For a year I have been living my dream.
For a year, I have met the most incredible local people. I have been touched by the kindness offered, the smiles shared, the heartfelt waves. I have teased with the guides, laughed with the market sellers and listened to people’s stories. We have shared tea with some, meals with others. We have been given food to take with us on our way. We have been helped when we didn’t know which way to turn, and offered beds in homes of recently met people.
For a year, I have met the most amazing fellow travellers, kindred spirits. Some are travelling for a few weeks, some are travelling for many many months. Some are using public transport, some are in vehicles and some are bravely exploring on bicycles. And almost everyone is generous with their time, their company, their knowledge, their smiles, their hugs, their laughter – dished out liberally according to need. I have loved the openness and generosity that travellers share – no hoarding for personal gain, so familiar in corporate life. I have made many new friends with similar but truly unique experiences. I hope to see many of them again.
For a year, I have had no fashion police watching over my shoulder. No-one to check whether I am wearing this year’s clothes or last year’s. No-one to check what shoes I am wearing. I am not worried about whether the colours I am wearing clash or co-ordinate – I am hopefully adding to the kaleidoscope of colours around me. I am complemented on wearing an authentic skirt – even if it is just a piece of fabric tied around my waist. No-one cares if I wore the same shirt yesterday as today, or my face is free of make-up, or my hair in need of styling.
For a year, I have escaped the entrapments of 21st century life and embraced a simple life. Everything I need is in the car – and at times, I feel that we still have too much, that day to day living would be easier with even less. There is no TV to soak up the waking hours, little internet to pass the time – so we chat more, read more and play games. We explore the markets for fruit and vegetables – enjoying the smells, listening to the sounds, and feasting our eyes on the colours and stomachs on the full flavours. We eat what we find in the roadside stalls, and test the new delights presented to us.
For a year, I have had the time to marvel at the world around me. I can move as quickly or as slowly as I desire – spending more time here and less time there. I have driven across deserts and mountains, through rainforests and wide open plains, along coasts and through gorges. I have climbed dunes and swum in lakes, hiked in the desert and lay on the beach. I have seen animals and watched birds. I have soaked up the sun and snoozed in the shade. I have felt the enormity and magic of this amazing continent.
For a year, I have seen the man I love come to life. And I have fallen in love all over again. I have watched him shed the work persona, the ‘conforming to a foreign country’ persona, the ‘juggling act’ persona. I have watched him warm from grey to full technicolour as he interacts with people, negotiates for my souvenirs, chats with the local children, barters in the market. I have fallen in love with his smile, his cheeky sense of humour, his adventurous spirit. I have valued his support, his strength, his determination. I have enjoyed being on his team – working seamlessly, unconsciously together, with little conflict or aggravation.
For a year, I have been free to be me – the real me. I have been free of job appraisals, telling me to do less of this and more of that, conform to this and adhere to that, stay in my box and think inside the circle. I am free to be peaceful and mindful, to savour the silence of solitude. I am free to be chatty and bubbly, and enjoy the company of others if I so choose. I am free to laugh and smile, free to joke and tease without fear of offending. I am free to share from my heart. I don’t have to convince or influence or change people’s minds – rather, I am free to inspire and help, free to show a world through my eyes. I am free to be me.
This is my dream.