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  • Writer's pictureJo

Two roads one journey

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

In a week and a half it’ll be a year since I left the comfort of my warm home in South Africa and the people that hold me close. A year. The plan was to travel for that time. I was to visit Europe, the UK, America, Australia and then venture home. I got as far as England. Hannibal Smith from the A-team used to say “I love it when a plan comes together.” Well… sometimes, I love it when a plan comes apart.

What I’ve learnt in the past year is that sometimes the right things happen when everything goes wrong. Sometimes it’s better to go with the flow than force something that you’ve planned. Sometimes the flow takes you on an adventure where you’ll learn new things, meet different people and get stretched in fresh directions.

Now it hasn’t been an easy journey by any means. And often I question where I am and why I’m here. Being a foreigner in an established culture can be really hard. As nice as people are to me, I never really fit in. I sound funny, I dress a little different, I squeal when I taste new things or catch a glimpse of snow, I use unfamiliar words and my experiences don’t quite match all the cultural norms of my current home.

Here, in some ways I’m a little rough around the edges and in others I’m painfully conservative, naïve even. I am not from here, or of here. I don’t fully belong. Yet here I am. There are moments when I just want to feel normal, accepted, ‘the same’. And then there are moments when it’s lovely to stand out and be interesting ‘just because’. Life has become a complex blend of missing the people I love and loving the people who’ve been added to my life. And in my heart, I know now that I’ve made two homes, my life will always be torn between these places and the people that make them special.

There’s a little Southern Hemisphere knowing ‘uh huh’ I hear uttered by other Saffas, Aussies and Kiwis when I say I only came here for a visit and have already stayed longer than I planned. One came for a year and stayed 14. Another came for 6 months and is pushing 4 years. Everyone I meet who is ‘like me’ has a story that brought them away from home and another story that shares how they carry home with them.

How long will I stay so far away? I don’t know. I miss home. It's the moments I’ve lost that I’ll never get back. The passing of loved ones. My grandpas. Not saying goodbye. The momentous moment we lost Tata Mandela. Not mourning with my nation. My mom being ill. So very ill. My best friend moving cities, missing my helping hands and the embrace of my arms (not to mention my exceptional tea). I’ve filled my moments with new ones. Like many foreigners I’ve found a base that holds me up. We share the same boat and the same tears. Some of us even share the same history. We have built bonds that will last a lifetime.

When I look at where I am today and smile with contentment, my heart is full. But the complexity remains, with something new - I miss the old, the familiar. Even though I’ve changed so much. I’ve gotten over things. Through things. I’ve learnt new things about myself. I’ve become tough. So damn tough. I’ve become sensitive. I’ve hurt. Oh my, have I hurt! I’ve cried. I’ve sobbed my heart out. I’ve laughed till my tummy ached. I’ve healed. Truly healed. I’ve learned to love again. Myself.

When my two roads diverged in a yellow wood. I’m glad I took the road less travelled by. It has made all the difference. But unlike Robert Frost I seek to find a way to travel both. I imagine I’ll be seeking for some time…

First published 18 June 2014, on Used with permission.

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