First Thoughts About South AfricaAn Intern's Perspective
I live in West London, and I love it. I love the mix of the hectic city life imposed against the variety of backdrops, from the classical and reserved architecture to the more bombastic and modern constructions. I love that it is a mixing pot of cultures from all around the world and that different regions of London have been influenced because of it.
I love that you can be a bustling high street, take a random turn and suddenly be in a secluded area, that feels miles away from the fast-paced city life. Having said all that, I felt like I was living in a big city with a small-town mindset, just sticking to what I knew and I yearned for more.
The one good thing that came out of finishing my Bachelor’s degree and receiving rejection after rejection when applying for jobs was the feeling of uncertainty. Now, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about – it’s not a feeling that would be considered comfortable; but let me tell you something: I realized that I’d more or less lived my life knowing what was going to happen next and always making risk assessments, so I felt I needed to change some part of my behaviour to move forward.
Several months down the line, after working with World Internships, I found myself flying over the surreal views of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head watching over the sprawling city of Cape Town, a huge contrast to the glowing streets of London at night. Cape Town has a relaxed vibe about it but don’t mistake it for lazy and uneventful. The easy-going ambience of the city is the backdrop to a multitude of stories, each and every one compelling in its unique way, and if you are willing to let the city’s atmosphere mold you, I promise you will make some unforgettable stories of your own.
I predicted that that city would be beautiful and experiences are guaranteed to be amazing but I never predicted the people I would meet and the influence they would have on me. This was my first time on a big trip alone, so I didn’t have any expectations, but I also had zero idea of what to do…so I said “yes” to every opportunity that came my way (after several years of caution I decided to change up my tactics) – and I am so glad I abided that rule.
Three weeks in to my stay I said “yes” to an invitation to the Garden Route from four fellow interns. If you are in Cape Town, this trip is an absolute MUST, whether you do it with a guide or plan it out yourself. I highly recommend that this be one of the first things on your to-do list. I formed some very strong bonds with some extraordinary people that set the tone for the remainder of my stay.
You know that famous rhetorical question, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do the same?” Well, I’m pretty sure I would when it comes to these guys. In fact, I jumped off a bridge with them…
There are an abundance of things to see and do along the Garden Route, ranging from the exhilarating to the awe-inspiring. The long drive is a wonder in itself as you get to witness the raw and untamed beauty of South Africa. Definitely do the kayaking; seeing everything from the below a valley as you paddle down a river is a humbling experience, and make sure you have a talkative paddling partner as it makes the experience all the more enjoyable!
Seeing the Big Five on Safari is a classic activity that everyone has to do in South Africa. You feel an innate sense of respect when seeing wild animals living as they should be, and there’s plenty of opportunities to take photographs. Unfortunately, I only got to see four of the Big Five – the lions seemed to be pretty shy that day! When the day is done, after all the activities, possibly the most beautiful part of the Garden Route is sitting down to a meal under the stars with the people you’ll share the moment with.
I don’t know what it is about journeys like this (maybe in a couple of years I’ll be able to tell, but so far this is the only road trip I’ve done), maybe it’s the fact that you’re completely isolated from everything you once knew and are at the mutual mercy of complete strangers, but you find that the experience loosens your tongue like no intoxicant can. I found myself talking late into the night, narrating my own stories. Some of us tell ourselves that we haven’t done much, but you often forget how interesting of a person you yourself are – a life where you may have lived uneventfully, can often have deeper explanation as to why… you just have to be brave enough to admit it to yourself, and braver still to change it. Everyone has their own story, and listening to them was perhaps the greatest part of the Garden Route.