The last time I wrote a post like this, it was titled why I moved to South Africa in a hurry. It was about how I fell in love, moved halfway across the world and set up a home in Cape Town. A city I have always loved visiting, but never expected to live. Yet here I am less than a year later, telling you why I am leaving Africa. And what a wild year it has been.
I won’t bore you with a recap of this year. I think the phrase “twenty-twenty” has earned itself a mandatory eye roll without further mention or detail. But what I will say to give you an idea the direction of this journal entry will take is this. There are two major factors that determine your days and how you spend them: time and place. Everything else – just – is.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
I’ve always had this uncanny desire to follow my heart. It has led me to more than 70 countries across the globe and every continent with the exception of Antarctica. For more than eight years I have lived almost exclusively out of a suitcase… crossing country borders, sleeping in airports and navigating visas at border crossings.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Travel has taught me everything I know. It has made me more patient, understanding of other cultures and appreciative of my own. It has taught me time management, crisis aversion (after many missed flights) and how to manage my emotions. But there comes a time where you seek change. That’s why I moved to South Africa ~ to settle down and call somewhere home.
Why it didn’t work out
When I moved to South Africa in November of last year, I planned on staying indefinitely. At the very least, I thought I would be here for a few years. But I also was in a rush to move over here, having been in a relationship with a South African who couldn’t live in Australia without undertaking a two year visa process. For the time it took to get his visa, we figured I could live here in his country. The only problem being: it would take two years for me to get a residency permit to live here, too.
I would live in South Africa on a tourist visa, exiting the country every three months. Given my job is to travel the world, it didn’t seem like that would be too hard. Plus, my American friend Kiki had been doing it for three years. I figured if it worked for her, it could work for me too.
Then, of course, Covid-19 happened.
Suddenly borders were closing and I had to make a pretty quick decision. To stay or to go? Of course the biggest consideration would be living in a different country to my partner for the foreseeable future – but I wasn’t too worried about that. We had spent the first six months of dating with distance between us, knowing we could make it through.
However, since I had only moved over a few months prior and spent a small fortune furnishing a house, I figured I would ride the wave. I had only just entered the country for another three months, which effectively restarted my time in the country. Surely by then, the world would return to some kind of normal. How naive I was.
The greatest gift you can give yourself
So I swallowed my pride. I started listing everything I owned – furniture, clothes, shoes – on gumtree. I gave notice on my lease and knew in three months time I would need to get a flight home.
The flights I booked were cancelled within days of departure. I won’t go into detail but just know that going home was not a straight-forward option (if you’re interested in knowing why check out my CNN interview). Australia introduced flight caps to limit the number of flights entering the country and limit how many passengers could be on board. Cancellation after cancellation occurred and I suddenly realised how badly I wanted to go home.
There’s a huge shift that occurs when you realise you can’t go home.
Not just to your family and friends, but to health care, your government’s protection, and everything you know as a way of life. The magic of living overseas wore off pretty quickly through the hard 100-day lockdown in South Africa. I barely left the house in three months, save for a trip to the supermarket each week.
Swallowing my pride and saying things didn’t go according to plan was the greatest gift I could give to myself.
The truth is, I want to go home. I want to be in my home country, around everyone I love, in a stable home environment. Not just because of the pandemic, but it certainly has cast a magnifying glass on that fact.
If I learned anything this year it was that it is okay to act on love. But the moment you realise you don’t love yourself or the life you have created, that is when you really have to be honest with yourself. A relationship is but one factor in your life. You really need to feel love from so many other places if you ever want to be happy.
Follow along on Instagram to see my journey home.