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.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.