August 2, 2016 Blog No Comments

airplaneWhenever we travel somewhere, we love the adventure of discovering things that are unknown to us. But most of our travel has been to places that are easy to explore through books and the internet, with well-documented histories and plenty of pictures.

This week we travel to Ghana to a small town we can’t find on a map in the southeastern part of the country. We’ll be the guests of our friend whose birthday is creating a village wide celebration that spans two weeks. He is their tribal chief and priest. There are many unknowns to this trip that are heightening our anticipation.

This will be my last post until the end of August. While there may well be internet access there, I really want to spend the time savoring the experience and putting it in perspective. I go with my western eyes and mind set and I’d love to have any preconceived ideas of Africa and my views of life challenged and expanded.

So here are my thoughts about pushing into the unknown. I’m not even sure this captures what I need to know to be fully in the experience, but it’s what I’m thinking about today.


Being present and mindful of the experience is probably the most important skill set. I practice it all the time, but now it will be fully required. There are many details to take in.

It will mean being attentive to the nuances of expression both verbal and nonverbal. Their Ewe language is very different and while they also speak English, it’s not prevalent where we’re going. It means nonverbal communication will be essential and we’ll need to pay attention to eye contact, body language and the rituals of social customs. it’d be rude to assume that they are the same. The US has a more open, forward expression compared to the nuanced, more ritualized interactions of other cultures

Being present means being respectful. It’s about being present energetically, to take it all in and respond with the appropriate nuance.


I hear the Ghanaian people are very friendly and love to celebrate everything. That sounds familiar to how we like to live, but will it be? I look forward to knowing more about how our friend’s birthday is worthy of a two-week celebration and the death of his godmother will be honored with a two-day celebration of life. We don’t give our loved one’s that degree of honor. What will I learn from this?

What about their other customs? Their food is very different, as is their way of eating with their fingers. Our friends have cooked for us here and it’s wonderful. Their music and dance is a central part of their culture and a focal point to these celebrations. What are they communicating with the drumming and dances I’ve only watched on a stage? The way men and women relate to each other is also very different – will I be able to understand and respond in kind?

Being in the middle of their ceremonies will illuminate these customs and their relationships to one another.


In the middle of this, I know we will be finding common ground. We come with a deep appreciation for our friend’s musical talents as he is a master percussionist and preserver of his country’s music and dance heritage. He and Lee have played together. But this is a formal ceremony and we are his guests. Finding new common ground will be an unfolding process.

We will be as curious of them as they are of us. Wanting to engage is the starting point for both of us. I look forward to being with the women to discover our common life experiences, expectations and sense of purpose. I’m excited to understand what we have in common, even though it may be expressed differently.


Experiences like these are humbling. When we recognize how our humanity is shared, no matter what our cultural context, we expand our understanding and appreciation for our diversity. The world gets smaller and more intimate.

I spent years living in the Philippines as a child and have had wonderful travel experiences since then. It helps make me more open, respectful and appreciative of others and our differences.

The experiences in Ghana are bound to expand my awareness even further. I look forward to sharing what I learn with you when I’m back. Stay posted!

If you’d like to explore and expand your boundaries, even from where you are right now, I’d love to help you open to the unknown in your life. Transformation Life Coaching is a wonderful tool for this kind of exploratory process. See my website for more information. There is a link for free consultation is you have questions. I hope to hear from you!

Written by Connie Milligan, LCSW
If there is anything I’ve expressed that speaks to you, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at my email, connie [at] conniemilligan [dot] com