My most recent post, “Home“, was quite popular and I received lots of positive feedback. It seems that many people are interested in the many places where we’ve made our home. I thought I would follow up with the second half of the phrase: “… and away!”.
Almost everything that I’ve shared in this blog, is somehow connected to being “away”. It must be obvious to all of you by now, that my family and I really enjoy (or exploit?) that state of mind. It’s not only about being on a holiday somewhere, lying on a beach or whatever. (Though I would REALLY love to be on a beach somewhere, right now!) No, it must also be about exploring new horizons, visiting places for the first time.
A dictionary entry describes the adverb “away” as “to or at a distance from a particular place, person, or thing” and this seems to make sense, in general.
The first obvious issue to consider is that being “away” requires distance from a place, person, or object. For a family that moves around the world so much, and that is currently based in different countries, this makes the issue complicated. I’d like to explore that idea a little.
Sometimes I wonder why so many of us spend time, effort and money to make our homes comfortable, but then go off on holiday to smaller accommodations, to chalets, caravans and tents, in other locations. For thousands of years, our ancestors have left their relatively comfortable caves and shelters (and their rock art depicting hunting scenes and so on) and migrated to other parts of the world. Perhaps driven by climate change – “Winter is coming!”, etc. (If you are interested in this sort of thing, I can really recommend “Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of our Ancestors“, by Nicholas Wade. But this is a different topic.)
And yes, it is true, my family and I have also migrated away from our original homes (more than once) towards new homes in other countries.
In this particular post, however, I want to focus more on the very modern trend (well, for the last couple of hundred years, I guess) to go visiting other parts of the world, purely for interest, or for relaxation. (Refer to that picture taken on Holbox, above.)
Many of us go on annual holidays, or go away for long weekends. Sometimes to favourite spots, sometimes to new places. During my childhood, my parents, who had already moved away from the country of their own birth, often took us on annual December holidays to Cape Town and surrounding areas, and on shorter trips to the Kruger National Park or the mountains of the Eastern Transvaal.
These childhood holiday trips set the scene for the rest of my life. After I grew up and after starting our own family, our own family holidays have included camping trips to the beach, a few all-inclusive weeks in island resorts and also road trips with nothing booked in advance. It is difficult to say which of these are preferable, I like the variety.
We complicated the situation late in 1994, when we left South Africa and moved to Ghana. In the years before that, we had moved between different towns and cities in South Africa, but leaving to Ghana was REALLY “going away” from home. But only for a few months, because then Accra in Ghana became home and everywhere else was “away”, including trips back to South Africa.
After we moved from Ghana to the Netherlands, our first European family holiday was a trip down to the south of France, all five of us together in a small Toyota Carina. Our group comprised 2 adults and 3 almost-adults, which meant that we had to institute a rotation system for occupying the luxurious front passenger seat and the cramped back seat, swapping every couple of hours. It was an interesting experience, and it was fun, but I’m quite sure that none of us want to repeat that exact mode of travel!
There are people for whom “Away” and “Home” are the same thing. There’s a growing population of “Vanlifers” who have sold most of their property, put the remainder in storage, and travel around in a camper van or a converted schoolbus or something like that. Social media is full of examples, and of people who manage to live “off the grid” (though not off the internet, haha…) and who always appear to be in very idyllic settings. Here’s one couple that I like to “follow around” digitally, and I must admit that I’m jealous that we can’t do that physically: Haven’s Path.
We have done quite a bit of travelling, as I’m sure you will have noticed if you follow this blog, and we do have stuff in storage back in The Netherlands, while we are based here in Zambia. Somewhere in our own future, I hope, there’s still a trip around the continent of Europe in a camper van…
People may ask: Why do we do it? Why do we go camping or stay in tiny apartments somewhere, dragging along a selection of our stuff in bags and suitcases, especially since we all have perfectly good homes to live in, with flush toilets, hot and cold running water and soft beds. Then we trade these for places with mosquitoes or campsites with spiders. Still, it must be that sense of discovery, the curiosity about what lies around the next bend in the road, or over the next hill, that drives us.
You might be surprised to hear that this is not just a fascination with dramatic natural scenery, or historical locations. We also find it interesting to walk on a pavement in some town, peer into shop windows, to try some local dishes in a restaurant. Even going into a foreign shop or supermarket, exploring the items on sale there, translating (or deciphering) descriptions on packaging, etc. Yes, crazy, I know. But it all adds to the rich variety of experiences that the world has to offer. It would be a pity to not enjoy as many of these as possible.
I would like to hear from you – what are your own ideas about being “away”? What version of this do you like, or perhaps you don’t like it at all and prefer to stay home?