Moving back to South Africa has meant a number of things, but just recently it’s meant ‘going on holiday’ during the school holidays! There is one criteria for me and my family – and that’s to feel like we’re the only people in the world and that we have stumbled upon one of the last undiscovered places, wild and free of crowds! Admittedly, there are not too many of those places around, very few in fact. But a holiday destination for us should ideally be remote. We decided on a last minute trip to the Wild Coast – a beautiful, mostly rural region in South Africa that is still relatively undeveloped.
We left very early and drove through the Eastern Cape Homelands, passing through the busy city of Umtata – and almost having umpteen accidents along the way! I thought I’d experienced the worst driving in Mozambique, but the Kamikaze drivers around Umtata had us on the edge of our seats. The dead horse and cattle carcasses on the side of the road and the crimson-stained tar, were stark reminders for us to take it real slow!
In the late afternoon, we finally caught sight of the ocean in the far distance and meandered our way downwards, enjoying the quieter dirt road and friendly faces.
As we pulled into the little driveway, the rhythmic sound of pounding waves lulled us into ‘beach-mode’ and the salty air went straight to our head.
As the ocean so faithfully does, it worked its magic; bringing simplicity back and slowing us down to a comfortable pace – one that allows us to truly feel the moment.
Time became about ‘fishing,’ or about how long the fire needed before the coals were perfect for grilling, about afternoon naps and low tide or about when the dolphin pods were most playful.
For a week, there was nothing more pressing than to collect shells and drift wood, or to watch the sunrise, to catch a fish, to spend time together on the rocks, to examine sea urchins and sea anemones and to roll down sand dunes.
So many people have asked me, ‘Are we happy to have moved?’ Are we happy to be back in South Africa? I won’t lie! We really needed this holiday! I thought being able to send my kids to school, opposed to doing homeschooling would allow me plenty of time for coffee dates, photography and endless hours of writing. Instead we find ourselves entering the rat race, feeling a little out of breath only 100 metres in and still another thousand to go before we make our millions and retire comfortably at the age of 46! We’ve lived this ‘race’ before and I am well aware we simply need to ‘get fit’ for South Africa! It’s not that ‘expat’ life was slow. Oh no! I think my husband would vehemently disagree with that! It wasn’t about being busy or not busy. For goodness sake we’d travel 8 hours every week just for the kids to do swimming or ballet in Blantyre! But the big difference between here and there is that there were less choices.
There are so many choices here. Choices of friends, choices on how to spend your weekend, choices of what movie to watch, choices of activities, choices of places to go. Which restaurant shall we pick, what wine do you like, which supermarket do you shop at, do you prefer salmon-flavoured cream cheese or dill and mustard infused cream cheese with caramelized garlic? It just never ends! I’m sure most of you think, well hell woman – what are you complaining about? You’ve finally ‘arrived,’ you’re living every expats dream; a life full of choices! Most expat women would fly home once or twice a year, spend most of their savings and live the life of ‘choice’ for a blissful and expensive 2 weeks! And now I have it all, all the time!
“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
So I admit here, in front of you all…that I, Lianne Ashton, enjoyed having few choices. I enjoyed the simplicity of expat life. I enjoyed the challenge to ‘make it work’ with the few choices we had. We made friends with people from all walks of life; good friends with people 30 years older than us, some from very different backgrounds and with very different interests. And we also had to put up with the poop-holes because we lived so closely to them! As an expat, you made the best of the little you have. If you wanted sun-dried tomatoes, you made them yourself. You served chicken to your family that night for the fourth time because the beef looked frot in Shoprite! And if you ate ‘prawns’ in Malawi…my golly gosh, that would be something to write home about. Especially when you got food poisoning the following day… or was it the dodgy wine, I’m not sure?
That’s why this holiday was so important. Because going to the beach, effortlessly simplifies your day. It’s back to the basics and back to what really, really matters. The waves shut out the noise in your head and your family’s laughter and excitement at finding a beautiful sea shell, becomes the most important thing that happened that day.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates