Leave It All Behind …

When I was a kid whose world was the distance between home and school, and the rest of the globe seemed more a theory than fact – I had always loved adventure movies. I dreamed of one day getting lost deep in some jungle with nothing but my Rambo knife and a sexy sidekick who’d always wear revealing clothes. We would meet lost tribes and use our body heat to keep each other warm on cold and rainy nights.

I was just a kid then, and the rule that I had to be back home for bath time by four o’clock kept my wild fantasies of world discovery in check. So I went through life like most of us do: I went to school. I studied. I got a job. All this is to ensure that I get the room with the best view at the old age home. And I was well on my way. At 18, I got an internship at The Jupiter Drawing Room. At 19, I shot my first ad with a R1.5m budget. Two years later, I was a ‘senior’ writer. I had the apartment I’d dreamt of for years. And things promised to only get better. Clichéd as it may be, I felt like there was something missing. Something wasn’t right about all of it. I was waking up asking myself what the hell I was doing. The scary thing was I couldn’t even answer myself. I had always known what I was doing and why I was doing it. There was a greater purpose. But the dream seemed blurred and almost invisible.img_1449.jpg
One night in August 2009, I had an epiphany. It was a realisation so clear and undeniable that I knew what I had to do. The next day I resigned from my job. I had no plans. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I just knew that this wasn’t it. Not any longer, at least. People kept asking me what I was going to do. I honestly didn’t know. I just kept saying maybe I’ll travel. Some friends and I had wanted to take a trip to Thailand so that was an option. I’d also always wanted to go to India. On the globe, which still seemed more of a speculation than an exact science,

I saw how ‘close’ Thailand and India were. So I thought, ‘Hey! I could go from Thailand to India, via Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China and Nepal. Easy!’ So I got my passport, booked my tickets to Thailand, returning from India.

Within a month, I was jobless, alone, and on a plane to Bangkok with no specific plans. I convinced myself that this was the best way. No plans equals adventure. And, true to my one-and-only New Year’s resolution, I was making my nine-year-old self very happy. There I was, this 22-year-old South African boy, who grew up bathing in i-vaskom, now travelling across Asia.nIt’s important to note at this point that I was in no way brave. Courage is when you do something even though you are scared. I wasn’t scared. Therefore I wasn’t courageous. A more fitting word would be ‘delusional’. But I did it. I was in Bangkok with some South African friends I had bumped into on the plane.

We listened to blues bands playing in the bars of Kao San Road and watched dodgy sex shows in Pat Pong. We took 10-hour train trips across the beautiful landscape of lush grass planes, rice fields and palm trees. We tasted exotic foods in buzzing night markets. We arrived at Koh Tao, an island so beautiful I had to catch myself and absorb the magnitude of what I was doing exactly.

I met people from England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Moldova, Israel and Nepal. I watched the sun rise and set on a beach so picturesque it was surreal. I snorkeled in waters so blue, surrounded by hundreds of extravagantly coloured fish and shy black tip reef sharks. I went back Bangkok, then to Cambodia with an Ethiopian-born Frenchman, where I saw the historical city of Angkor Wat. I returned to Bangkok and partied with my new-found German and Argentinean friends. We hung out with girls from Sweden, Japan, Ireland and the States. We drank copious amounts of Chang Beer from Chang-rise (sunset) to Chang-set (sunrise). I made my way through Cambodia to Vietnam, Ho Chi Min City. There I had a drink and a blunt with a Nigerian prostitute. I had a crazy night out with a Russian by the name of Timur and his beautiful Russian model lady friends. The Argentineans caught up, and we carried on our boozing and lady-chasing night through to Mui Ne, where we met up with some Russian girls who got us really drunk. Then we went further north to Hoi An then to Hanoi. I saw the majestic ocean cliff of the Ha Long Bay.
Then I flew to Kuala Lumpur. Three nights later, I was landing in Dehli, India. I hated it. So I went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. What a mesmerising and inspiring site. Absolutely ‘mind-blasting’ (said in Indian accent). A 28-hour train ride later, I was finally at the beaches of Goa. I spent my days swimming, kayaking, going to silent parties and smoking hashish with a Kazak couple who taught me how to sing a song I liked in Russian. I’ll never forget this trip. It wasn’t anything like I had imagined it would be, but it was amazing beyond anything I could have created in my mind. We all need to do it. Whatever ‘it’ is for you. It could be to travel. It could be to fly a helicopter. It could be that you’ve always wanted to star on Generations as Karabo’s manservant. It has to be done. Your nine-year-old self needs it. Growing up isn’t about leaving your childhood fantasies behind. I think adulthood is your opportunity to take your dreams and make them real.
We all need to travel. You realise that borders are a null and void illusion of a colonial past. You get to truly appreciate that we are all in it together. You’ll gain an immense belief in what you can achieve. I mean, if all I had was a nine-year-old’s dream to make me travel across Asia, I’ll keep dreaming. And right now I’m dreaming of South America. It’s gonna happen.


Writer: Loyiso madinga