Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of @kesitoandfro
Traveler Story: 'I Ended Up On A 4-Hour Canoe Ride With A Stranger In Uganda'
New Jersey native Kesi Irving realized early on that the two-week vacation her job offered, wasn’t enough. She made a promise to herself to save up enough money to be able to travel the world for an entire year.
Kesi spent the next two years saving as much as she could from her job on Wall Street. In 2015, she held true to her promise and set out on her journey.
“I knew I would regret it if I decided never to make a career break,” Kesi told Travel Noire. “But, what I thought would only be a one year around the world career break, turned into a five-year nomadic lifestyle.”
Over the last four and a half years Kesi has hopped from country to country, never remaining in one place longer than a month. She’s seen and done things that many could only dream of, but some of her fondest memories come from her time exploring the continent of Africa.
“One of my most memorable experiences was in 2018 when I visited Lake Bunyoni In Uganda. I started out at an eco-resort, but then I wanted to have an even more local experience, so I decided to use the Couchsurfing app to find a host on the lake.”
When booking the accommodation, Kesi had no idea that it would require a 4-hour ride in a paddle canoe with the man who owned the home. Josh, the host, picked her up, and off they went.
“His canoe had no motor and two paddles. Halfway through the trip, it started to downpour, so we found the closest land and huddled under a small tree until it passed. I found it humorous and thought to myself, I’m on a canoe with a stranger in the middle of the lake during a rainstorm, and I have no idea where I’m going. But, I love an adventure.”
In those 4 hours, the two strangers learned a lot about one another. Kesi learned that Josh also enjoyed travel just as much as she did. He also told her stories about growing up in Uganda and what life is like for him each day.
“He told me that each morning when he wakes up, he decides what to do for that day. For example, that morning, he decided he would canoe to pick me up. The following day he would try to build something new for his house.”
Once they finally arrived at the home, Kesi was amazed at what Josh and his family had built. Josh had built his own house and made two other small houses for guests. Kesi describes the accommodation as sustainable and only using solar electricity. There was also a massive garden, which included avocado trees and banana trees. Josh’s parents lived up the hill with the cows, and his brother was his neighbor.
“I learned a lot from the canoe ride and backpacking in East Africa. I learned to be patient and adapt to a slower pace, which is the complete opposite of my life when I lived in NYC. I appreciated taking the long ride to clear my mind and become one with the nature around me. It reminded me that it’s essential to take time out of the day and fully appreciate and enjoy life and nature. It’s a natural stress relief.”