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Dear 16½ year-old me,
What does one begin to say to themselves? I suppose, only the most simple and honest things. I write this at the age of 24, and you’ll be glad to know that you’re happy and healthy. Your family is as supportive and loving as they always were (even when your deepest, darkest, and most rebellious stories are revealed at your 21st) and your friends are all incredible people.
I’d say it’s momentous that I write to you at such an age, when you feel so invincible. It gets tough. But no matter how tough it gets, it’s never anything you cannot handle, and it’s certainly always worth it.
When you turn 17, you will have your heart broken for the first time by the boy you’re seeing. It won’t hurt for long, but it will hurt enough that for your whole matric year, you will swear off boys, and love. This is good for you – you learn more about who you are, and what you want. Although, it does ensure you also miss out on a boy who will on-again-off-again with you, right up until today. Even as I write this, I cannot fully assure you that we’re over him, but I can assure you that his love is vital to us. So embrace it.
When you turn 18, you will be raped. Not by a stranger, but an acquaintance. You will block the truth of the matter out for almost four years, until desperation and madness drive you to finally tell your parents. You will be diagnosed with depression immediately after this, and take anti-depressants for 6 months, until you decide that you just don’t want to anymore. On that day, I am so proud of you. You decide your happiness is in your own hands, and you begin a journey to discover it – without the aid of medication of any kind. I am still on this journey, but let me tell you, 2012 is turning out to be a phenomenal year, and a well-deserved reward for your bravery in 2011.
When you are 19, Hermy – our beloved sausage dog puppy – will pass away. It will hurt more than you could ever have imagined. You’ll wander the hallway of our parents’ home, and miss the pitter-patter of his little paws behind you. Our “shadow”, as mum always called him, will be gone – and for a long time you will not be able to speak or think of him, without an ache in your heart and a tear in your eye.
Sandy, our twin brother’s dog, will help to heal you, though. He will miss his brother, too, and the two of you will be able to console one another, giving you both another two years of licks and love. When he eventually passes, too, you will need to be strong. It will hurt. You will not get another dog for many, many years after. And you will feel alone.
However, you will channel this pain into something very, very good. After much discussion with your parents – and one or two heated arguments – you will be allowed to foster abandoned puppies through Kitty and Puppy Haven. You will fall in love with the little lumps of love, who come into your life, and leave it again – and you will cry every time you take them back to the Haven to hopefully be adopted. But you will remember that you have made a difference, even if it’s to only one animal – and it’s this memory that will cause you to continue this somewhat self-destructive community service.
 You may not be able to understand it now, but at 24 you have so much yet still to do. You always thought you’d have met the man you were to marry by now, but I’m rather thankful you were wrong on that one. I refuse to settle for anything less than magic, and I assure you that we’ll find it. One day.
 We have yet to travel the world, and our savings for the Round the World ticket is in dire straits. But we’re driven and passionate, and you can trust that our ten-year plan to climb Mount Everest will happen.
I could not wish to change anything about what has happened in the years between us. I want you to be the person that you are, the happy and fun-loving teenager I have so many photographs and memories of… You have hard times ahead of you, so cherish the years before they begin.
And one more thing… At no point are you ever alone with you pain and hardship, and it’s important you remember that.
I think it’s important I remember that, too.
At age 24, I want you to know that we intend to live forever. And so far, so good.
All my love,
24 year-old you

On Monday, I’m going away. I don’t know how long for. I mean, I do actually have to come back – I’m unfortunately tied to various commitments that begin again in July, so disappearing into the wide world isn’t an option, just yet. But on Monday, I’ll go and I may come back after a week. Or I may not. Perhaps I’ll come back in a month. Who knows. And whilst I don’t know how long I’m going away for, or even where I may end up on my journey, I can tell you why I’m going…

I’m going away because if you asked me to stay, I would. I’d cancel my flight, get into your car, drive to your house, snuggle up on the couch with you, and stay. I would give up my adventure for you. And that’s the best reason I can think of not to. Whilst this may not make much sense, there is a point. Somewhere.. In all of my past relationships, I’ve given. I’ve given up things; I’ve given up myself; and my time and my dreams. I’ve given and given and given. And when it ended, I discovered, to my horror, I’d given so much that I had nothing left. I had given up pieces of my heart, my ‘ness’. So, I had to rebuild everything from scratch. And when I began this process of rebuilding, eight months ago, I decided never to deny myself something I wanted, for someone else who can’t give you a good enough reason to do. So, what I want right now, is to go on my adventure. But I can’t pretend that I don’t want you to want me to stay, either.

I’m going because if I stay, I will break us. I have never been very good at the whole relationships thing. It takes me a long time to love, yet when I do, I do so with a love that transcends gaps in distance, and lifestyle, and even logic. When I love, I am dedicated and hopeful. Every sign you give me – whether it’s intended or not – is one more sign for me to fall even more for you. And I know we said we’d just be friends and see where things went, but you didn’t help me when you kissed me. I mean, I have quite a few friends and you’re the only one that kisses me… So, naturally, I believed it meant more than it did. And when you didn’t make an effort to see me, in the build up to my leaving, well, it didn’t make sense to my head, or my heart. So, instead of ruining us by asking you a thousand questions so I can know exactly where I stand, I’m leaving.

I wish I felt as strong and brave as some people say I’m being. To walk away from someone you care about, and not only to walk away, but to hop on a plane and end up on the other side of the country… Well, apparently that takes some guts. But if I’m honest, and I do try to be, it doesn’t feel like bravery. Because when I get off of the train at the airport, I’ll hope you’re standing there. When I line up to check-in for my flight, I’ll listen out for your voice speaking my name, asking me to turn around and stay with you. And when I go through the gates, a hundred Romantic Comedy airport scenes will inspire my heart to beat faster as I walk slowly to the metal bird that promises to take me away from you, and any hope that I still might have…

Once I’ve gone, I’ll still think of you. I’ll hope that maybe you’ll think of me, too. Maybe, once I’ve gone, you’ll miss me. Maybe you’ll see who I am, and what I mean to you… Or maybe you won’t. And we’ll just grow further apart, until one day we’re nothing but the odd Facebook status update chanced upon on a normal Thursday afternoon. A flicker of recognition will cross your face as my name registers something to your brain; and a skipped heartbeat will jolt my heart as it recalls the feelings I felt for you…

So, I’m going away. But, dammit, I wish you’d ask me to stay.

I’m a messy traveller. I can plan as far in advance as even the most paranoid of the population (although I don’t) and still arrive in a flurry of chaos as they announce the final boarding call. Yup. I live on the proverbial edge when it comes to travel – and half of you are still wondering what this final boarding call that I mentioned earlier, might sound like. Me? I have never heard the first boarding call. I consider it a good day when I hear the final boarding call at I reach the check-in. A job well done, indeed!

I am also, unfortunately, not a graceful traveller. Those women who arrive with matching luggage and wrinkle-free clothes are goddesses in my eyes. My luggage resembles what I’d like to imagine a circus might look like when boarding a plan. Colours and shapes vary drastically, and I always board with several (too many) books and writing journals arranged around my person. In addition to this, I am quite unable to move around my house stain free, so hoping for any better when crossing the country, or jumping continents, would be sheer lunacy. When I land, regardless of whether there’s been turbulence or not, I will have a vast array of stains announcing my arrival, and I will also resemble a somewhat dishevelled bushbaby. Use your imagination.

On top of all of this, I am also a decidedly unlucky traveller. Out of all the planes I’ve been on during all the years of my life, I have yet to be seated next to the Ryan Reynolds lookalike. No, no. You’ll find me crammed beside the drunk and obnoxious old man, or the mentally jarring and impossibly loud American tourist. The only time I’m somewhat fortunate when it comes to travel by air, is in getting the window seat (a love instilled in me as a child by my dad). In this way, I have yet to be put off flying completely for the rest of my life. As long as I can gaze out across the quilted landscape as we jet off into the sky, I shall persevere. In the meantime, if you wouldn’t mind letting me squeeze by, the baby in the seat next to me just threw up. All over me.

When one thinks of taking time and getting away, Magaliesburg is rarely the destination of choice. More often than not, if we could have  a trip for free, we’d be boarding flights and taking trips all over the world! Well, last Saturday my darling boyfriend and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 5 in the morning to make the trip to Magaliesburg in order to go Kloofing – known to Americans as Canyoneering. Not knowing what to expect, we were very excited despite the weather doing its best to dampen our excitement.

You’ll be glad to know, it didn’t! What ensued were five of the best hours I’ve ever spent in the wilderness. Beginning at 9am, the experience begins with a walk up a mountain to the edge of the Revine at a height of about 60metres. After descending down into the revine, it soon becomes clear that there’s only one way out and it’s forward and down.

The first part of the revine is filled with a hint of things to come. There’s very little clue as to what awaits you as you journey down, until you come to a tree with only the sound of water crashing down onto rocks to provide the scenery that your eyes can’t see. A short, but delicious lunch spent here allows for the butterflies to build before the guide – with a smile lighting his eyes – asks who’ll go first. I volunteered, due to my dedication to the “now or never” school of thought.

All went well. Until I looked down. Hanging perpendicular to the rock face with a waterfall crashing down beside me onto jagged rocks can induce more than a little heart pounding. The easiest and most enjoyable part of the abseil was towards the end wherein for the last ten-twelve metres you’re completely free from the rock face and get more than a little wet swinging underneath the waterfall. A brisk – and chilly – swim across the 20metre pool below allows you to turn back and fully grasp the sheer beauty of the feat you’ve just accomplished.

From there, little more remains than to have fun and go forth. There’s no turning back at all from there, and so when the guide tells you to jump into the water off a rock or to slide down the bum slide – a rock worn smooth over time – you do it! You barely realise how tired you’re getting until the fatigue causes you to slip a little more and fall a little more. I escaped the whole expedition without any more injuries than a gash to my right shin from an ill-aimed jump into a pool.

All-in-all, I cannot suggest a more wonderful and fulfilling experience than Kloofing! If abseiling isn’t your thing, another revine is explored in which a jump from a 10metre tall rock takes its place. Such an experience, and less than two hours drive from good ol’ Joburg, I suggest you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and go on an adventure! 🙂

Having recently graduated and found myself thrust into the big wide world of possibility, I have decided to write out a Bucket List to ensure that I make the most of my days spent on Earth… So, as it stands, here it is – it’ll change and grow, and reach into every far corner of the world. These first few relate to Britain and Ireland, but I’ll post more notes on other areas in the world as I go 🙂

  • Visit and climb the twin peaks of Skellig Michael on Skellig Island.
  • Clubbing in London and Gigging in Glasgow
  • Visit the site of the Harry Potter films – Durham Cathedral
  • Drinking Guinness in Dublin
  • Walking in Wordsworth’s footsteps in the Lake District
  • Getting toasty by toasting the bad weather in the Scottish Highlands (nothing a few shots can’t fix)
  • Make the most of Lewes Bonfire Night in the first week of November
  • Lose myself in Connemara
  • Climb the tallest Light House in Britain
  • Trundle along the West Highland Railway
  • Hoarding books in Hay-on-Wye, Wales
  • Freediving in the Royal Navy’s SETT (Submarine Escape Training Tank)
  • Hit the streets for the Notting Hill Carnival
  • Attend the Highland Games in Scotland
  • Lie on the 2mile stretch of beach in Holkam Bay
  • Ride a boat in the Regent’s Canal
  • Surf the Severn Bore – one of the biggest and longest tidal bores in the world
  • Follow in the footsteps on kings and queens at Thermae Bath Spa
  • Walk the walls of Conwy Castle
  • Folk out under the Sugar Loaf
  • Soaking up the Edinburgh Festival