My time in South Africa didn’t really feel like most vacations do. All of us volunteers had to leave early in the morning and had activities scheduled until 5pm most days. It felt like I was working there. Only on the weekends did I feel like a tourist. I do wonder if Cape Town would have felt differently had I only visited as a tourist rather than feeling like a resident.
I’m very glad I participated in the volunteer project, don’t get me wrong, but there were definitely some adjustments on my end.
For one – communal living. Sharing a bathroom, bedroom, tiny kitchen, family style meals and always having someone around was a huge adjustment. Being used to having quiet time if I wanted it or not worrying who needed to get in the shower next or cooking for myself whenever I felt hungry – rather than waiting for the scheduled meal time – were luxuries I had taken for granted.
Two – having barely-18 year old “adults” as roommates. All volunteers were very nice people but there are different things an 18 year old vs a 25+ adult deems acceptable roommate behavior – keeping quiet in the house after 9pm, in case there are people sleeping, keeping shower times short since there are four other people waiting to get in, knocking on a closed door before entering, cleaning up dishes and other areas of the house after use, etc.
Three – not making my own rules. Since the project tends to attract a younger crowd, there were many rules, schedules and regulations to adhere to, even as an older adult. It was odd to feel as if decisions were made for me and I had to ask permission to do certain things, or accept “punishment” for failing to do other things that I would have normally done a fine job of policing myself about.
Overall, I enjoyed my time and I wouldn’t trade the friends I made there for anything.
I got to do some pretty awesome things as well. One of my favorite trips was on safari at the Aquila Private Game Reserve. I saw elephants, hippo, a baby rhino, giraffe, zebra, lions, antelope, ostriches and wildebeest.
I also went to my first (and most likely last) rugby game. It was much different than I expected and I did have fun but it was a little hard to watch them beat on each other so brutally.
But even after being there for one month, I still never got used to looking the wrong way when crossing the street, getting in on the other side of the car or the acceptance of smoking indoors.
It felt strange to not be going home after the trip but rather to just keep traveling. I want to think that this is something I could get used to but I’m also the type of person that enjoys working and having a schedule to keep. The jury is still out on whether or not I could travel full time…maybe I could combine my love of discovering new places and meeting new people with my love of work and keeping a schedule? Anything could happen…
Next stop – Casablanca, Morocco!