I’m in a lovely city in Belgium and I’m in love with it. The architecture is awe-inspiring the old and the new side-by-side so naturally, it is as though things were built that way.
This is St Niklaas Kerk (or St Nicholas’s Church), built in the 12th century. St Niklaas was the patron saint of the sailors and merchants, who raised the money to build this incredible and impressive looking church. It’s built in the Scheldt Gothic style, its splendour showing off the wealth and power of the merchants.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
The presencing I feel when I travel is like an addictive drug allowing me to be in the present, leaving me wanting more. Its fleeting nature allows it to pass into the archives of the past, reluctantly escaping into the safety of memory.
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
I have the memories, tucked away in my heart, the experiences stored in my body and the photos stored on computer hard drives, bringing the past into the here and now.
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous
I am curiously aware of others’ experiences – what they are seeing that makes them take a photo of a particular scene, what they are hearing that makes them turn around to look at another scene and what they are feeling that gives them the freedom to strike silly poses in an effort to make the moment memorable.
“Photos bring the past into the here and now.” – Regina Martins
Remind me to never again take 3 flights in a 24-hour period. The last time I did this was in 2011 returning to South Africa from a trip to the US.
Sacramento – Minnesota – Atlanta – Johannesburg.
By the time I got on the Delta flight to Johannesburg I was tired and sick. I took some pain meds, told the flight attendants to please keep my food warm (vegetarian special meal) because I needed to sleep awhile.
This was probably the best sleep I’ve had on a plane, thanks to the meds. I don’t make a habit of this though. The only muti I take is echinacea for the blurgies. I’d rather sleep it off when I arrive at my destination. I find that melatonin helps me deal with jet lag and flight exhaustion although I forgot to bring it this time around.
Anyway, the Delta flight attendants were so kind! When I woke up, dinner service had been over a long time since. I walked to the galley to ask for dinner and in a few minutes, the tray of food was placed in front of me.
Johannesburg – Frankfurt – Barcelona – Lisbon.
That was yesterday. Not wanting a repeat of the 2011 trip, I made sure that I ate regularly, kept hydrated, and made a deliberate effort to remain relaxed. Oh yes, and I took some Gaba (gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter) which helps relieve the anxiety I feel when I travel.
Like all flights I didn’t sleep well – perhaps 2 or 3 hours of fitful sleep.
These are the habits I’ve adopted to make long-haul flights bearable:
I always select my seats at the time of booking so that I am either on the aisle or have extra legroom. This is important to me and I will pay extra for this.
I like to start taking Gaba 2 days before traveling. It helps deal with the anxiety I feel when I travel.
I eat all the time, in small bits. I carry nuts and dried fruit with me. When I arrive on the other side I seem to crave fruit, so if I’m in transit I go in search of fruit and yogurt.
On the flight I quaff copious amounts of orange juice and water – I find that in the dry environment of the plane, the tartness of the orange juice is something my body asks for.
Take liberal amounts of echinacea (this is in my little 100ml plastic bag of liquids allowed through security.
Keep melatonin handy – for after the flight, to get my sleep cycles operating normally again.
It may seem that I rely a lot on nutraceutical supplements – yes I do – and it’s better than relying on sleeping tablets or such like.
I spent many years traveling to Namibia on projects and came to really enjoy the country. It is beautiful. It is a land of contrasts with scenery that leaves one open-mouthed in wonder.
When I changed companies 5 or so years ago I stopped coming to Namibia, and I’ve missed it. Now I’m back for a short holiday. I wondered if it was going to feel different, as so often things do when one tries to recreate a feeling or experience. And I can honestly say that it feels just as good as it did 5 years ago. This country grounds me.
It takes 2 hours by plane to arrive in Windhoek. Half-way through the flight things become very turbulent as the plane encounters fluctuations created by the rising of the hot desert air which creates thermal bubbles.
Coming into Windhoek’s airport – the Hosea Kutako International Airport – for the first time can be very alarming. Especially if you’re a tourist from Europe or America. Because there is just deserted scrubland and steppes, it looks like the plane is about to land in the middle of nowhere. I have, on many occasions, witnessed the alarmed looks on tourists’ faces as the plane comes in to land, thinking that the pilot is making an emergency landing! After the turbulence of the descent, they can be excused for thinking that :-)! Relief floods their faces when they see that the plane is actually landing on tar and not on sand.
The airport is about 45 kms east of Windhoek and the drive in to the city is starkly beautiful. Immediately striking for me are the colours of the land. The gradations of colour in the mountains – greys to browns to violet and then to pink as it meets the azure of the clear sky – grounds me immediately, making me feel close to nature. In fact, wherever one is in Namibia, one is close to nature.
After spending Wednesday visiting all my old Windhoek haunts (and a shopping trip to Maerua Mall) I started the drive to Swakop on Thursday morning. I could’ve flown directly to Walvis Bay but deliberately chose to come the long way. From Windhoek to Swakopmund is a 4 hour drive, and one of my favourite road trips of all time. I have done it 5 times, most of them on my own. One can drive for 20 kms without meeting another car. It is a time for thinking and reflection. I drove most of the way listening Linkin Park’s Living Things playing rather loudly, lost in my thoughts.
I will always remember the first time I drove to Swakop in 2005. It was in a Toyota Condor, a huge vehicle for one person but that’s all Avis had. I remember nervously looking at the petrol gauge every 10 minutes or so because it moved very fast DOWN towards EMPTY. I left Windhoek at noon on a Friday and wanted to get in before sunset. I was naturally nervous about running out of petrol in the middle of nowhere so I played it safe and topped up at each of the only 2 small towns on the way – Usakos and Karibib. If I ran out of petrol I’d be spending the night in the car. I made it in just as the sun was setting and it was spectacular. Some of my best sunset photos have been taken in Swakopmund.
This time I am visiting a dear friend who lives there. Today, it is windy and cool outside, the sky is clear. Yesterday evening we went for a walk to the beach and back. This morning we’ve been for coffee and shopping for the braai tonight. Despite having been warned, I came totally unprepared for the chill. My friend says that winters are warm in Swakopmund and springs are cold.
It’s good to be back. It will not be the last time. In fact, I may even move here one day :-)! Now, where’s that property section of the paper…
Social Entrepreneur, chief wide eyed in wanderer, wonderer and bottlewasher