If I had to think about the places I have been to, I would have to say that I am not as well travelled despite having been to a few Countries. From the places that I have been to however, I can honestly say that if there was anything I would spend my money on, it would be travel.
Now I know that very few people have the luxury of being able to travel abroad. It is by no means cheap. Even local travel within South Africa for a family of 4 , just for a weekend away mind you, is almost as expensive as travelling to a neighboring Country to SA. What I do painstakingly save my money for is, my next adventure . The travel bug is real. If you’ve been to explore a new Country just once, you will find yourself wanting to go to explore a new place and then another and another. Of course there are two general hurdles I find is one being having enough leave to go on a vacation and the other obviously the cost factor especially if you have a family and want to travel with kids. One cannot just take a sabbatical to travel for six months and still come back to gainful employment. Further to this, with the South African rand, one cannot get very far, so saving is definitely in order to plan the next trip.
I love traveling. I love everything about it except having to fly there lol. I am a nervous flyer to be very honest, especially on long distance flights , but I keep my focus on my destination and how amazing it will be when I get there. That keeps me calm. Of course traveling with kids is another ballgame and parents with kids, will know how you need to pace up and down to keep your kid entertained, especially on a long flight which has its challenges, but for now, where I go, my kids go.
For me, being able to meet people of different cultures, different walks of life, explore new, visit ancient heritage sites, take in the beautiful architecture in various cities, taste the local delicacies, and basically just take in the slights and sounds of new experience and adventure is utterly decadent! Each time , I travel I find myself realizing that we are just a small spec on the map and there is still so much in this world still to explore, and I wonder if I will get to see all that I desire to in this lifetime. I will certainly be trying to!
I remember as a child, our Mum and Dad ( if my sisters are reading this please note the use of the word “Our” lol) I tend to say “ my” parents as if they are only mine , both worked really hard, as most parents do, to sustain our family. My Mum has always been an avid reader , still is, and she would comb the pages of newspapers and magazines, and find the tiniest articles on vacation specials. She would then cut these out and call the number to find out what was on Offer. My Mum would always make sure that at least once a year, we would all go on a local trip with my two younger sisters and I. We travelled from Durban almost always by car as flights were really expensive back then (nothing’s changed there) . My Dad was the designated driver and Mum was the co-pilot. I recall that my Mum would never ever fall asleep when my Dad drove. She always kept herself up so she could keep my Dad company.
Mum would pack us the yummiest road food and off we would go. This would include anything from tinned fish sandwiches to chicken roti rolls and from Durban we would drive to places like Sun City in Johannesburg, Swaziland, and to areas just outside of Durban like Hluhluwe Game Reserve, Wild Coast and San Lameer. One of the fondest memories was a trip we took to Cape Town by ship. I couldn’t have been more than 12 years old and we went aboard a cruise liner called the Achille Lauro. I remember the first time I saw it. It was huge and extravagant. I recall the detail about that the opulence of that ship, the ritual of a seated dinner and formal attire every night, to the phenomenal entertainment by the Carlo Spetto dancers and the grandeur of the Captain’s dinner which ended off with sparklers in pavlova for dessert. I remember my baby sister in her polka dot dress on the dance floor, moving her tiny hands to the beat of music, and my middle sister with the sweetest, toothiest grin smiling and enjoying her spaghetti in Napolitana sauce.
These memories are etched in my mind forever , and I am so grateful to my parents for them exposing us to such beautiful childhood memories that will last a lifetime. I’m thankful to my clever Mum who always put money aside to ensure we took these trips annually.
My first ever trip abroad was to India. I remember everyone in the Indian Community referred to it as going “Overseas”. It was also something really special to be able to travel abroad and usually involved a really big send off from parents, grandparents, sibling, aunts , uncles and cousins. It was as though everyone was going with and wanted to partake in the pomp and excitement which was always special.
I had no idea what to expect. Being Indian, I wondered what it would be lim to go to the Motherland, the land my ancestors originally came from . I was born and raised in Durban, South Africa before I moved to Johannesburg, and I remember both the excitement and trepidation. I went with my Mum, Gran, and my cousin who was shopping for her wedding trousseau. I was 21 years old.
We had a 2 night stopover in Dubai before we were due to arrive in India. I recall looking around as we drove to our hotel. It was immaculately clean. The cars were all in amazing condition and I didn’t see any cars that weren’t roadworthy on the road. Our hotel was beautiful and we were jetlagged, but so excited to be there. The heat gets you first. We decided to rest before we headed out on foot to do a bit of exploring. The first thing we realized is that there were no women walking around . No one in sight. We started to feel a bit odd as we were also getting a lot of stares, so we asked a local what was happening. It was Ramadan , a fasting period and holy time for Muslims. We immediately realized that we were wearing jeans and needed to be more appropriately attired in Indian wear out of respect. Dubai was lovely, what a beautiful city!
India was next. Mumbai was our first stop. The first thing that gets you as you step of the plane is the heat, the dust , the pollution and the scent of the city. It’s a place that you either love or it’s not for you. For me , it is and will always be Incredible India. I have been there three times and I would go again in a heartbeat. There are places with extreme poverty, then in complete contrast, you will find a shack next to a large Corporate building in the city. As you move away from the City , the pollution lessens and you get to experience the villages, the people and the beauty of the country.
What I found most prominent about India, is the generosity of the people. Wherever you go , whether it is into a store to shop or you meet a local, you will always be offered a drink or sometimes even a meal! In India , guests are treated as Gods. It’s a practice in a South Africa as well with most people of Indian descent that when you have a visitor that you always offer them something to eat or drink. I often found that people we met in India had so little yet they were still prepared to buy you cold drink. Poverty is rife. People have to survive on so little. Women doing manual labour on the streets with concrete to earn a living. It was hard to see that, but it was very similar to what we was happening in my own Country. The graciousness of the people will always remain with me.
It is said that if you bathe in the Ganges river in India then you will be absolved our your sins. But you can only do it once in your lifetime.
I went into the Ganges on my 2nd trip with my Mum, but oh my word was it freezing!! I couldn’t immerse my head into the water as other locals were doing and only went in waist deep. It was a beautiful experience, and I felt this amazing sense of calm, but it was incredibly cold, I was freezing when I came out!!
I had a cold the very next day and came down with the flu. We drove back to Delhi and I was man down. I literally couldn’t get out of the bed . My Mum wasn’t sure what meds to get me and what to do, but the Hotel manager we were staying at suggested that the waiter bring me some ginger chai tea. I wasn’t sure how that was going to help my cause but I took in a few sips to appease him. Don’t laugh when I say this, but I swear to you that 3 cups off that tea that night saved my life! The next morning my fever had broken and , I was back to normal as if nothing had happened to me. So yeah ginger chai tea rocks for me.
Nothing prepares you for the first glimpse that you get of the Taj Mahal in Agra. It is both mesmerizing and magnanimous. I was transfixed with its beauty, the intricacies of the paint work which was apparently made with vegetable dye, and the sheer magnitude of the building. Imagine someone loving a person that much, they declared their love with such an incredible work of art and architecture. With the pink palaces on either end , it was a sight to behold and if I just close my eyes, I am back there again.
I have since been to India on two other occasions. On the last trip Mum and I were joined by my middle sister, Dad, and hubby. It was a journey that started in Kashmir, where we in awe of the sheer beauty of the place in Winter with snow capped mountains and frozen lakes. Dad had always wanted to go there. I remember us having to hire really warm fur covered jackets for us to head up the mountain pass. We arrived at a place called Gulmarg, that looked like a picture out of a storybook possibly where Santa could have had his house and toy factory with his elves. I looked around me and it was bright as day with the sun shining brightly on my face, but there was snow everywhere. What a sight to behold. A memory etched in time that I will never forget.
We went on from there to Agra, then to Haridwar to the Ganges, then to Goa, Jaipur and then Mumbai and yet I have not had my fill of India. I still need to visit the South of India and cant wait until I am able to do so.
Since the kids, we have had to consider shorter flights and kid friendly resorts. Mauritius is an amazing island with numerous kid friendly places to stay. We spent our December there and it was nothing short of spectacular.
Our most recent trip was to Singapore. Its such an incredible city. It runs like clockwork from the cleanliness of the place to the transportation system to the etiquette of the people and their politeness. The heat can take some adjustment but once you do, you are just on the move and on the go. It’s super kid conducive and we were fortunate to have family around to show us around the most popular sights and we got to see the place as locals. As much as we missed them both, I realized that they had something really special in this City. What I loved most is that we could walk anywhere day or night freely with the kids! I remember us heading back one night at 10pm with just my Mum and I and the baby and I honestly felt safe. Safety is never guaranteed in any Country which I’m not oblivious to but it was just a strange concept for me not to have to look over my shoulder.
We took in the sights of Gardens at the Bay, Marina Sands, Sentosa Island and Little India. We ate from everything from fish curry, to chicken satay, to chicken rice. It was an incredible trip and really special to have my family there except my baby sis and her hubby who we missed.
What’s also special about travel is that you meet people. People who become friends. When my first born was 8 months we met a family of 4 at a resort in Mauritius. What a wonderful family and they were smitten with Alia and they carried her and played with her. We are still in touch to this day, and met again recently. Alia is now 5 and we met them when she was 8 months old!! How incredible is that!! So believe me when I say travel connects people.
So that’s only part of my story, I know you guys don’t have time for a long read because I could really could go on.
But here’s my advice for what it is worth.
Everything you have in your life can be replaced, but memories are etched in time and will remain forever. Do what you wish to do in you life and I wish you well in all that you choos, but for those that are itching to see more, go out there and see it, taste it and feel it!!
Have bag, will travel!