Last year on my birthday, I wrote a post on Facebook post listing all of the locations I had visited since my previous birthday to have a coffee. I hadn’t really kept track throughout the year or necessarily attempted to reach such a significant number, but I worked out the list anyways. One thing I learned is how creepy the specificity of location tracking that Google does on your mobile devices, and the other was how clearly I could track my life through these places. Something specific (not just coffee) had brought me to each of them: the first stop on a stroll about a new city, a long overdue visit with a family member, or a particularly memorable solo camping trip. This year, I didn’t post any sort of list. Mostly because it would have given my family and friends more evidence to use against me in what I expect to be an inevitable coffee intervention. But I can tell you it is likely (read: definitely) a longer list than last year’s. Across the five countries that I’ve spent more than two weeks on this trip, here some of my coffee shop highlights in each.
Nieu-Bethesda: the small town in the Karoo that’s been my home for the longest stretch since starting this journey. Yesterday saw the end of my month-long stay. One of the most challenging parts of travel for me is leaving a favorite place again and again and again…
Regardless of what the afternoon or single-night domestic tourists have said, I feel like I could have spent years there before running out of things to do; there were always things happening at The Brewery and Two Goats Deli (where I worked in exchange for room and board) and my days off saw no shortage of hikes in the surrounding hills and canyons. Days in town were either spent at a coffee shop or book store (typical) or at the local attractions of Owl House or Kitching Fossil Centre. A few external factors threatened my perfect day in Nieu-Bethesda: poor weather, thorns and bee stings, dog puke, bar fights, larceny. But despite their (relatively infrequent) attacks I managed to live some version of the below almost every day:
Good morning! You’ve just arrived in a city you’ve never been to before. You don’t know anyone here. There are no obvious tourist attractions. How are you going to ‘waste’ your day?
A continuation of Part 1 to answer the recurring question “How did you end up in Nieu-Bethesda?”
“From Connecticut? America? Yoh. So how did you end up here? In Nieu-Bethesda of all places?”
The guests of The Brewery and Two Goats Deli ask me this question on a daily basis. And since I’ve stopped giving weekly updates of where I’ve been staying since I left Hanoi, you may also be wondering how I got to this tiny town in the Eastern Cape. Here’s the first of a two part account of where I’ve been for the past two months to answer all of your questions.
For the past five months, The majority of my physical life has been confined to a 46 liter space.
I’m posting this from my latest temporary home in Nieu-Bethesda and having had to unpack and repack just a few days ago, I’ve started to realize which items are starting to define my trip. By having to prioritize a limited space, the things I have chosen to carry with me have, by necessity, been fulfilling a specific hierarchy of self-need. I won’t preach extreme minimalism for all and I do think that 46 liters is a bit drastic for anyone living in a semi-permanent location. But even before I left home, I started looking around at all of the things I own and wondering, ‘does this fulfill a specific need?’ Do I own this or does this own me? I’m not prepared for the fully ascetic lifestyle but by reducing my possessions to 46 liters, I’ve created a lot of space to be me.