureau Casten Fellows. Was I apprehensive? Absolutely. Was I nervous? You bet. However, after a quick check with my family it was clear this was a chance of a lifetime and something I could not pass up. Boy, am I glad I took that leap of faith because my perspective of the world will never be the same. 

I am not sure I ever completely wrapped my head around the fact I was halfway around the world from my home and my family. In some ways Uganda and Tanzania seemed so different but, in many ways, things seemed the same. On one hand I was in a land of banana trees and coffee plants; I saw giraffes casually walking through farm fields and monkeys dancing across the roof of my cabin. On the other hand, I talked to farmers with the same basic concerns I have — prices and weather. I met some of the most gracious, kind and caring people I have ever met. In many ways our worlds seemed very familiar.

I have been asked to describe the trip and often I feel my explanation is very inadequate. What I experienced was so big that words and pictures are lacking. I do know, without a doubt, that my understanding of the world has grown immensely. I only wish that all of you could have experienced the same things I did. If you ever get that opportunity, make sure you take it. Your world will be richer because of the challenge you accepted.

Here is the great thing, you will have that chance. Next year the Casten Fellows will be asking for applications. Do we know where they are going? No, but does it really matter? In my humble opinion, no. Like I said, Africa is somewhere I had not really ever thought about going and now I am very thankful I had that chance. Take that challenge and stretch yourself. Will it always be comfortable? Again, the answer is no. There were times that the trip took me far out of my comfort zone and that is a good thing. Real growth cannot happen if we are comfortable.

It is tough to be gone for two weeks, I will not lie. I missed home, but the reward was more than worth it. I came away with both an appreciation of Africa and its people but also for what I have at home, my family and everything I have been blessed with in my life. If you at all think going abroad would be interesting or you are looking for a true growth experience, I highly recommend you apply for the Casten Fellows next year.

Not only will you benefit personally from the trip, but our organization will also reap the rewards of having members who better understand the world we live in. Maybe travel to Africa wasn’t on my bucket list before, but I promise that list is much longer now.