I’m currently sitting on the plane about to take off from Cape Town and head home to Boston. My heart is heavy as a type this because I never thought I’d see the day where I actually had to come home. Life has been a dream these past 4 months and it’s one that I never thought I had to wake up from. Reality is starting to set in and I’m not at all sure that I’m ready for it. However, all good things must come to an end so you can appreciate how much they actually mean to you.
Is this a goodbye tribute to Cape Town? I’m not really sure. I’d like to think I will be back some day, and I’ll do everything in my power to make it happen, but if not, I know a piece of my heart will always be a part of this country. The past few days I have been reflecting on my time here and what made it so special. I certainly enjoyed the majestic scenery that I got to see on a daily basis, the $2 tequila shots, and I suppose petting a lion was pretty awesome, but all of that is just the tip of the iceberg. The question that remains is, how exactly do I define my time in Cape Town? I have been struggling to find the answer to that.
Most of us travel to find ourselves. We travel because we crave something new, something exciting, and something that puts our lives into perspective. We travel to make ourselves feel whole. Why stay in one spot when there’s so much more out there to explore? When I left Boston in January, I sat on the plane and thought about what I wanted to get out of this trip. I knew that I would never have the opportunity to do something like this again, so I wanted to make the most out of it. I made a bucket list of things I wanted to see and do, most of which I checked off. But at the end of my list, I wrote, “Become a better version of yourself. “
So, that was my mission. I didn’t want to be glued to my iPhone anymore, I didn’t want to involve myself in drama, and I didn’t want to let people stand in the way of who I wanted to be. I wanted to show the real me. The me that I don’t always get to show at home.
The magic about going abroad is that you can decide to be whoever you want to be. You start with a clean slate. You get to decide how you want people to see you as. People don’t know your past and judge you solely based on the time you spend together. My first week living with my roommates I was certainly nervous. Here I was, a naïve, typical social-media obsessed girl from America surrounded by a people who speak multiple different languages and who seemed much more intellectual than I was. Most of them didn’t care for the latest Kardashian scandal or what the WiFi password was. Rather than debating over what cheap alcohol to get, they debated over complex political ideas. I thought to myself, “Great, these people are going to hate me.”
Initially, I thought that I was going to have to try hard to have these people like me. I felt like I fell into the stereotype of a “typical American” and I tried to hard to escape it. As the weeks passed, I realized that I didn’t really need to try at all. I developed a bond with each of my roommates, without having to change really anything about myself. I wasn’t just a typical American. There are more layers to me than that, and it was a pretty cool thing to be surrounded by people who bring out the deeper side of you. The side that makes you want to put down the iPhone and just enjoy life. The side that makes you realize what truly matters and the side that makes life so much more meaningful. Here I was, living with 8 strangers who I have come to find out know me better than I know myself. They all had such a big part in helping me find out who I wanted to be.
I guess the biggest thing that Cape Town taught me was the importance of living for yourself. I’m only 21, and I am far from having my life all figured out. I often find myself trying to picture where I will be in 5 or 10 years, which I think is pretty normal, but I never really think in the present. So I let myself get lost in other people and try to picture how the present can work into my future. Sometimes this can be OK, but other times it’s important to just live with no expectations, escaping the familiar and immersing yourself into something totally different and unexpected. If you hold on too tightly to something because it’s all you’ve ever known, than you could miss out on things that could impact your life in the most beautiful ways possible.
You know those people that just make you feel good? The people who make you smile even in complete silence? Surround yourself with those people. Surround yourself people that make you happy to be you and appreciate you for who you are. Surround yourself with people that make looking at clouds and walking through gardens seem like the most incredible thing in the world. Surround yourself with people that give the word “love” a real meaning. Surround yourself with people that make you a better version of yourself, and bring out the side of you that often gets hidden by the complexities of life. Like I said, I’ve done some pretty amazing things here in Africa, but I think it’s the simple things that made the trip that it was. I can climb mountains, walk to the grocery store, and go to the beach basically anywhere in the world, but it’s what you make of these simple things that gives it meaning.
As for traveling, do it. Travel while you can. It’s OK to fear the unknown, but it’s only when we explore the unknown where we find the true beauty of life. Travel to find yourself. Home will always be home, but life certainly isn’t meant to be lived in one place. See what else is out there and I can promise you that the world won’t disappoint you. I certainly haven’t been everywhere that I want to go but I have every intention of getting there. I have found that it’s often the unexpected that can give you the greatest pleasure.
So, thank you, Cape Town, for providing me with so many laughs, memories, and people that have truly changed my life forever. Thank you for showing me that life is a precious gift and the importance of exploration and adventure. Thank you for showing me that life isn’t meant to be all planned out at such a young age.
Don’t settle for anything that holds you back from doing what you want to do. Live for yourself. Be selfish. Surround yourself with people who crave the same type of adventure that you do. Explore the world. And, most importantly, always strive to be a better version of yourself.
I’m not quite ready to wake up from this dream yet, but I know it’s time to. I’m not sure what the future holds back in the states, and I’m OK with that. It’s pretty crazy how being away has changed my outlook on the future. I came here so certain of what I wanted for myself, but certain people and certain experiences have totally changed that. The future isn’t set in stone so don’t let yourself think that it is. Whatever is meant to be, will be, and until then, I’m going to try my best to get myself into more crazy adventures and see where life takes me.
To everyone who made this trip what it was: thank you, you’re all incredible people and I will forever hold onto the hope that our paths will cross again some day. I love you endless amounts
Become a better person?: Check.