A six-month sabbatical
The fact that I was able to take six months off work to travel the world – and that it actually worked – still feels surreal. I am so grateful to the Pomegranite team for helping me make this happen.
I am also so grateful for the timing of it all. Out of six months, we only lost four days as the COVID-19 pandemic escalated and we cut things short to skid onto a hasty plane home. The last one out of São Paulo to South Africa, it turned out.
Sitting in lockdown, it feels almost impossible that we could have visited so many incredible places.
How do you even begin to go about summarising six months of memories, across three continents and 13 countries?
So, I decided to share one thing I learned from each country.
If you have six glorious months of travel stretching out in front of you, even if it’s something you’ve worked incredibly hard for, it’s weirdly hard to shake an underlying feeling of guilt. But sometimes, your life just is this-good-right-now. It won’t always be. So try and enjoy it.
Bonus lesson: sometimes ordering wine by the half-litre just makes the most financial sense.
Cake for breakfast and pizza for dinner is initially very exciting, but you will, e v e n t u a l l y, begin to crave spinach.
Rowing yourself across a lake, as opposed to joining a boatload of tourists, is sometimes half the price, but always twice the freedom. Knowing which option you prefer is very helpful.
If you would like a lesson in “setting the tone”, please refer to this indoor waterfall inside the Singapore airport. Welcome!
It’s possible to stay completely calm if, while 30m under the ocean, diving with thresher sharks, you knock your regulator out your mouth and have to retrieve it before you can continue breathing. Interestingly, your WTAFs can be delayed a couple hours when absolutely necessary.
This one comes from my very wise friend, Cassidy:
Your emotions can be much more extreme when you’re on the road. Something about being so unmoored perhaps. Emotions are also not to be trusted if you’re tired or hungry, or if a place vibrates at a different frequency to your own.
One of the best ways to suss the vibe of a new city is to wander the streets, find a bar or restaurant or café on a busy corner, choose a table outside, order a [your choice of beverage], sit down, and just watch the world unfold around you.
Sometimes you will see things like this:
Sometimes you will see things like this:
There are times when you need to not be too South African about things. There are times when this can be embarrassing as hell.
If you would like a more elaborate story, you can read about a fairly life-changing train journey here.
The first words you choose to learn in a foreign language, particularly when almost no one speaks English, can tell you a lot about yourself.
Thank you. Sorry! Excuse me. I don’t speak Spanish. Two beers please.
Related: I would like to send the inventor of Google translate a quiche or something.
Nothing – nothing – is more romantic than someone packing up camp in the middle of nowhere at 2am in the freezing cold pitch black, and driving you and your severe altitude sickness an hour and a half back down to the desert floor, stopping periodically for emergency oral evacuations.
In a single day, you can go from walking a landscape so dreamy you feel giddy, to being serenaded ALLNIGHTLONG by a kid on his iPad on a deathly overnight bus ride, which will deliver you early to your destination where you will have to wait for dawn in the corner of the station next to a man butchering the Titanic theme tune on homemade panpipes – and it will still be one of the best days of your life.
A bullet ant is so called because when it bites you it’s so sore it feels like you’ve been shot.
Giant river otters are so fierce that caimans (Amazonian crocodiles) swim away in terror when they hear them approaching (can confirm).
The wandering spider is the most venomous spider in the world. So venomous that it doesn’t even need to make webs. It just hunts.
You can know all this and still walk through the Amazon jungle at night, through knee-deep water, in the rain, and feel a sense of complete wonder. With just a tiiiiny little bit of fear in your pocket.
(In order to avoid painting all Amazonian creatures with the “scary” brush, please enjoy this picture of my absolute favourite, the spider monkey.)
Being on a remote peninsula while a global pandemic escalates at an alarming rate, making it worryingly difficult to make your way to an airport at speed, will drive many lessons home.
Wide open beaches are good places to go looking for your sanity.
You can pack a suitcase faster than you think.
Kindness matters. More than ever before.