It’s hard to believe that we are barreling down toward the end of this big year. We don’t actually fly out of South Africa until July 1st; but June will be one big road trip. We wrap things up here in Pietermaritzburg at the end of this month. This month! We’re counting days now as we prepare to move out of our house, sell our car, cancel utilities, and close our bank account along with other things on a list that seems to grow rather than shorten. There are also goodbyes to say, many of which will be bittersweet – school friends and teachers, children and friends where I volunteer, Scott’s colleagues and students, and our neighbours. Simon and Elsa Ruth will finish school on May 27th.
Even before we left the U.S. we had a chart listing dreams and ideas for what we might want to experience and when. It went up on the wall here too and we had fun creating endless combinations and scenarios that would maximize our budget and reach.
What felt last August like an endless string of wide-open months on a calendar is now an amazing list of memories, locations, people, and experiences. We recently decided to mark on our wall map the places we spent at least one night in South Africa. Holy cow…look at this… and still another month to go!
Several South Africans have commented to us, “You’ve seen more of our country than I have!” We don’t take that privilege lightly. It is very humbling to step back and look at all the places we’ve been lucky enough to experience this year. Considering the standard of living and income level for the majority of South Africans, there is no doubt we have walked a privileged path with our ability to cover so much ground in this country and continent. When compared with that demographic, even having the desire to travel is a kind of luxury I don’t want to take for granted.
One thing that’s interesting to me though about that above comment, is that most of the people making it are South Africans who do have the means to explore. While there are plenty of citizens who take advantage of the tourist infrastructure and destinations here, there seem to be an equal number who are simply disinterested in exploring. Is this any different from America? I suppose not. Some people just like the comforts and routines of home. Others are worn out by the pace of life and responsibilities and want to rest. Fair enough.
I do sometimes wonder why people haven’t visited more of the wonderful, accessible, and inexpensive destinations right in their own backyard. Scott is a good example of this. There’s not really any single reason, but the fact is he never made it to Ellis Island having grown up less than 50 miles from there. Upon hearing about our visits here to various parks, museums, and monuments some South Africans have said, “Yes, I suppose I’ll get there one day. Probably when I retire.”
And that proves the “power of the deadline” as we have called it. It’s a gift in many ways having that end date! Put that together with the fact that we had the means to travel this year and we’ve got the perfect storm to motivate our get up and go.
It gets me thinking about the region we live in back home. Have we made reasonable effort to do, see, and appreciate our own area? Perhaps we’ll be too tuckered out and budget-focused once we’re back that we’ll just want to stay put. I hope not, because exploring here has renewed my curiosity about our own rich cultural and natural heritage. Here’s what I have on my radar that I’d like to prioritize before long: seeing the Laura Ingalls Wilder historic sites in De Smet, canoeing the Missouri river in ND, taking our kids to the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, visiting Winnipeg, and getting to the MN Landscape Arboretum next time I’m in the cities. Anyone care to join me?
What about you? If you had a deadline, what would be at the top of your list?