As I mentioned in the previous post, last Sunday the husband and I decided to go to the Colours of You instameet in Govan Mbeki, and then on Wednesday we found ourselves at an instameet organised by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism at the South End Museum. Well, yesterday we ended up at a third instameet at Baywest Mall with the City of PE folk because we somehow stumbled across an RNews article about how using the #OhSnapBaywest tag will lead to one lucky instagrammer winning themselves a EOS 100D Canon for their efforts. I have to admit that’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a mall (unless you count the one time I went a little nutsy in a bookstore and when I got to the counter to pay the guy I was dating at the time pulled out his credit card and paid for all of it) and it was good to mingle with yet another completely different group of instagrammers (am I supposed to be calling the – us – igers?) Clearly this town has way more artists milling around than I ever considered. I’m really feeling kind of inspired to explore even more of my own city. I admit I’m kind of bad at that, usually. I tend towards being a bit of a shut in some(most)times, expecially now that I am taking saving money for international travel even more seriously than before. But I am starting to realise that you don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money in order to enjoy the spaces around you. Silly that I already know this when I’m away from town. How come I don’t know it about being at home? Hmmmm…. Perhaps the hubby and I should go off and do our own instameet a little later… It’s ok to be addicted to taking pictures, right?
So I need to stop starting blog posts with the word “so” but it’s really hard…so for this one I’m not going to. Instead I’m just going to get straight into it and tell you a bit about the new little piece of happiness that I accidentally found.
When we went to India earlier this year I admitted to my husband that as far as social media goes, Instagram is by far my favourite platform. A bit strange perhaps as I haven’t been Instagramming for that long, but for the short while that I have been, I’ve really been enjoying it.
You see, for me, Instagram seems to be this beautiful place of positivity. Every time I post a picture of my cat, the “likes” I get seem to say “Oh wow, I’m so happy for you that you’re having a happy moment with your cat!” and if I post a picture of something that has caught my eye, a flower perhaps, the likes seem to say “Oh wow, I’m so glad that for a moment in your day you stopped to observe and appreciate something beautiful”. If I’m travelling somewhere, the likes seem to say “oh wow I’m so happy that you’re doing what you love”, and if I post a picture of my child, the likes tell me “Yes, motherhood has so many wonderful moments”.
Perhaps this makes me silly. Perhaps this makes me a bit of an attention hog, or something negative, but I absolutely cannot help but feel that Instagram is this place where all the social media love goes. I do realise that is a bit of a lofty, airy-fairy ideal, but the thought of it makes me happy. And, the thing is, whenever I tap on that little heart, what I am really saying is “That’s lovely! I am so happy for you!”
Last week my friend Marion invited me to a Colours of You Instameet happening in the CBD which took place on Sunday. I admit I was a little intimidated because honestly I have always struggled to exercise any sort of creativity within a group. That coupled with the idea of trying to be creative with my three kids around me? Ha! You must be joking!! Creativity must be saved for when they are nowhere to be found. I haven’t learned to balance family life with art. Be creative? In public? Ha! I’ll just come along and watch.
Well, I found myself nestled between this group of beautiful people, all filled with art and beauty, and I have to admit this kind of thing can feel like a relief to people like me. What an incredible opportunity to mingle with all sorts of different people. I did spend a LOT of time making sure that my kid didn’t just dart off into the road and get run over by a car, but even though my momness was on full alert, my arty happy person got to peek out a little too. And it was glorious.
The best part: my kids loved it! Do you know how hard I have been trying to get these kids to lose themselves in creativity? I have no ide ahow to inspire it. I fail at this every single time I try! And yet there they were, just plodding along, photographing any old thing like it was nothing.
I don’t know how to say thank you for that.
Today we went on another Instameet. It was a different group of people this time, and while much of the vibe was a little different to the raw creative energy of the Colours of You meet, the positive effect remained the same. We met at the South End Museum – a place I have never actually wandered through before – and we got to mingle with each other while taking photographs and having a few laughs and giggles.
Some things are just good for your soul. I’ve been looking for something to replace the hole that dancing left in my life for the last eight years. It might be a little early, but I can’t help but think I might have found it.
Is that silly? I hope not…
So, even though I’ve always known that “travel” is one of those all-round Bucket List items that I desperately want for my life, something quite serious has changed in me in the last little while. A massive shift over the line between dreaming and doing has taken place, and while I am still not entirely sure about my “how” I am quite confident in my “why”. I can’t keep telling myself that you can only travel when you’re young, or when you’re single, or when you don’t have kids. I can’t keep telling my children that they can do anything they set their minds to, and encouraging them to travel as soon as they leave school and not stop for at least ten years, and then hide away to have a little sniffle about how I can’t manage to fit in all the things I want to do with my life and how I wish I had been brave enough before I became too settled. If I wait until all the kids have left the house, there won’t be enough time to fit it all in. And honestly I don’t know about you, but I have heard WAY too many horror stories about how someone finally retired from whatever they were doing only to succumb to some sort of fatal incident before even remotely getting to settle into their “real” life. I can’t do that to myself! Besides, we’re already a pretty unconventional family. We might as well continue adding to our list of all the things we do differently, right?
So I’m planning my next trip. And I’m almost ready to make it happen. I just need to squash that little voice of justification. I recognise the voice though. It’s the same voice that told me that dancing was ridiculous and that the happiness it brought me was of no consequence. It’s the same voice that told me that being a musician is ridiculous, even if it’s just for fun. It’s the same voice that laughs at me for wanting to write, because how on earth is that ever going to work?
I’m starting to figure you out, voice. And I’m getting better at telling you to eff off.
We’re halfway through April already and I barely remember March happening at all. What a strange year this is turning out to be. New things falling into place. Old things falling away. Sanity a thing of the past. You know how it goes.
I promised my friend Tammy that I’d give her the details of our itinerary when we were in India and, once again, figured I might as well blog it instead of just emailing it. Here I can add pictures and things and go all memory laney on myself if I want. Right?
Honestly though, I can’t stop thinking that what we did doesn’t really matter. It’s what you choose to do on your travels that matters. (more…)
I’ve been back home for well over a month now after our somewhat impromptu trip to India in Feb, and I have been so overwhelmed by the happenings of life that I actually haven’t gotten around to blogging a single thing about any of it. Of course now it seems kind of pointless and a bit back-tracky which I hate, but I did promise a friend that I would put together some tips for her so I thought maybe I could do that in the form of a blog post and then I can pretend to myself that I do actually write about nice things as well as things that are…well…less nice.
Of course one of the biggest factors in us choosing to go to India was the fact that our Rand stretches a little further there than it does in other parts of the world. I will, however, admit that this particular trip cost well over twice as much as the next trip I have planned. So, I’m learning. I’m learning how to work things out in a more cost-effective way, and all the while feeling exceptionally grateful to have somehow managed to wangle one of my favourite yet seemingly unattainable things into this life of mine.
Travel. Is there anything better? (more…)
Folkies I am bluesing so badly since getting back from India almost two weeks ago! I have my next trip brewing in my head already which is probably not good. How do I even fix this? How do I find balance between my love for exploring the world and the rest of my life? Do other travellers experience this angst? I was looking forward to being home but I gotta admit it’s been one overwhelming trial followed by another ever since I got home. If it wasn’t for shared glasses of wine with a good friend (and a happy-I-met-her new friend!) I would probably be a lot battier at this point.
Will it help to actually start planning the next trip? Despite the financial limitations? This real life crap is a bummer. Thank God Tim Burton is bringing out Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and that Alice Through the Looking Glass is about to hit the big screen soon. Colour to look forward to.
I might need to hide under my duvet with a pile of books this weekend. I need to get this damn reset button to work.
Maybe that’s the problem though… Maybe I need to stop expecting that it will…
In eight more sleeps Ty and I are going to India. Three months ago I wasn’t planning to go to India. Going to India was never on my main travel list. To be perfectly honest with you, India has always been on my in case of divorce travel list. Thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert. I blame you. My comfortably married self who is currently not in need of an ashram, has been considering other destinations though. Germany, for one. And Italy. But not India.
Then, in November, I met Shobha. Shobha lives in Hyderabad, India, and she stayed with my folks for a couple of weeks while learning more about their business and she and I got along really well. Of course, she kept saying you should come and visit us in India and I of course kept thinking if only impromptu trips to India were part of my homeschooling housewife lifestyle.
You know how sometimes you go to your favourite online shopping store and you put a bunch of stuff into the cart before laughing at yourself and then closing the browser? I do that too. But with trips.
So, I thought maybe I should share what happened, because I’m kind of overwhelmed at how it worked out. Travelling is a luxury denied to most. As someone who barely makes ends meet, I must admit sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve this thing that makes my heart soar so high. But maybe, just maybe, it’s a little more doable than we allow ourselves to believe. As soon as you make it a priority, somehow it works itself out.
Play With Flight Apps
Out of curiosity about what kind of costs we were looking at for a trip to India, I decided to play around with a flight app on my phone. I was shockingly surprised to find that flights around the dates that I had randomly chosen were not that bad. Those are now the dates that we will be travelling. If I had chosen other random dates, we literally might not be going right now, because on further inspection, I fiddled around with other dates and the tickets went up by 4 to 6 grand. If those had been the first numbers I had seen I would have put my phone down, so don’t give up if the first numbers you get are bad. Play around a bit and you might come up with something you can afford.
Check Out the Sights
So I knew that the Taj Mahal was in India, but after that my knowledge was limited. Obviously ashramming was not an option (you go to those things solo, otherwise there’s no point as far as I’m concerned) so I had to figure out what the actual options are. Let me tell you, as soon as you start Googling India, you realise that you need to take off at least 6 months to get a proper feel of the place. Figuring out how to spend a mere 3 weeks is hard. I already know that when my kids are grown I’m going back for a proper amount of time.
Chat to a Tour Guide
So, a lot of websites that I visited offered tour packages and I was curious about them but there were no prices. Finally, at one random site, I put in my details and hit send. The confirmation email arrived in my inbox, and I suddenly sobered up. How ridiculous! I don’t need a tour operator to contact me! I’m not going to India! That’s madness! So I deleted the email without confirming anything.
Well, the next day I received phone calls from three different tour companies. This was a little embarrassing as I wasn’t a serious potential customer, but I was upfront about my simple curiosity and none of my unconfirmed email follow uppers seemed offended by this or ever treated me like I was wasting their time. Soon I had three different quotes for what I wanted. The number was high, but it seemed reasonable.
Not wanting to accept the high quotes on blind faith I started doing my own research. I tried to figure out what things would cost if I set about doing all of it on my own, and also contemplated just rocking up in India and going with the flow. The go-without-a-plan thing was easy enough to do in Thailand. Honestly, I’d happily send my kids to Thailand with a backpack and zero plans and feel pretty confident that they’d manage ok. But it doesn’t work like that for all countries. London and Spain, for instance, are scary as hell and it’s hard to make any sort of decision in those places without fearing that your weakly valued SA Rands are going to disappear way faster than you expected.
Anyway, I did the research and started to understand pretty well what things did and didn’t cost. I am almost 100% sure that just going with the flow and doing things on your own is probably the most cost effective way to go. But for this trip I decided that I’m ok with paying a little extra for a bit of piece of mind. We need a good break, so splurging on a few unnecessary extras seems like a good way to go.
I turned down two of the quotes I got and then worked with the tour operator who gave me the third. Together we changed a few things and managed to get it down by quite a few thousand Rands. I have to admit that a LOT of work went in to all of it, but I’m happy with the idea of what we’re getting (not sure if the idea and the reality will measure up but here’s hoping!) and I’m glad I put in the extra work because now I know that I have made the choice that I am most comfortable with.
Buy the Tickets
If you’re comfortable purchasing tickets online then go for it! Personally I was a little weary that I was missing some sort of fine print so I contacted my travel agent. She managed to get me tickets close to the price that I had found online but with less travel time so I was super happy about that.
Get the Vaccinations
There are no compulsory vaccinations needed for India, although there are a couple of recommended ones. If, however, you are travelling to India via Ethiopia like I am, you need to get a yellowfever shot. The shot is valid for 10 years so keep that card they give you in case you need it for your next travel adventure.
Get the Visa
The visa application process seems to be a lengthy one with many forms and hoops, but at least it’s not too expensive. You’re looking at an overall costing of less than R500 per person which is pretty low compared to some costs.
Dream About Packing and Then Get Started
I haven’t started packing yet but I’ve packed in my head a thousand times already. I’m so excited I can barely contain myself any more. The anticipation of this trip, though very spur of the moment, has kind of kept me ticking for the last couple of months, a fact for which I am exceptionally grateful.
I feel like an ignorantly privileged jerk making sweeping statements like all things are possible, but I think pulling something like this off (and I assure you – the kind of wangling that had to take place in order to make this happen was a feat of talent!) reminds me that things like this can be pulled off. And it makes me feel hopeful. I pulled off a trip to Thailand in 2013. Then in 2014 I managed to pull off another trip to Thailand, this time with my husband. I spent 2015 feeling like our travels might be behind us for a very long while, and it felt a bit like a stone in my stomach. But we’ve done it, again. And I think I might be figuring it out that we can do this. We can live this way, over and over. We just need to do the wangling thing. We need to prioritise.
Well, a little while ago the Fedex man arrived with our passports complete with our tourist visas to India. This means it’s finally real. It means my husband and I will definitely be going to India in February and I can barely express my relief. I cannot wait to board a plane and lean my head against my husband’s shoulder while we decide which in-flight movie to watch together. I can’t wait to race through the airport in a rush to make our connecting flight in Ethiopia. I can’t wait to land in Mumbai and meet our first tour guide. I can’t wait to arrive at our first hotel and flop down on the bed for a minute before indulging in a shower and getting ready to start our adventure.
It’s silly, perhaps. These trips my husband and I have committed to taking. It’s only our second so far, of course, but we are hoping to make travel a regular occurrence. I always feel the need to justify this though. I always want to explain that yes we are not wealthy people, but travelling is so important to us which is possibly a ridiculous notion since in truth what we decide to do with our lives is irrelevant to anyone but us. Perhaps it is the small town girl in me still tries to steel herself against harsh judgements and gossip. How dare we do such a thing for ourselves!
But then I realise: we are wealthy. Because we have the option of choosing to travel over choosing to purchase more material things like new cars or fancy toys or working towards owning our own home. We are able to live frugally on one salary while the other admittedly small salary can be saved for travel – albeit budget travel.
So instead of paying mind to judgements and subtle condemnations of my parenting, and instead of allowing my own guilt to berate me for choosing what I can only describe as a balm to soothe the many cracks in this otherwise hard life, I am going to indulge in this happiness. And I am somehow going to teach myself to focus on the happy stuff more often than I do the not-so-happy stuff. Because my God life is long, and the happy stuff at least helps to speed it up a little.
To my husband Ty….I can’t wait to go on this adventure with you. Thank you for being the kind of partner that has helped to make travel a reality. Thank you for being on my side and by my side and thank you for being such an amazing travel partner. I love you so damn much!
In the spirit of trying to not always be too political for the sake of extended family members who are starting to find me terrifying (*giggle*) I thought that I could talk about food today. Yay! Food…
My folks have a lovely lady from India staying with them at the moment. She’s been shadowing my dad and learning a bit more about how the Herbalifers on this side of the world do things at The Rink Street Wellness Club. I have loved having her around here. It’s always so great having long conversations with people from different countries. There’s something extra special about it.
Of course, as happens to all of us when we find ourselves in foreign lands, our guest is struggling a little with the food that is completely different to what she is accustomed to. I, in turn, convinced my folks to take her to one of my favourite places to eat in Port Elizabeth: Raasoie. I then crashed their party because: Raasoie.
I love the way you get to eat in this place and I can’t help but think that I wish we could skip the whole rah-rah-rubbish of the usual Christmas fanfare which includes tons of work and even more mess and just hang out at Raasoie for the day. We could hang out around a huge table with bowls of korma and tikka masala and paneer and and and…yum… And then they have these awesome little table fire pit thingies that you use to cook your own kebabs on. I love this sort of social style of eating. Little bits and pieces all over the place. No stress just a lot of happiness and flavour. (more…)
I had one “plan” for Spring Day today: see if my razor is capable of navigating through the forrest that I have been growing all over my body. Of course, that didn’t happen because it’s too damn cold today and I’m pretty sure all that fuzz is actually keeping me warmer than usual. Instead of the evening with my usual – tv/ipadding/tea – I found myself on Google, investigating costs for trips – sans tv! I reckon it’s time to plan a new adventure, even if I can’t take it anytime soon. I imagine that it is in all the not planning that all these things that we want to happen don’t. If that doesn’t sound particularly profound it is because it isn’t. And yet? Well…and yet the plans are hardly ever made because we’re always waiting for one bloody thing or another. Bugger it. My head is too buzzy for waiting. And so I’m making plans and checking out hotel prices and silly things like that.
But even though I’m in the very dreamy stages of planning right now, what I want to know is:
Where are the weird places to go? The quaint and quirky and wonderful?
Where is the most interesting place you have ever been?
I’m thinking of Prague.
I’m thinking of Cambodia.
I’m thinking of Bhutan.
I’m thinking of Nepal.
I’m thinking of Colombia.
I’m thinking of Italy.
I’m thinking of Iceland.
Where are you thinking of?
A bizarre turn of events lead to the husband and I going out on Saturday night. I suppose for most there is nothing unusual about that, but to be honest I have been slowly slipping into extreme hermithood of late (thanks, but no, I don’t need “fixing”) so a bout of spontaneity, prompted by yours truly no less, can be considered quite miraculous. I kept seeing an event popup on my FB feed that told me that a bunch of my friends were going to “Dessa – Live in Concert“. Of course I had no idea who that was so I YouTubed her and discovered that she has kind of cool music. The event was free (this counts as something because we could not be more broke) so we figured we might as well go. We could, after all, skip dinner and afford a beer or two.
I am SO glad we did it. Being the hermit that I am I hadn’t actually been to Chapel Street Studios before and I couldn’t have been more delighted by the vibe of the place. It’s weird I guess but I walked in and immediately was “happy” to be there. This doesn’t happen to me a lot. I used to blame this on myself being uptight, which I am, but the thing is that I tend to be exceptionally sensitive to energy. Some energy flows with you though, like you’re floating in a calm sea, bobbing up and down as gentle waves move towards the shore. Other energies bash up against you, the suffocate you, they drag you down to the ocean bed and twirl you around a couple of times before they let you even think about which way could possibly be up. On Saturday night, Chapel Street Studios had a with you energy. It was pretty damn lovely.
We were treated to a bunch of incredible local performance artists (forgive me for not remembering any names – I had a bit too much wine – it was cheap) as well as the beautiful and enigmatic Dessa, from Minneapolis and all-in-all we just had a great evening. The event was put together by Creative X (if I’m not mistaken – forgive me if I am) and I must admit I am very curious to find out more about what they do. They seem to have gathered around them this beautiful sense of community, and with it a positivity that is electric. And my favourite part? There was enough colour in that room to paint a canvas. And maybe I just usually hang out in all the wrong places, but I found that kind of special. I looked around that room and thought, “this is how my heart knows South Africa to be”.
And the lesson? There are like-minded people out there. I won’t find them in the comments section of media outlets on Facebook. But they are in my back yard. Live in the flesh. And that’s fucking awesome.
I’m currently on a bit of a road trip through the Western Cape with my husband. We like to do this for ourselves from time to time. At the moment we’re a bit broke, but it was our anniversary on the third and I guess sometimes love needs to trump questionable bank accounts. As much as I adore being in my home (anyone who knows me well knows that I tend towards being a bit of a hermit sometimes) I do admit that combatting cabin fever becomes a delicate balancing act, which is best performed by leaving our fair city behind. These little road trips have healing powers. They have restorative powers. And to be a little too honest: they have marriage saving powers!
So my husband and I are road tripping, and we’ve been to an array of strange places over the last week. Letting my husband take control of the planning has lead to far stranger experiences than if I had been in charge. His relaxed approach to life is certainly more conducive to adventure than my uptight and systematic need for control is. Again, you see: balance. Last week we stayed in a tepee. This is a decidedly un-South African way to spend the night, of course, but it was a new experience nonetheless, and new experiences are the point. We even got to have the strange experience of stumbling upon a (possibly) biker bar in the middle of Prince Alfred’s Pass where the owner had a stuffed springbuck’s hind quarters set up on the wall (instead of a traditional hunting trophy head) and if that wasn’t bizarre enough, he had, for reason’s known only to the infinite cosmos, rigged it up so that whisky could be tapped from the poor creature’s lady bits. I learned of myself that evening that I am quite the prude and that there are some authentic experiences that I am happy to skip out on. The indignity of it all still haunts me, days later.
After the night of strange taxidermy and authentic American tenting, we spent the night on a lovely farm that is completely off the grid. This of course excited Ty no end because he just wants to live off the grid. Having a proper off-the-grid experience was a nice reminder of the possibility of it all.
We’ve actually been having a lovely time. We’ve driven through farm after farm. We’ve admired exquisite protea bushes and gasped at the beauty of the wine lands and marvelled at the brownness of the Cederburg area. I’ve taken a thousand photographs of clouds. And all the while I have been reminding myself: we are nothing without our farmers. These folks who make this all happen are our unsung heroes. We should thank them more often. I can barely grow tomatoes in my veggie garden, never mind feed a whole country.
And yet…there is something that is missing…
Please don’t get me wrong. I love our country. Our country is beautiful and magnificent and we probably have the best weather in the whole world. We have this beautiful diversity, which makes me smile. We have great food. We have our odd colloquialisms and our specific brand of humour. I love all of those things. And I miss them when I go away.
But when you’re road tripping in your own country you never really properly feel like you have left home. You never experience that exquisite spark of fear that is brought about by being faced with the unknown. You never get to stand still for a moment, look around you and tell yourself, “I have absolutely no idea where I am”. I must admit, I am addicted to that feeling.
I tried to tell myself the other day that I need to stop having lofty and impossible dreams about trips overseas that I cannot afford. I should just be quietly content to explore my own country. Exploring my own country is doable. But my other self only started to laugh at me. Because as much as I do love exploring the wonders of right here, my other self knows that there is something far more empowering about that feeling of not knowing where you are. Of feeling un-findable. Of being no one in the midst of everyone.
If you’ve ever read The Alchemist you might have noticed that there is a quote by Madonna on the back. It says “The Alchemist is a book about magic, dreams and the treasures we seek elsewhere and then find on our own doorstep.” To me this is a gross misinterpretation of the book. To me, The Alchemist is about how you should seek out adventure despite the fact that everything you need might be on your doorstep.
My own interpretation of the story sticks with me and causes my mind to scheme constantly. It is why, even though I am not wealthy, I have begun to stick small amounts of money away in a “flight fund”. And it is why I am constantly on websites like webjet checking out what it costs to fly where. Because it is important to know these things. It is important to know that if you don’t get yourself the latest iPhone, you could actually afford to purchase a ticket to Vietnam. It is important to know that if you save x amount of money for y amount of months that you could give yourself a trip to Prague.
Because you know what? As healing and restorative and marriage-saving as a road trip through the country might be, a plane ticket to anywhere holds within it a thousand times more power. And yes, everything I need might be on my doorstep, but the world outside of my doorstep is calling me. And I will keep checking on those ticket prices. I will keep working out how much to save. And soon I’ll be on a plane again.