Recently I journeyed to South Africa for 20 days. I hiked around the wild coast, drank Umqombothi beer with the locals and got attacked by a dog that ‘hates white people’.
It was an incredible experience.
I knew I was in for a fun time but one thing I didn’t expect was just how enlightening my trip was. I received some invaluable downloads, met some awesome people and experienced the gifts that can come from stepping outside of a comfort zone.
Arriving with Anxiety
For the record, I’ve never been out of Europe. Well, that’s a lie. I went to Thailand when I was 18. So, I’ve never been out of Europe to explore a country sober.
As soon as I touched base in South Africa I was on edge.
My South African friends affirmed my anxiety with tales of robberies and a firm message: ‘be careful in South Africa’. This sense of cautiousness is built into many South African folk’s nervous systems. It’s an anxiety that is ingrained in their way of living.
As soon as I touched base in South Africa I remember feeling like I wanted to go home and return to familiarity.
But I discovered that on the other side of my anxiety is a part of me I’d never really tapped into before:
5 Day Wild Coast Hike
If you’re ever in South Africa and you want a non-tourist experience this is one of the best. The 5-day hike from Port St Johns to Coffee Bay. I found a great guide called Asanda.
The scenery is out of this world and you stay in mud huts with the local Xhosa folks. On our first night, we were in a hut, and the power was down (load-shedding happens every day in South Africa!), we had a candle going and our Xhosa mama cooked us a meal.
I was getting an experience I wouldn’t have felt within the comforts of a hotel. Seeing a standard of living far below anything I’d ever seen was incredibly enlightening.
- Jumping in the most glorious crisp turquoise ocean water after a long day hiking in the sun.
- Eating Xhosa steamed bread with BlackCat peanut butter (man I love peanut butter).
- Learning the greetings in Xhosa and shouting ‘Molo Mama!’ to locals on the way.
Download #1: Learning the basics in another language is a great way to connect with locals.
As a mono-linguistic culture, we British folk rarely learn other languages. I was so shocked at how easy it was to learn the basic greetings in Xhosa. And how in return I received many smiling faces and moments of connection!
Along the way, I had many conversations with my African friends as they shared with me their culture and history. These conversations gave me a completely different perspective on my own culture!
Download #2: There’s plenty to celebrate about the UK.
I began to see things I took completely for granted e.g. functional roads, running electricity, the NHS, and a responsive police force. I also saw things in the African culture that I adored: a soulful connection with music, a sense of looking out for one another and a friendliness towards strangers.
After this hike, I felt settled. The anxiety was gone and I discovered a desire to further step out of my comfort zone and travel even more. How exciting!
Download #3: Living life on the edge of my comfort zone is how I grow and feel alive.
This is where I want to live my life now. I feel an urge for more experiences that bring me to this edge. I feel the urge for adventure.
And adventure means risk. And challenges. There were moments of real challenge and mundanity on this trip.
Whether it was me struggling with my heavy pack on the hike or suffering from a stomach virus. These were all a part of the adventure. They were moments within an incredibly life-giving 20 days.
I arrived back with so much energy to give to my life!
I’ve started baking bread, making peanut butter and learning Arabic (I live in an Arabic-speaking area of London). I love my shower more deeply and the comfort of my own bed.
But very quickly this energy dimmed and my gratitude also.
Download #4: My pace of living in central London is unsustainable & gratitude is a muscle needing consistent work.
The environment of London is overstimulated and I feel the urge to keep up with it all. If I fall behind – I’m not doing enough! This fosters a sense of insecurity.
But damn you can get so much done in London – yikes! I must use this intensity wisely and create space for me to recharge.
I think I can say with certainty now though:
I’m one of the luckiest people alive!
Upon returning my auntie said to me: “I’m so glad you’re enjoying your life”. And this made me think…
Do I enjoy my life?
The answer is: Sometimes.
But I do love it.
And my loving it includes all the sh*t moments.
The moments where I’m definitely not enjoying myself.