4 weeks today, I will be celebrating my 33rd birthday 8000 miles away, deep in the southern hemisphere. Ever impulsive, the beautiful reality of a snap decision to up sticks to Cape Town is taking hold. I know only that I will know no-one in an almost unknown place for an indeterminate period of time. This mostly thrills me; although occasionally I fear that I may have taken my life in London for granted. Nevertheless, we often need to leave something behind to truly appreciate it. That, or I will learn that the way I have lived my life for the last decade – filling every minute of every day with work or play and immediate gratification – is not the way I will choose to live the next decade.
I have spent a grand total of 2 days in Cape Town in my life but that’s all I needed to sow the seed. When you know, you know. Driving past Hof Street on the way to the airport in February was, quite literally, a sign. When September 7th arrives and I head to Heathrow, other than accommodation for the first month, I will have nothing else planned. An intercontinental HøFSisters operation will continue, but how or exactly what it will be is yet to be determined.
Typically someone who needs to know what I am doing the following day before I can sleep, this “play by ear” mindset is new to me. I have not just turned over a new leaf, but an entire rainforest. Yet rather than feeling anxiety at this unknown, I feel liberated. My sense is that the rigid constraints of carefully laid plans are often the culprits of stress. Either because deviation can cause anxiety, or merely because we are not allowing ourselves the great luxury of leaving elements of life to chance.
On the subject of embracing change and the unknown, I am in the middle of a fantastic book called Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari. He makes many points which are so undeniable in their logic that I find myself agitatedly looking around for someone to share them with before congratulating myself on attaining this profound knowledge. One of my favourite quotes: “This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies. Of course this is not total freedom – we cannot avoid being shaped by the past. But some freedom is better than none.”
In allowing myself to imagine alternative destinies, I realised that I don’t need to wed myself to London. For one, my work allows me to travel anywhere that has internet. Moreover, and perhaps critically at this stage, the cost of living in Cape Town will be significantly lower than London. I speak the language. There’s minimal time difference. I have no dependants. I can spend so much more of my life outdoors doing things I love; climbing, swimming, eating great food and drinking wine. It almost seemed like a stranger decision not to move.
I’m not the only one after a change of scene. We received an email from a HøFSisters reader this week, saying that she was temporarily unsubscribing as she may not have access to a computer for many months. When I asked where she was going she said that she had never had the opportunity to travel properly in the past and that, at the age of 38, she would be taking a Gap Year. She had no plans but would make them up along the way. The only thing she knew is that she wanted to see the world. I am filled with admiration for her. Don’t be afraid to allow yourself to imagine alternative destinies too.