Every year I interrupt my nomadic existence to go home, the place I grew up. Every Christmas the allure of exotic locales can’t manage to outshine the brilliance of Middle of Nowhere, Michigan. Funny what a nice family does to you. I crave corn fields over white sand beaches, and choose metro-Detroit potholes to a skydiving adventure elsewhere.
So it’s not that I’ve never retraced my footsteps. But up until now I’ve never re-visited one of the more exotic places I once lived. Then last month JD and I went back to South Africa. The reason: a fantastic family wedding in Johannesburg. Our detour to the city of Cape Town, where we spent three years together before moving on to Vietnam, seemed innocent enough. What I didn’t realize then was that an old home is like an old boyfriend: it can unexpectedly rekindle a fire you’d thought burned out long ago. Really, I should’ve known better. After two years as “just friends” on separate continents, JD and I were back together one second after we saw each other again. I have no excuse to underestimate South Africa’s charm.
Still, it was a surprise. Cape Town was meant to be a pretty beach vacation, with a side of catching up with old friends. Instead, it made me swoon. She’s even better than when I left her. The Mother City is more integrated, more creative, more exciting. She’s flaunting her Design Capitol of the World status right along with her famous mountains, extraordinary beaches, neck-breaking progression and huge glasses of wine. As the South Africans would say, she’s a lekker jol, boet.
This is one cool place. The Mother City invites you in, but doesn’t take it personally if you don’t stay for dinner. She has better things to do. She’s seen storms and hope all in the same Cape; elephants, lions and oppression beneath the same lovely blue sky. She regularly mixes world-class surf conditions with great white sharks and wine farms with mampoer. She carries on her merry way via skateboard, taxi, Mercedes Benz and her new and improved MyCity buses. Her beat is strong, and rarely gives a what about what.
Cape Town is a city where any quasi-nomad could manage to be happy. Whatever I took for granted before is dazzlingly clear about Cape Town now. Turns out retracing your footsteps can lead you somewhere unexpectedly new.