I will always remember my first time in Cape Town, South Africa. The first time my toes touched the ice-cold waters of the Western Cape. So many feelings were wrapped up in this encounter, but if I could choose one word it would be freedom.
During this last year in Cape Town, I’ve simultaneously faced challenges and lived out a dream. It has been an incredibly enlightening experience, teaching me so much about myself, about life, love, relationships, and what it means to be present.
It seems most of us are caught up in our imaginations of what life could be. We live inside these dreams in our heads, but rarely act to make them reality. In our minds, the future looks like this amazing, happy place that is always just out of reach. But sometimes all it takes is to make a choice to do something, to make a change. Change can be scary. It can be hard. But every challenge in life points you toward your own freedom.
It’s important to surround yourself with people who do things, people who dream and do. One of the most important things I’ve learned is to make room in life for adventure, new experiences, the unknown. Embracing that which is uncertain with an open heart. And one of the best ways to do that is through travel. It is only by looking beyond what is right in front of you, by moving out of your comfort zone that you may begin to understand this amazing world we live in.
Cape Town is an unbelievably beautiful place, a place full of hope and opportunity. A hidden gem tucked away in the corner of a continent so vast and diverse, so far from where I grew up. But I feel now as though it is a part of me.
The dramatic cliffs and summits of Table Mountain – visible from almost anywhere in the city – and the stunning coastline have been burned in my memory. It has only been a couple of weeks since I’ve been gone and I already miss those things you take for granted: the view of Lion’s head at sunset from the balcony of my apartment, walking along the Sea Point promenade, spending the entire afternoon and evening at the beach until the sun dips into the ocean. The rich culture and diversity of people, the accents, the food, the music, the energy. Even the constant reminder that there are those who are much less fortunate, and that this struggle is a part of life too. A part of us. A reminder to be more forgiving, caring and aware of our surroundings. To love more.
I will miss the way the sun peaks over the mountain in the early mornings; waking up to that feeling that anything is possible. I will miss those late afternoon jogs to Camps Bay, hiking in the fabled Newlands Forest, and ordering Mr. Delivery or Andy’s sushi on Sunday nights as the moon rises and the city starts to cool down.
On warm nights, when the moon is shining above the sparkling city beside a darkened silhouette of Table Mountain, the energy of Cape Town can truly be felt. It feels like an ancient power coming from within the granite, the ocean, the earth. It feels like Africa.
But most of all I will miss the people. Never in my life have I felt so fortunate to cross paths with so many amazing people. The friendships I formed in Cape Town grew with the progressing and positive change I felt in my life and in my perceptions. I don’t think I’ve ever connected with people on such a profound level. Like I had known them all along. One girl in particular made an effort from the very beginning to invite me to everything. Her warmth and gentle persistence was flattering and welcome, leading to a bond that will forever be cemented in my heart.
I suppose leaving Cape Town is another one of life’s lessons in letting go, as will be leaving South Africa in a few weeks from now. Though it hurts, though it breaks my heart, I will take the memories and experiences of this journey with me. True friendships are timeless, unfettered by geographical distances and borders. I know that everything will still be there when I get back to Canada. It will be me who has changed.
My memory of those first moments in Cape Town will always be this: we had just finished eating a late breakfast; so late our only option was to eat at a café on the strip that served all-day breakfast. We shared a large banana milkshake and ate scrambled eggs at a small, plastic table on the sidewalk, intermittently grasping at our napkins blowing away by sudden gusts of wind. Afterwards, we walked along the beach, barefoot in the sand, our Canadian winter feet soft and pale.
As I approached the shoreline, the cool waves flooded over my ankles and looking out there was nothing but spectacular blue. The peaks of the Twelve Apostles towered behind me, overlooking the Atlantic peninsula against a sky blue sky.
He was almost up to his knees in the surf and his rolled-up jeans were getting soaked. The look on his face made me smile. He was home, and I don’t think I had ever seen him so happy. We walked further down the seashore hand in hand to where surfers bobbed upon their boards, waiting patiently for the perfect break on the shimmering surface. We stopped and lay down in the warm sand, the sun shining gloriously on our pale winter skin. And we looked at each other squinting from the rays, and smiled big smiles, from ear to ear.