When you close your eyes where do you see yourself? What do you miss? Who do you miss? Where are you at home in the world? Or are you one of those very rare people who are content in their here and now? How I envy you! I always seem to miss someone or somewhere, a side effect of having created numerous homes and having added new members to my family over the years. I use the terms family and homes loosely, I don’t necessarily believe that blood is thicker than water or that sharing some DNA creates instant connection. And home, home truly is where the heart is. It is quite telling that my favorite travel song is called Home – my heart is all over the world.Today I’m mentally packing for a trip to Greece in two weeks time and playing with my new diving equipment so right now I don’t hate travel and my heart is quite content. But still, I have had Cape Town on my mind these days and as per usual I feel tempted to blame the dismal German weather. Mind you, I know it’s winter in South Africa right now, but that doesn’t seem to deter my thoughts from going there. What it comes down to is that I actually really badly miss my family and friends there and the places that I connect with them.
I have told the story before of why I love Cape Town suburbs and for that same reason, I’ve always loved driving from Camps Bay to Hout Bay. Objectively it is one of the most stunning scenic drives in the world and each and every time I’d exclaim loudly how beautiful the view was and how happy it made me. Only now do I realize that what got me so excited about driving it each and every time was the prospect of coming to a house filled with family and bubbly at the end of the drive.
I remember Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, a stunning park at any day, when we sang Christmas carols with my dad who had come for a visit and mistakenly fed the kids Massimo’s chili chocolate liquor. That was a mistake in more ways than the obvious don’t feed your kids liquor!-way: as it had chili it was too spicy for them and there wasn’t enough left for the grown-ups after the tiny bottle had been handed around. I also remember another Christmas in picturesque Stellenbosch when we invaded my uncle’s house (his words, not mine) convincing him, the scrooge, to celebrate with us. Before we were successful by bribing him with a homemade feast we had locked us out of the house so he had to climb over the gate as us girls, already dressed in Christmas finest, refused. In hindsight, I don’t blame him that he, almost 70 at this point, wasn’t impressed with our approach to the festivities. But then again, in a sea of crooked trees, family arguments and the good old Christmas movies, this one truly stood out for all of us.
While Cape Town has much to offer for any visitors, I have learned that for me my most cherished moments and places are all tiny dots connected by the people I miss. I don’t close my eyes and miss a certain place without missing a person or a story connected to that person behind it. And as I always liked to show off the country I loved so much to visitors, I also wanted to show off its people. So over the years I have taken my foreign friends to eat that pizza at my aunt’s suburban home instead of Massimo’s (though it is seriously good pizza – you should still go if you don’t have an aunt who makes pizza in Cape Town!) and hang at my cousin’s pool instead of an overcrowded beach in summer. I took them to various family homes for suppers, gatherings or simple movie nights and while mundane, I wanted them to experience my Cape Town. While most of them still went for wine tasting, ate in fancy restaurants and went on game drives, I like to think that these interactions were as meaningful to them as much as they were to me.
Realizing that I miss people first and places secondly, I now also want to travel differently myself when I am the visitor. I know that living in a country is not the same as going on a two-week holiday, but it seems to come down to the same thing: human connection. With that in mind, I want to be in a picture with someone rather than take a photo of them, I want to learn someone’s story and not just their name and I want to visit homes rather than sights. I want to see if more aunts out there make a mean homemade pizza and I want to find more places to call my home and more people to call family in this world.
Where do you consider home?