It takes eleven hours on a direct flight from Cape Town to get to London. In the big scheme of things, that is a very short time to go from one world to another. Therein lies the beauty of travel. If you have the means or work for an international company, you get to see how other people live.
With fascination, I love to watch people as they go about their daily lives, notice what newspapers and magazines they read, what coffee shops they frequent, what trains they take, how they dress and how they speak to one another. It is a rich experience and I do my best to act like a local as far as possible.
Having lived in Europe for a year many moons ago, I can look back with nostalgia. The main question I now ask myself is, did I feel like I belonged there or did I feel like an outsider? Honestly, I felt like a belonged in Europe and made good friends with those on my law course. I did miss my dear boyfriend back home who soon became my fiance but he never cramped my style by making me feel as though I should return to South Africa. Plus, he was being put to the ultimate test back home: caring for my two rescue cats. He passed summa cum laude, hence I married him!
What makes a person feel like they belong somewhere which is not that person’s home country or country of association? I ask this question because it is surely something a refugee asks him/herself? With the refugee crisis in Africa and in Europe, will it ever be possible for these people, once and if settled, to feel like they belong?
My husband and I are fortunate in that should we ever choose to live abroad, it will be our choice. It will not involve a hazardous sea voyage and we will not be leaving a place of war (admittedly it does feel like a civil war living in South Africa). With an EU passport, a European degree, no offspring of my own, a UK bank account and wanderlust, we are a perfect couple to pack our bags, bundle-up the animals and head for the northern hemisphere.
The question is: will we do it? I do not know. What will be the final push for us to leave? These are all questions that get stuck in my busy head. Does one think with the heart or the head on this? Is it the little things or the big things that gives one the glue and feeling of being home?
The little things refers to knowing your vet on a first names basis, having household help (heaven forbid I have to figure-out how to use the new vacuum cleaner), having access to tools to fix whatever breaks and an affordable lifestyle. These can become big things when the ease of one’s daily life is challenged.
As a rather unsociable human, what will also be key for me is being able to have a warm nest (i.e home) with no burglar bars, my husband and animals hovering nearby, a mentally satisfying job, a beautiful park nearby and enough funds to live as an adult and not a student. I yearn for simplicity where I do not have to pay someone to clean my rubbish bin, pay for an alarm system linked to our own CCTV, pay for armed response, pay for our recycling to be collected, pay taxes to a defunct government, pay to replace stolen windsreen wipers and have a bunch of house keys so big, I need a large handbag.
In short, I am not after utopia. I am after a streamlined existence where my worries are limited to a bus strike where there is no torching of buses, whether M&S will have edamame beans on sale and whether the daffodils and tulips will flower. I call this: headspace!