Not long ago, my husband did a quick calculation and announced that we had only 56 days left in South Africa.
I haven’t counted how many days have passed since then.
My travel history, here at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, is not extensive, though the trips I have been on are memorable (up to and including that one time years ago, when my family drove to Johannesburg and I dabbled before climbing in the back of a bakkie with my grandmother), laughable (cooking whole rolls of boerewors on a dirt road in Botswana, with only a tiny pot, a mini gas stove and a fork for tools) and just plain enjoyable (camping around a lamp in a small dorpie in the middle of the Karoo very much like the one that characterises Lantern Waste in Narnia). The one and only safari I have ever taken was spent with my nose buried between the pages of a book — a move I do not regret to this day, since every word of THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST makes ploughing through the previous two novels absolutely worth it.
My travel fantasies are just that: fantasies. Ludicrous and wildly imagined, they present more like a hodge-podge daydream of the Amazon River and Haven from the ARTEMIS FOWL series than any kind of coherent desire.
The ultimate reality is that I’m moving (with Stu) to Edinburgh, Scotland, at the end of April.
Which makes it so much more abiding than any kind of history or imagining.
I had a realisation the other night. For the first couple of months in the ‘burgh, Stu and I will be staying with his mom and her fiancé. Because of the nature of my visa, I will not be able to work. And because of the nature of my other visa, Stu has to work. This means for the first little bit, at least, I’ll be spending a great deal of my time alone in a city I don’t know. In some respects, I am deeply apprehensive because I have no sense of direction and couldn’t orientate myself out of a parking lot, never mind a city I do not know. But overall, it’s more a kind of relieved disbelief that I will actually get to be something that popped up in my ludicrous fantasies: a writer, in a place she knows nothing about, with nothing to do except write.
The reasons we are going are many. Family. Friends. New starts. New places. Maybe even a bit of wanderlust. Since day one, Stu and I were always going to travel — it’s one of the first promises we exchanged when we first met. We’ve imagined many journeys since then, but none of them quite look like this one. Has this scope. This significance. I’m more thrilled than I ever thought I would be, to leave my home and go somewhere new. Every time I think about it, I swear I could go into orbit from the rising excitement in my stomach and chest. Yes I’m nervous, yes it’s unfamiliar and strange (and so unbelievably white) but I am still excited.
Woven through all of this is a curious grief. Cape Town has raised me, for whatever that’s worth, and I will miss it down into the marrow of my bones. The Mother City contains within her boundaries everything I love and delight about the world: my eccentric and excellent group of friends, my twisty and loving family, the places where I first got drunk, first kissed a boy, first learned that I was a person in my own right. I will miss the sound of this place, which accompanies my every waking moment: taxis hooting, gaatjies shouting, a quintessential song of the Cape. My life has been shaped by the individuals and spaces of this city and they are their own tangible support, framework and context within which I operate. Leaving all of that seems daunting to me. I don’t know how to exist away from them because I have never had to.
And now I do and I am paaping.
But fuck if I’m not still so damn excited I cannot sit still.
The truth is that I cannot wait. I’m terribly, frighteningly ecstatic. My nerves aside, the idea of learning a new city, especially one so steeped in all of my interests (including Harry Potter), and getting to know my family on that side of the world, as well as meeting new people and making some friends and living in the bookshops scattered all over, is something that makes me feel a bit daring and deeply ready for whatever those changes might be. It’s rare to be handed the opportunity to experience life like this, and I don’t intend to squander it.
I want to experience the world, and I’m ready to let the world experience me.