Thursday, June 30, 2016

The End of the Road, but not the Journey

It's been a long two years since I first started this blog for the purpose of recording and sharing our experiences and travels... and now we have finally arrived at the last post. What a journey it has been! We've seen, done, and learned so much; we've grown as individuals and together as a family, despite things not always working out as planned. Countless memories have been made, and we're all a little wiser (and slightly older too).

But just because this season in our lives is coming to a close, doesn't mean the adventure is over. We are settled in a new town and a new house, with new opportunities, new friends, and new memories to be made laying ahead. It's a good reminder of the saying,

So without further ado, here follows some of our individual reflections - check out the full pieces on Parents' Thoughts, Elna's Musings and The Boys' Corner.

Of the 20 months we didn't know where we were going to end up, for about eight we were nomadic and living out of bags and boxes (bags for clothes, boxes for books and food, literally), or working as volunteers on farms. The other twelve months we lived on a farm in the Kammanassie. Therefore highlights will be separated into these two categories.

Highlights during our 8 months of travel: 

  • The 3 farms where we volunteered – the people, the work we did and to experience farm life
  • Being together and getting to know each other as a family in every new adventure or exploration of the unknown
  • All the interesting people that we met and got to know better. Our whole understanding of what ‘normal’ means changed radically and we discovered that people are unique and choose their specific lifestyles for a reason they consider ‘normal’

~  While doing a treetop tour near Stormsriver I happened to see chameleons in the wild for the first time - a few small and large ones in the treetops very close to us – that taught me to always be on the lookout for the little interesting things you may discover unexpectedly on a journey!

~  Every hike (whether short or long) in forests, on mountains, seasides, ‘veld’ or ‘vlaktes’
~  Having coffee in a jail cell at the Provost in Grahamstown
~  Camping on the sea at Stormsriver
~  Reading to colored children in Piketberg

~  Listening to Nama stories around a campfire, seeing the moon come up, and go down again (when you wake up), having splash wars with Michael (our guide) on the Orange River
~  The Strand's giant ice creams (best in South Africa, if you ask me)
~  The single, gorgeous Disa flower we saw at the Groot Winterhoek Nature Reserve, and the scenery too

~  I'll never forget the spectacular New Year's Eve fireworks at the Cape Town Waterfront

~  We saw a lot of fantastic places, but the Knysna Lake really made a big impression on me. [when we drove into Knysna, Maarten's first comment was that he'd like to live there] 

Highlights during our year-long stay in the Kammanassie 

~  Enough time to really spend hundreds of hours focusing on developing better trading skills
~  Simple farming experiments where the plan is easy and everything makes sense, and then the reality turns out otherwise and usually more complex than planned!

~  The view from our stoep on the place where we stayed
~  Experiencing four seasons on our doorstep!
~  All the animals we had – the ponies, the pigs, the chickens and little Nassie the kitten who grew into a cat
~  To have met wonderful people of different cultures and building relationships with them

~  The safety on the farm – I could take long walks all alone, wherever and whenever I wanted to
~  The quiet, the wind, the mountains, and the darkness at night (one can see millions of stars there)
~  Really developing and practising my photography skills, despite not having a proper camera (it goes to show that it's the photographer that counts, not some fancy camera)

 ~  I really enjoyed to make such good friends with the local workers' children, particularly Brendon, Brayton and Jaylin

~  Having JanDiesel as a 'little brother' (though not biological) was really special for me

Lowlights in General

~ Process of figuring out a new career

~  Sometimes we did not have enough space to pack out and find things
~  Sometimes we worked on each others’ nerves in confined spaces and being with each other 24hours per day
~  The over-commercialization of some tourist spots
~  Stopping projects that are not working out according to plan

~  school chaos in a tent at PE,
~  seeing the after-New Year's Eve-party mess and the huge amount of garbage being blown into the ocean at Cape Town's Waterfront, despite trash cans standing everywhere(!)
~  being exhausted but I don't even know why
~  friendship disappointments

~  I missed Potch (the known), and the stability it'd always represented for me
~ All the hiking (I don't like hiking)

~  I missed our old house a lot. [both boys were born in that house, by the way – thus much sentiment]

What Could We Not Do Without?

~  My laptop and smartphone, definitely.

~  The portable washing line and a kettle
~  A cup of tea or sometimes a glass of wine
~  My really warm jacket and buff (for the cold) and
~  always having a book to read!

~  my camera (during most of the trip, it was a Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone),
~  my earphones (ATTENTION, this is a lifesaver), and
~  my 'kamerjas' (so fluffy)

~  A place that I can go to, to be by myself.

~  My soft toy 'Perdjie', which I got when I was 2 years old.

What We Learned About Ourselves

~  I realized how bad I actually knew myself, as the times the real person inside come out is when you are in different, challenging and sometimes stressful situations

~  I don’t enjoy cold weather
~  That I enjoy beauty around me and function better in wide open spaces/areas – small spaces makes me moody
~  Things can work out ok even without a longterm plan for everything
~  Sometimes unplanned experiences are the most exciting

Getting to know myself, I realize that I loved:
~  watching a whale leap for joy from one end of the horizon to the other,
~  tapping my foot to a colourful musical fountain,
~  the Kalahari and it's different beauty, with red dunes and plains of waving golden grass ('goue grassies') in the evening sunlight,
~  pasta the proper Italian way (made by an Italian – we visited them on a farm near the Kammanassie)

~  I didn't know I could row the Orange River. That was quite a personal victory for me.

~  I didn't know I could operate a TLB machine – that was awesome! ['oom' Jan let them work with the TLB once on the Kammanassie farm] 

Some Lessons Learned

  • One’s attitude will determine your experience!
  • One needs very little stuff to experience things
  • People are very adaptable – whether to adapt to living conditions (we stayed in  a variety of places ranging from shacks, tents, flat, houses and even in an industrial area) or food or clothes or routine.
  • You design your own lifestyle by how you spend your time and your money
  • Sometimes you can be really lucky (as in the Kruger National park when we saw all the animals in one day)
  • You have to reach out to people, they seldom do
  • Men don’t pack logically 
  • You have to be prepared for change – it's an attitude, and a skill. 
  • When you start something new, it's exciting and fun, but after a certain time it's not as wonderful any more and can get too much. 
  • To notice and appreciate the little things in life is precious

An interesting realization I(Elna)'ve had is that a lot of people have this 'travel dream', in which they want to see the world (maybe with a couple of friends) and have a romantic, happy-go-lucky, careless and flexible kind of lifestyle for a few months, or maybe a gap year or two. I was one of those people, but I've now realized travel, especially as a lifestyle (not just vacations), is rather overrated in this context. It's not just one big vacation (though some people probably think what we did is exactly this). In reality, it's life. You get your ups, your downs, lessons, fun, disappointments, worries, pleasures. You learn, you grow, you change.

Life is a million little things, not one big thing. Once you realize that, and start living out each day as your own, the journey begins. 

Our journey is not over, but we hope that this season in our lives will inspire and encourage others. A final THANK YOU to all the readers, we really appreciated your comments! 


  1. Ah! I can't believe it's been two years already!
    It's been amazing to get to travel along with you and see South Africa's countryside and a bit of the way of life.
    Your pictures have been stunning all along and the bits of history were really cool for me to learn.

    That was a really cool point there about the travel lifestyle. It sounds so exciting but really the things that make it exciting also exist in stationary living. It's neat to reflect on all the little things in life...

    Anyways. Thanks for journaling your travels, I've enjoyed it very much. May the Lord bless you in this new season of your adventures. <3

    1. Thank you Alena - I'm glad you followed us and learned a few things in the process; it's nice knowing all sorts of people could enjoy the blog, not just South Africans ;)
      (and He already is)
      Blessings xx

  2. Liewe Elna
    Baie geluk met hierdie stunning memoir wat jy bygehou het! Ek het veral julle individuele refleksies oor jul ervaringe baie geniet. Dankie vir julle almal se eerlikheid en deursigtigheid. Julle is vir ons almal n groot inspirasie.
    Baie seen vir hierdie nuwe hoofstuk...
    Liefde van ons almal op Soetewater

    1. Baie dankie tannie, dis lekker om te hoor dat mense ons reis saam met ons geniet het!

  3. Wow Elna, dit is 'n pragtige blog hierdie wat altyd en altyd in die kuberruim getuienis sal gee van julle ervarings, jou foto's en jou skrywery. Hou aan om 'n 'blog' te hou, al is dit sonder papier en slegs in jou hart... want die lewe is een lang 'blog' waarin ons gereeld terugblaai om sin te maak van wat verby is en uit te figure wat nog kan kom...***
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Dis absoluut waar. Dankie vir al die kommentaar deur die goeie en beter posts (ek weet nie almal was ewe goed nie, haha), en groot plesier xx

  4. Ek moet erken ek is hartseer dat die blog ophou want ek het elkeen geweldig geniet (die fotos en skryfstyl), inspirend (die avonture)en insiggewend (die plekke in ons land)gevind. Jul verdien 'n groot applous! Dankie dat ons dit kon meemaak. Ons hoop jul nuwe tuiste ontwikkel gelukkig.

    1. En ek moet erken, ek het baie keer gesit en deur die 'mental block' gedruk om 'n post klaar te maak, net vir ouma. Dankie vir ouma se getroue kommentaar, en ondersteuning.
      Liefde xx

  5. Elna en jou hele gesin! Wonderlike herinneringe. Soveel beleef en geleer. Ek het julle reis avonture saam geniet! Baie sterkte en seen in Oudtshoorn. Gaan jul mis in Potch. Maar jul is oppad Kaap toe en dalk kan ons erens daar stop... Groete van die Drevins

    1. Dankie vir die sterkte en seen tannie, ons waardeer!

  6. Wat 'n ongelooflike reis. Ek het jou inskrywings so baie geniet en soms lekker gelag vir die seuns se kommentaar. Well done aan al 5 van julle! Julle het beslis waagmoed en baie deursettingsvermoë! Trots op julle! Liefde hier uit ('n baie koue) Potch. T Janét. X

    1. Die seuns se kommentaar het ons net so laat lag haha. Baie dankie! (Oudtshoorn is net so koud, ugh)


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