Wilfred Otieno


As the Kisumu based Gospel Foundation Ministries that is popularly known as Gofomi was on an evangelical Christian convention mission to the border town of Busia-Kenya in 1995, the head evangelist Reverend Dan Odhiambo asked a handful of his team members on their return how their visit abroad had been. This having sounded ironical to them, they all burst into laughter. In other words, the term abroad is commonly associated with far away lands or countries which are situated thousands of kilometres from people’s homelands. Therefore, people tend to understand it in terms of very long journeys along roads, long voyages on sea or many hours of flights over continents and seas to such places.

In this case, the members of Gofomi had just arrived on the Kenyan side of Busia Town at this country’s border with Uganda in the west from their base at the city of Kisumu which is situated to the east from where they were. The time was 3 o’clock and since they had to wait until after supper at 7.30 pm in order to participate in the first evangelical session, a number of them decided to pass time by walking across the international border to Busia-Uganda in the west. The distance they covered before they entered into that country was a mere 300metres thus the laughter it caused at the mention of the word abroad.

Not having crossed any sea from Kenya to Uganda, the term abroad was naturally applicable in their case. In other words, immigration from one country to another over land is associated with going abroad. However, it does not discount doing the same over sea because the full stretch from one country to another over sea is full breadth which is broad thus abroad. So, one can go abroad by crossing both land and sea but not go overseas by crossing land alone unless there is a sea or a combination of both land and sea or seas to be crossed.

Going abroad or overseas may be referred to as international travel, voyage or flight. In the present world, inter states human traffic has increased tremendously. This has been facilitated by aircraft technology because it is a faster means of transport around the globe in comparison to vehicles, trains and ships though it is costly.

People go to foreign lands for various reasons.  They do so either on short term or on long term basis depending on the magnitude of the issues to be accomplished. The following are insights into the outstanding reasons which make people of today to be frequently on the move internationally in comparison to olden times.


Education in foreign schools, colleges or universities is one of the reasons for the international human mobility across the globe. This is because a student might not get admission into a college or a university in his or her own country despite having scored at high school the required entry marks or, a discipline of one’s interest or choice might not be offered locally or, one’s family might be relocating to a foreign country. This latter factor affects nursery, primary and high school going learners also. Such issues motivate the pursuance of education abroad. These are besides the search for more recognized, better equipped learning institutions and the conducting of research in foreign countries as a prerequisite.

International employment opportunities which come calling or the search for the same is another reason for human mobility across the globe.

Scientific and cultural exchange programmes between groups from either countries that are publicly or privately arranged is another cause for the increase in inter-state human mobility. This is further facilitated by the current sister city relationships between any two urban centres in any two given countries.

Religious functions like preaching, praying and worshipping God, holding conferences and workshops on the same, going on pilgrimages to foreign lands that are considered to be holy or to certain foreign shrines for exotic festivals, have increased the international human traffic. For example, the Moslems visit the city of Mecca in Arabia annually for the observance of one of the pillars of Prophet Mohammed’s teachings which require that they do so at least once in a life time if they can afford. This they do at Mecca’s expansive and enclosed Baal stone mosque which is considered to be holy and is the world Islamic headquarters. This pilgrimage is referred to as Idd-ul-Hajj in the Arabic language.

Christians also go on pilgrimages especially to Israel. This they do during Easter season so as to retrace the footsteps of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem City to Mt. Golgotha outside the city where he was crucified. They also go to Israel during Christmas season to the city of Bethlehem for worship at the Church of Nativity which is situated on the spot where Jesus Christ was born. Unlike the Moslems, they do this voluntarily.

Similarly, Christians of the Roman Catholic Church denomination go on pilgrimage to Saint Peter’s Basilica which is situated in Vatican City that is recognized as a state though it is a part of the city of Rome in the state of Italy thus a state within a state. The Basilica is reportedly said to be situated on the burial site of Saint Peter, the head Apostle of Jesus Christ’s Christian faith.

Faithful of other religions, for example, the Hindus, do the same by visiting certain special shrines in India too.    

Seminars and workshops which may be governmental, non governmental, corporate, economic or religious that are held in foreign countries are other causes for the increase in human mobility between states of the world.

Philanthropists that sponsor projects for the welfare of needy communities, widows and orphanages in foreign countries, travel across the globe frequently. This they do as they visit these foreign projects and or visit other established states in search of co-sponsors before they return to their home countries besides pursuing their personal interests also in such places.

Other people simply travel, go on voyages or fly abroad as hobbies, for pleasure, to pass time, to visit friends and relatives, to tour places or simply to put money into use since it may be in their possession in plenty despite having allocated some to fund certain projects. Such people usually do the afore-mentioned unnoticed yet they increase both the local and the international human traffic.

Locally, certain people among the ones described above who tour certain sites might not be serious tourists despite being in possession of much money as they may not contribute significantly to the gross national income per capita the way serious domestic tourists who might not be as rich as them may do. The reason for this is that the former simply tour because they are able to foot the expenses while the latter plan and carry out savings for the same and in addition, they travel in large numbers. On the other hand, some rich citizens do plan for such tours on a serious note and in the process contribute to the national financial kitty significantly.

International tourists, foreign visiting friends, family members and relatives who are based abroad and are either on short or long holidays contribute much to inter-states human traffic numbers also. In the process, they contribute handsomely to foreign exchange earnings of the countries that they visit.

Categories of tourists aside, both domestic and international tours are usually associated with holidays. On the other hand, a good number of people, international philanthropists included, do turn to tourism while on duty in foreign countries when opportunity allows.

Of great mobility are the international traders, industrialists and investors. These groups of people are constantly on the move. Locally they are the ones who travel up and down the country. So, if you have ever wondered why inter-cities public transport vehicles, trains and aircraft never lack passengers on daily basis even during low travelling seasons then they are the answer to it. If they do so locally then internationally they cannot be a let down to road travels, voyages across seas or air flights. This means that they contribute immensely to the economies of their states and of those which they visit through payment of fare but many people do not realize this fact. However, some of them use private means to ferry them instead of the public transport system on the domestic front though some of them do like wise internationally.

Sports clubs and national sports teams periodically travel or fly to other countries so as to participate in international assignments. In this way they contribute to the increase in the inter-states human traffic especially when they do so a consolidated multiple number of times per annum.

When such teams fly abroad or overseas, they too do not fall short of humorous encounters the way tourists do. Let us consider Kenya‘s national soccer team alias the Harambee Stars of the late 1980s. As it was on a campaign for the 1990 Fifa world cup, the Kenyan team flew abroad to Algiers to play a match against the Algerian national football team. Inside the hotel in which they had been booked by the football association of that country, they waited for the sun to set in the west before they could prepare their supper meal. In other words, during those days, Kenyan football clubs and the national team used to opt to carry food from their home country which would be prepared by a Kenyan cook while they were abroad. This was done as a precaution against any foul play on the players by, say, the opposing teams’ cheeky supporters who might have wanted to make them perform below par on the day of the match.

Tired of waiting for the sun to set in the west as it was still high in the sky at 10 pm and due to much hunger, they decided to prepare the supper meal. They fed on it at 11pm as the sun was yet to set. The irony in this encounter was that they had not did realized that the city of Algiers being positioned at the Tropic of Cancer was experiencing summer solstice at that time thus a long day of 16 hours and a short night of 8 hours.

Not to be forgotten as one of the reasons for the increase in international mobility though most people consider it to be insignificant is immigration by certain persons or even whole families so as to settle in foreign countries as adopted ones. In addition, immigrations become significant with respect to international mobility when such immigrants visit countries of their births annually or frequently.

Therefore, besides the increase in human traffic internationally, travelling overseas or abroad as the case may be takes place with unexpected challenges. So, people who travel to foreign lands must be open minded, ready for any unexpected encounters, learn from new experiences and apply them in real life situations but omit immoral ones. No wonder, Tanzania’s Mbaraka Mwinshehe composed and recorded a song in Kiswahili language in the mid 1970s entitled Ugeni Tabu. In English this is translated as visitation is full of problems.

In conclusion, whether one travels from abroad to abroad, from abroad to overseas, from overseas to overseas or from overseas to abroad, the issue at hand is not the breadth or the distance covered but the travel over land, the voyage over sea or the flight over both land and sea. However, such a person should realize that by doing so he or she contributes to the increased international mobility in the number of visitors and in the economies of the states visited. On the flip side, such a traveller should realize that international travel is not always a bed of roses but has challenges which might be educative, humorous, difficult or character-building. In other words, the challenges may be beneficial, entertaining or discouraging. No matter the case, one should face the situations as they come because in the long run they work for one’s own good.                                                                                                             

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                                            COPYRIGHT: WILFRED OTIENO 2012