Before every move we have a ‘List’ discussion. We list two or three places we want to go if we get a long break. We list three to five places we want to go on a long weekend. I won’t travel to those places without my husband. Those are reserved for family trips. After one move – over a decade ago – we didn’t have lists. Then a last minute opportunity came up for an extended weekend away and it took us hours to figure out where to go. Now a little dreaming and planning over a cup of coffee months in advance saves us the angst of those last minute decisions.
A few weeks ago my husband, in short notice, was given two weeks off work. Our list was already written. The travel agent immediately booked tickets to Cape Town. It’s a long distance, straight south, but not nearly as far as a point originating in North America. And there was no battle with jet lag upon arrival.
And just like that, after a visit nearly 20 years ago, I was back.
On the drive from the airport to our Airbnb the children were so enamored with green – forests, lawns, gardens – that they declared we could move there. We’d hardly been out of the airport 30 minutes. Even in the waning days of autumn, this Mediterranean climate sustained every shade of green and the most biodiverse vegetation on the continent. There was one notable patch of black and brown blanketing the side of Table Mountain. Our visit was shortly after a massive fire swept down the mountain and devastated the University of Cape Town’s historic library.
After their first surf lesson, the children were sure we could live here. Muizenberg Beach is South Africa’s premier family and surfing beach. It sits on the western end of the False Bay’s 14 miles of wide, pristine sand. Days at the beach were followed by mini-golf and long stints at one of the many playgrounds along the waterfront. Ice cream and coffee always whittled their way into the schedule. And that was just the first few days.
At one point we hired a driver to transfer us to our second Airbnb. We moved from the beach to the city. Our youngest is still in a carseat, which we bring on our travels. It’s a total hassle to haul it in and out of Ubers and carry it between rides. Unless you rent a car (which we did for the second half of our trip), sometimes a day driver is a great option. On this particular day, we asked our driver how business was going.
We were his first clients since March 2020.
This is reality.
A few countries are nearing vaccination rates that slow the spread of COVID and are thus moving into a post-COVID lifestyle. For most of the world, that’s not the reality. For many of those to whom we gave our business – in restaurants, guest houses, drivers, etc – we were the first foreign guests they had served in over a year. They were so grateful for the business and we were so happy to be able to pay for their services. While they wait for vaccines to arrive, the country is still waiting to be post-COVID.
As I type, a more contagious strain of the virus is infecting thousands in the square miles around our home. Deaths are the highest they have been since March 2020. We thought we were nearing a new reality, a post-COVID reality. But we’re not. Schools are closed and private gatherings are banned. Children are getting ill with COVID in unprecedented numbers. It seems strange to be writing about travel. But the reality is that while some will have the privilege of returning back to ‘normal,’ most in the world will not – not for a long time. It was an absolute privilege to be able to visit South Africa during a pandemic that is still very global. We hope to be back some day and see the faces that we know were smiling behind those masks!