I’ve always been a firm believer of the statement “It’s the people that make a place.” I’m not the type of person to be more interested in my environment than my comrades. Travelling to a new place alone does not sound as awesome as travelling with a companion. I’m sure almost everyone feels like that, but not everyone is writing this blog post and therefore I have to draw from my own beliefs.
I’ve only ever been so enchanted with a place that I’ve been severely anguished to leave it three times in my life, all three were because of people.
The first: was when I moved from the beautiful little town of Chatham Borough in New Jersey to Johannesburg, South Africa. To this day I wish that somehow I could go back and relive riding my bike down to the Elementary School playground, watching the 4th of July Fireworks, getting up early and racing down to the CMS Fun Fair every year, or even sitting in my kitchen eating Oreos and watching Cyberspace and Zoom! with my best friend. When I see Chatham I smell the pollen of the spring and the decomposing leaves of the autumn, I see green suburban lawns and my favourite climbing tree in my front garden. I can hear the crickets and cicadas of the evenings and the sound the wind made at night as it rattled my window panes. All of these memories however, are linked to atleast one, or several people. I can hear snippets of conversation and snap shots of people’s expressions as I describe my childhood to you.
The combination of my these brief snap shots with the scents and visuals I get every time bring on a certain peace and, I suppose, longing for the child I once was.
The second time: Last year December. My family had come from the UK and we took a road trip down to Cape Town and then across to Knysna. Both beautiful places but Knysna crept its way into my heart. Everything there is a surreal shade of green, we stayed on the outskirts of this incredible forest which was over-flowing with a patchwork of organisms of different size, species and colour.
The final day however, I looked back at our little wooden cottage with an air of wistful sadness, not because I was leaving the place I’d grown to love, but because it meant my holiday was over, the patchwork was fading and soon my family would be boarding a plane.
The third: was just short of a month ago. I’d gone to Kenya to visit one of my best friends. We spent 10 days laughing, staying up late to talk and bundu-bashing around places like Nairobi, Nanyuki and Malindi. Kenya is, I have to say, one of the most beautifully backwards countries I have ever experienced. The inhabitants of the country treat all that comes their way with a nonchalance I wish we South Africans could adopt into our every day life.
For example: in 2008 SA experienced a shortage of electricity and load-shedding occurred regularly, everyone complained, no one had anything positive to say about losing power for a couple of hours because to us, electricity 24/7 is a given. In Kenya however, it’s very different. One night my friends and I went out for movies and KFC. Halfway through our meal we are plunged in total darkness, no one panics, no one complains and one of the guys with me simply states casually “Welcome to Kenya”. It was brilliant!
When the time came for my departure I thought I’d be okay. I made it through check-in, security, immigration, passport control and, upon arrival at the waiting lounge I promptly became I puddle on the floor. There I sat, like a pathetic broken water fountain soaking my knees with tears I promised myself I wouldn’t shed. Why? I don’t actually know. At the time I thought it was because I was going to miss my friend and the friends I’d made during my travels but now, with almost a month behind me since I scared the people in the waiting lounge at JKIA with my hysteria I think that perhaps it was for different reasons.
I think I was crying over the knowledge that I, in some way had just grown up. I’d just gone on one of the most life-changing trips I’ve ever experienced. Without parental supervision I had to deal with flying by myself, budgeting my spending money, catching 2 local flights and almost getting on the wrong plane, figuring out transport to certain places and seeing a random naked man running down the middle of the road. Since then I’ve changed, my relationships have changed, the way I see the world has been altered and even the way I see the person I went to visit has been compromised.
So in that waiting lounge, on the third occasion I’ve been gut-wrenchingly sad to leave a place, I was mourning the death of my childhood and the birth of a whole world of adult responsibility. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.