italy

Train travel

There are no coincidences

My 2013 New Year’s Eve was spent jamming to Pit Bull in an Italian Postal Warehouse in Milan. The night became a patched memory that led to me walking around with bare arms in the height of winter. This in turn led to an extended sick spree over the next 3 days which I bravely overcame with an adventurous trip to the capital city. I packed my bags and my meds and headed to Rome to fulfil my life-long desire of seeing the ancient relics with my own eyes.

party

On the 4th of Jan 2013, I threw one euro over my left shoulder into the Trivia Fountain and, instead of making a wish, made a declaration. 2013 would be my year. I would meet and keep great friends. I would prove that I was capable of independence. I would live it believing in myself. In my talents. In my dreams. In my beliefs. And believing that my beliefs would carry me towards amazing things.

Here’s a little overview of how 2013 has easily been one of the greatest successes in the history of Lelanie:

  • I got my first job.
  • I quit my first job.
  • I ran back to Italy for love. Though love often goes lost, any instance of it is a little gift from the heavens to remind us that we are worthy of sacrifice and deserve to be treated as kings.
  • I spent my European summer on the shores of Lake Como and Liguria reading English classics that taught me that there is no such thing as coincidence. That every instance of life is part of a vast plan. And that every second we endure on Earth is one that affects the next and leads us to the realisation that we are part of a larger cosmos of meaning and are all intricately connected in this infinite cycle of life.
  • I came back to South Africa and got my second job which has led to a permanent position at one of the leading global advertising agencies in the world. I spend my days writing about things that matter, things that I care about, and things that make people laugh enough to make their days seem a bit brighter. Most importantly, I spend my days doing what I love most in life – writing.

And all of this came from that one moment when I made a truce to myself that I would make this the best year yet. That I would tackle the heartaches and the disappointments and fight until I get where I know I can be.

I spent my last Christmas eating reindeer in Oliva Gessi, Pavia, Italy, with my Italian replacement family. I drank sparkling wine in Bascape with my replacement cousins and spent a good couple of days dodging snow on the ski slopes of San Sicario. I battled the cold with hot chocolate and a frequent shot of grappa in my coffee. And flamed sugar cubes soaked in alcohol.

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Right now we’re planning our Christmas Eve dinner in Cape Town while sipping on Castle Lite next to the swimming pool. I don’t know who you thank for the great things that happen in your life, but I have had many prayers protecting mine and the only person I can thank is the Man who I will be celebrating on Christmas day. Buon Natale. Geseënde Kersfees. iMerri Krismisi. 2013, out.

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sunset from lion's head

Cape Town to Namibia – 4147km in 7 days

Often in life, I am overwhelmed by this strange wave of excitement. It’s as if it enters through my eyes and travels through my veins to make my fingertips tickle. It’s a toe-curling bum-tickling joy that hits me like a caffeine trip. Makes me smile. Makes me want to live. Makes me yearn to run up mountains. Swim in the ocean. Eat a zebra.

Two weeks ago, my sister, who had been living in the Cayman Islands for 15 months, finally returned home, just a couple of days before I came back from Italy. It would be less than a week before she had to leave again to travel to Windhoek for a friend’s wedding. By car? Roadtrip? Cross-country roadtrip? I invited myself. I also accidentally got invited to the wedding in the end. Visited our long-lost cousin in Swakopmund. Saw my gran.  Ate too much biltong. Drank my fair share of wine. And Tafel Lager. And Jägermeister…

I saw the sun set over the desert. Discovered the source of a rainbow. Crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. Recreated my mother’s wedding photo in the Windhoek Botanical Gardens. Laughed ‘til my guts hurt. Reconnected with family. Crawled up Dune 7. Almost rode a camel.

100 Days in Italy

I guess I haven’t written anything in a while because I’ve been too busy trying to participate. A friend once told me that leaving your job is worse than breaking up with your boyfriend. This very true and very discomforting fact has illuminated itself in my life and I guess I’m experiencing effects far more advanced than a simple break-up.

vespas italy

I packed up and moved my entire life to Italy. I left my friends and my family and my pets and my comfort at home and I ventured into the unknown abyss of “the other side of the world”. I knew no-one here. I knew no Italian words and I knew almost nothing about the culture and traditions and untimely public holidays these people celebrate. The little research I did regarding my new city became a complete waste of time and for the first two weeks here, I felt like an alien. Living in the fashion capital, I was suddenly particularly conscious of what I was wearing, how slowly I was walking, how strange my accent was to these people. It was very exciting and illuminating, but at the same time, I felt secluded. I felt different and I felt out of place.

Over time, I started feeling a stronger connection to the world around me. I started reading O Aleph by Paulo Coelho, which tracks his journey through Russia by train. Unable to communicate with the locals and surrounded by new and strange things, I felt less lonely for the first time in 2 weeks. It was as if he were hugging me through his book – a hug I was in dire need of, having only been kissed on the cheeks by various strangers ever since I arrived. What he made me realize was that I, in fact, was not a stranger. I was not a foreigner. Because we are all traveling. We are all full of the same questions, the same tiredness, the same fears, the same selfishness and the same generosity. Every day, life here became easier.

I made the decision of momentarily breaking contact with the ones back home. Since we so often become imprisoned by our memories, they tend to make our lives wretched, even if we have everything we need in order to be happy. You have to stop thinking about what you’ll tell people afterwards. The time is here. The time is now.

By this time, I started making friends with people from all over the world – Americans, Australians, Germans, people from Sweden, from Czech Republic, England, and I even found myself some beautiful South African friends. Apart from that, I found the Italians to be an incredibly friendly, approachable race, and had been invited along with some Italian friends to various exciting places. Even if I didn’t understand much of what they were saying, the thought of them including me made me feel like I could finally understand everything.

Though I was alone and had to face most of every day all by myself, I had found a support base that made those tough moments and decisions so much easier to face. By week 5, I had decided that home was no longer what it used to be. This was home now. And what used to be home seemed to never have been home. Because if it was, I would never have left.

I learnt to be independent. To fend for myself. To be myself. To pluck up the courage to start a fight with a dishonest cashier. But the biggest lesson learnt is that a place is only as good as the people in it. If it weren’t for the many friends I made, the precious bottles of wine we shared, and the ridiculous nights some of us will never remember, this entire experience would’ve been half the trip of a lifetime it turned out to be.

Live,
travel,
adventure,
bless,
and don’t be sorry.
– Jack Kerouac