One of the first questions many people ask when talking about my adventures is “Why are you doing this?” or “What is the purpose?”. I never seem to have a great answer lined up… if you’ve never had the urge to do what I do, then I don’t know how to describe the compulsion I have to explore. It’s something I can’t explain.
Is it nature or nurture that makes one’s appetite for seeing the bigger world, different from the next person?
Growing up in Zimbabwe, my father was a hard working man and whilst we never camped or went on many wild adventures as a family, he never treated me with girl gloves. Instead, he taught me to fix things, problem solve, make a plan, stand on my own two feet, remain calm in times of panic, get lost and find my way again and walk in the dark without being scared. I am the person I am today largely because of him.
I expect that my childhood may have been a little out of the ordinary. Growing up in Africa is an adventure in itself. We lived through the bush war, had to worry about rations and had regular bomb drills at school. Due to the nature of my father’s work, we moved around quite a bit and often lived in the middle of nowhere. So at the tender age of 7, I found myself in a Catholic boarding school where the only way to keep busy in the afternoons was to play sport and take long walks up the local koppie (small hill) behind the school. The nuns would teach us about the wildlife and plants, and I was in my element.
When I was 8, we lived on a farm and during the holidays, my sister and I would spend our time jumping from haystacks, building forts in the blue gum forest and riding our bikes for miles in to the fields and paddocks. That year, I asked my parents for a tent for my birthday. My wish came true and I became the owner of a canary yellow triangle framed tent which came with me into the garden at night and down to the dam when I took walks with my dog during the day. It still remains the best birthday present I have ever received.
My cousins lived in Botswana and we would visit them over the school holidays. Our family and friends would take trips out into the bush and braai (BBQ) in the dry river beds. The boys had motorbikes and we’d roar up and down on the dirt tracks. We’d always go with a second bike but on one particular trip, at age 9, I found myself separated from the others and a long way from our party. With darkness closing in, I spent the next hour or so trying to pin point where I might need to ride to but with hundreds of small tracks crisscrossing through the long grass, it was anyone’s guess. I eventually found my way back by retracing my tracks by matching the tread pattern on my tyre to the impressions left in the soft sand. It was slow going, but I found my way back in the end and was greeted by my fairly concerned parents.
In 1999, a group of seven of us set off from Pretoria and spent a few months hitchhiking around Southern Africa. But that is another story altogether….
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy
Topics to consider, debate and reflect on…