In less than two days I emerge from wandering the pier on a gloriously sunny afternoon in Seaport Village to sweeping mountains of chalky red dust out of my home in rural South Africa. This journey around the world encompasses immense change- from time zones to food, weather to language. It’s tough to believe, as I sit in my camp chair peeking out at the quickly fading afternoon light, that just 48 hours ago I sipped a Cold Brew coffee from Starbucks and mindlessly scoured Instagram- blissfully unaware of my data usage.
But as difficult as it was to hop from the U.S. to Germany and over to South Africa- all the while swapping SIM cards, sorting through cash in a desperate hurry to find the appropriate currency, and pulling on and off my thick North Face as I navigated the divide between summer and winter, frozen tundra airplane and unspeakably warm terminal- that other place so quickly fades away as I sink into the slow pace of the village.
Arriving in my village, at least on a sleepy Friday afternoon, wipes away the stress injected into the daily activities of the developed world. As I reflect upon the journey- spotting the bright lights of Rome and Tunis, skimming the ocean in San Francisco, and bumpily pushing through a smoggy Johannesburg morning, I breathe a little easier, these adventures belong to memory, attaining a dreamlike quality that causes me to question if indeed that chaos is how I spent my last two days.
As I travel more and live in more places, I attach exponentially more identities to myself- shimmying in and out seemingly as easily as flipping a light switch. In South Africa, slipping on my village identity means being quick to smile, grasping for Setswana, drastically lowering the pace at which I operate, and storing my nicer clothes for vacation. It also means bracing myself for anxiety-riddled scenarios, accepting isolation, and shedding my innate desire to do everything myself.
So 48-hours ago I flipped from station to station on the radio, irritated by songs I disliked and the impressive amount of commercials, and today I listen to my few downloaded Spotify songs on repeat echoed by the hoots reverberating from nearby conversations and the steady ever-present thump of the bass rising from the taverns. I think it’s safe to say I am physically and mentally in a very different place, fully aware that I don’t need 180 days to take myself around the world to a different home and a different Alyssa.