Before setting out on this journey I was in a state of doing, a state of achieving: complete two years of career work so you look stable on your resume, save up enough money to go away, and try to find a man to nourish your sexual and emotional desires while working.
I’d discuss my trip with friends. Where are you going? What are you wanting from this trip? When will you come home? I never had the answer to these questions, just felt this trip was going to mean something, something big.
When I asked for a year of leave, I knew it was pointless. I knew I wouldn’t be back, yet couldn’t bring myself to relinquish the security of a job. When I sublet my room it was the same. I told the renter she could stay for one year when deep inside I knew I wouldn’t be coming home to my quaint St Kilda apartment in one year, or ever again.
As I waved goodbye to my dear mum and boarded the plane, a tiny voice inside me whispered:
You won’t be coming back to this life.
Thirty hours later, I walked out of the Zanzibar airport. I had done it. I had closed the door on my past and my present had arrived. At this point, I could only imagine what this trip would reveal; all the adventure I’d been craving.
While snorkeling off Nungwi in Zanzibar we met a guy who had been travelling for five years. I mentioned we planned to be in Africa for seven months and he laughed.
‘Seven months?! But you won’t see anything!’ smiled the Nomad.
Something about his snail’s pace attitude called to me, and yet was so far from me, from what I was doing now. How can one travel for five years? I started to wonder.
Four months later at AfrikaBurn I had my opening where something deep in my core had been shaken. I could feel the beating of wings, trapped beneath my skin. The beating was growing louder — asking to be freed. I knew this was a message that wouldn’t be ignored.
With this feeling still aching inside and the words of the nomad echoing in the mind, Zimbabwia and I started to plot how we could become our own Nomads. One afternoon whilst plotting how to extend the length of this trip, we received a text message. A friend of ours, Jerome was dead, murdered in gang violence.
Jerome was a member of our Afrikaburn family. He was one of the first coloured* people to work for DPW. During our weeks in the desert he was a larger than life legend, whose energy was infectious.
I knew only the beautiful surface of Jerome, nevertheless felt the startling impact of his death. The desert changed Jerome, just like it did me. Our eyes were opened to the possibilities of non-judgemental, non-racist, non-elitist, non-sexist, utter freedom that life could be.
Death, they say is one of our greatest teachers of the fragility and impermanence of life. The death of a person who I’d so recently connected with, was the last gentle push towards surrendering to the potential of this journey.
I no longer view this journey as a trip, but as my life. I want to learn in this life by being IN it. I want to acquire more skills than a degree can teach me. I want to open myself to the opportunities life puts on my path because I’m not stuck to a plan. I want to allow myself to be guided by the universe.
I don’t want to wait. Life is literally, too short.
Jerome, I’m so sorry you had to be the lesson. But somehow I think you enjoy looking down and seeing the mark you’ve made on us. When we look to the sky we know there’s a new star shining down.
Your life, as much as your death, has made that whispering voice a whole lot louder. I can’t ignore it now. I’m not going back to that life.
After Zimbabwia and I cried looking up at your star, I took out my iPad and wrote my resignation.
As soon as I pressed the send button, I felt the skin on my back stretching open as my wings of freedom burst free.
Coloured – In South Africa ‘Coloured’ or ‘Cape Coloureds’ are an ethnic group composed of persons primarily of mixed race. At first this term shocked and offended me however I soon learned that coloured people like Jerome took no offence to the name and used it to proudly define themselves.