Born to travel: blame it on my genes

I have been addicted to travel for as long as I can remember. As a child, I loved our family road trips to countless beautiful places in South Africa and neighbouring Namibia (in those days it was called South West Africa) and was always keen to hear stories about exotic countries far-far away.

Born to travel. On one of our many trips to (the then) South West Africa with our brown combi. Here we are pictured in front of the Finger of God (Mukurob), an amazing sandstone rock formation in the Namib dessert, which unfortunately collapsed in 1988. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
One of our trips to Namibia (then called South West Africa) with our brown combi. Here we are pictured in front of the Finger of God (Mukurob), an amazing sandstone rock formation in the Namib dessert, which unfortunately collapsed in 1988.

My mom and dad have had the great fortune of visiting many wonderful places in the world for work, study and leisure. They both have a huge appreciation for history, culture and language – a wonderful gift imparted to me too. My mom also shared many travel adventures with her sister – nothing beats listening to all their travel accounts, which always includes a lot of infectious laughter.

Born to travel. My first time on an ostrich in Oudtshoorn, in the Little Karoo. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
My first time on an ostrich in Oudtshoorn, in the Little Karoo, many moons ago.

I have always loved to read and as a child had a particular fascination with Scandinavia,  India, Persia and Russia – some of the world’s most beautiful fairy tales and legends were born there! Then there are the wonderful stories of Ancient Greece and Rome and the incredible mythology that fed my imagination for days on end…

Here I am sitting on the lap of Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author who is best known for his wonderful fairy tales. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Here I am sitting on the lap of Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author who is best known for his wonderful fairy tales.

Travel, adventure (and stubbornness) are very much in my genes.

My maternal grandfather left Germany as a young man in search of adventure and better opportunities, and to get away from the political madness. (The year was 1929 – it was the beginning of the Great Depression and the Nazi Party’s rapid rise to power.) He started a brand new life in South Africa and only saw his family again twice, many years down the line (the second time accompanied by my grandmother).

My maternal grandmother comes from a strong French Huguenot background (Protestants who were prosecuted in France and fled to South Africa to start a new life and enjoy the freedom to express their religion). She also had a sprinkling of Irish blood. Apparently her mother, of Irish descent, shocked the conservative community she married into by riding her horse bareback, like a man (no side saddle) and letting her auburn red hair flow freely in the wind. Don’t you just love that picture?

Born to travel. My great-grandmother was a free spirit who shocked the community by riding her horse bareback. (Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/vanessa_gerlach/15734327732/">Vanessa Gerlach</a>)
My great-grandmother was a free spirit who shocked the community by riding her horse bareback. (Photo by Vanessa Gerlach)

My father’s ancestors come from a strong line of German missionaries. They were very brave men and women who travelled to the south of Africa in the 19th century to start a new life and share the word of God. When they first arrived, they had nothing. They travelled far into the country, learned the local languages and built mission stations and churches. They suffered many hardships and lost beloved partners and children to malaria and other afflictions. They bravely took on the authorities and helped local tribes to acquire their own land by buying it for them. And throughout all this, they kept their faith and expressed their joy of life through music, art and a deep appreciation of the magnificent nature that surrounded them.

A photo, taken in 1896, of the old church in Kroondal (near Rustenburg). (Photographer unknown)
A photo, taken in 1896, of the old church in Kroondal (near Rustenburg). (Photographer unknown)

I am in awe of my ancestors’ courage and all that they achieved, and so very proud of how they always fought for freedom and the equal treatment of all people, no matter their colour, creed or background.

I have always felt the strong pull to places I have never been. I’m attracted to people and destinations that are different and exotic. My friends come from a wide range of backgrounds and are scattered all over the world. My strong sense of fairness and need to help others sometimes gets me into trouble in my personal and work life. Though I hate conflict and usually keep quiet, I tend to reach a point where my passion boils over and I speak up for what I believe in. Blame my genes.

One of the world's greatest composers, Johann Sebastian Bach. This is a statue of him near the house where he was born in Eisenach, Germany.
One of the world’s greatest composers, Johann Sebastian Bach. This is a statue of him near the house where he was born in Eisenach, Germany.

I am a highly sensitive person. Music, art, poetry and nature make me feel alive. I cannot imagine my life without it – especially music. When I sing, I sing from the soul. When I listen to beautiful music, I feel how I’m being transported to a higher place.

Some people think I’m too soft, too kind, too tolerant.

I cry easily and often. When I am happy, I cry. When I am sad, I cry. And, when I’m angry, I cry. I used to get so frustrated with that. Many a passionate plea has fallen flat because my adversary would see my tears as a sign of weakness, not conviction.

Today, I am proud of who I am. What is humanity, if we cannot feel the pain of others? If you want to blame something, blame my genes.

Born to travel. Experiencing snow for the first time as a teenager in Austria. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Experiencing snow for the first time, as a teenager in Austria.

My first trip overseas was as a 16-year-old exchange student to Germany. It was for six weeks and I remember the nervous excitement as I bid my parents goodbye and stepped onto the plane. It would be the first of many trips to follow. The travel bug bit me really hard and I was addicted for life.

Born to travel. Ah, Paris... (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Ah, Paris…

Needless to say, it is also in my genes to travel on a budget. As a family of six, we were never rich, but always had enough, and we would far rather spend our money on experiences than material things that gather dust.

So, for me, part of the fun of planning a trip is finding the best deals my money can buy. I travel independently, live in cheap places (as long as they’re clean and safe), study the destinations beforehand for all the must-sees and dos, and use my feet to explore all there is to see. If I had to wait until I actually had “enough” money, I would never be able to travel – ever!

Born to travel. Me on a visit to Stonehenge when I lived in London. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
A day trip to Stonehenge, when I lived in London on a working holiday visa. I made the most of the city’s central location to visit many wonderful European destinations.

Travel is my drug of choice. Nothing beats the thrill and I can live off the newly banked memories for months until it’s time to satisfy my next craving with another adventure.

Travel is what makes me feel alive. It is what I will do for as long as I can. And one day, when I’m too old and my body is frail, my mind will transport me back to all those magical places and memories. I will sit back in my armchair with my eyes closed and a soft smile on my face. Blame my genes.

14 thoughts on “Born to travel: blame it on my genes

  • September 18, 2016 at 6:26 pm
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    Great post! Was so interesting reading about your roots and Wanderlust! It´s unbelievable how multicultural has our world become! my mother is Russian, my dad-Ukrainian, my husband-Spanish, my sister lives in USA and friends, literally, all over the world! I don´t know what it is -genes, circumstances, backgrounds, choices that turn us all into travelers – but as someone said: “once a traveler, forever a traveler”
    Anna recently posted…7 Travel Quotes Only Globetrotters Would UnderstandMy Profile

    Reply
    • September 19, 2016 at 8:03 am
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      Thanks, Anna. I also love how multicultural our world has become and how we all end up having such diverse stories … in a sense, we have all become travellers 🙂 You have a very interesting background yourself! Thanks for the visit.

      Reply
  • April 8, 2016 at 9:24 am
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    Well now, nice to meet you, Shona. I’m not sure where my travel bug comes from as my roots are strongly in the UK, with perhaps a dash of Scandinavia and the Iberian peninsula. It takes a lot to satiate the travel bug

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    • April 8, 2016 at 3:36 pm
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      Hello! Yes, it’s thanks to Shona that I discovered your blog too 🙂 Thanks for visiting my blog. UK, Scandinavian and Iberian roots is an interesting mix – and more than enough to explain your wanderlust. Luckily there is so much to see in the world that our travel bugs will never be satiated 😉

      Reply
  • April 4, 2016 at 9:44 am
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    Ahhh Birgit! This is lovely. It felt like you were speaking to my spirit.
    Thank you for writing from your heart.

    Looking forward to reading some more.

    Cheers and the warmest regards from Kampala, Uganda!

    Reply
    • April 5, 2016 at 12:29 am
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      Hi, Olive. Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing such kind words. Would love to visit your beautiful country one day, so really happy to have discovered your blog too!

      Reply
  • April 4, 2016 at 8:12 am
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    How could you do this? You have written the piece too: nicely, clearly, detailed, warm and friendly, spiritually and everything else that’s good. You radiate from inside out, you’re real, you’re spiritual and you’re soft because God dwells in you. Please feel good about your softness, it’s from there that your beauty, love, kindness, joy and strength come. Your spiritual strengths and solid principles will protect you anytime wickedness comes close. I read the piece in tears. I’m a softy too, and get passionate about the principles and ideals for which I stand, and can’t get angry. I’m where you are, spiritually that is. There’s too much love for people and life. Keep your position, you’re in a good place, spiritually. I love the photos too.

    Reply
    • April 5, 2016 at 12:21 am
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      Dear Edward. I so appreciate your beautiful feedback and encouraging words. I now feel a bit teary-eyed myself too. The world out there can be very tough, but we have to hold on to our softness, yes. We have to remain true and kind to ourselves. I like what you wrote: “There is too much love for people and life.” Thank you 🙂

      Reply
  • April 3, 2016 at 9:05 pm
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    Great Post! I can totally relate as I have ALWAYS loved travel! My first overseas trip was Germany too but at 8 years old! Also as an African descendant, I am very glad to know your ancestors fought for freedom and equality for all! Light and Love, Shona

    Reply
    • April 3, 2016 at 10:31 pm
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      Hi Shona! Thanks for the visit. How interesting that your first trip was also to Germany 🙂 Your name immediately reminded me of Zimbabwe where Shona is a language. Any connection? I just checked out and followed your blog…love how you link different themes to the days of the week. Happy to connect 🙂

      Reply
  • April 2, 2016 at 10:07 am
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    I’m glad I found this blog.

    “I am a highly sensitive person. Music, art, poetry and nature make me feel alive. I cannot imagine my life without it – especially music. When I sing, I sing from the soul. When I listen to beautiful music, I feel how I’m being transported to a higher place.” — Geee we have a lot of things in common. Haha.

    Yeah, traveling isn’t just going from point A to point B, there’s so much more about it, and you know what I mean. Nice photos and I must say you’re pretty. 🙂 . Enjoy, I’ll see you here again! 🙂

    Reply
    • April 2, 2016 at 10:28 am
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      Ah, thanks so much Iriz. It’s always such a pleasure (and relief!) to meet another highly sensitive soul out there. So happy to connect 🙂 That’s the wonderful thing I’m discovering about blogging – meeting like-minded people, like you, all over the world. X

      Reply
      • April 2, 2016 at 10:54 am
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        Same here! You’re welcome and I totally agree! 🙂

        Reply

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