When you travel alone, you give yourself the chance to be quiet, to take it all in.
In June 2006 I returned to South Africa, and as I made my way from Cape Town to friends in Grahamstown, I stopped in Nature’s Valley on the Garden Route. The small bus meandered from the highway down to the coast. As we zig zagged through the forest, I felt the quiet descend.
I checked into my hostel and walked to the beach. It must have smelled like the sea and the mountains: salt and green. What I remember were the sounds: the crashing of the waves and the absolute silence.
The vacant holiday homes hid behind trees. An antelope walked out of the woods, stared at me as it crossed the road, and disappeared. A line of canoes, a row boat half-filled with water. My shoes the only prints in the sand.
I rounded a corner and the Groot River meandered to meet the Indian Ocean. The Tsitsikamma Mountains unfolded on the horizon as the river sparkled in the sun. After the initial stun of beauty hit me, I took out my camera and journal, trying to record one of the most beautiful places I had seen.
I sat along the river, the roar of the sea in the distance, the stillness of the moment. I didn’t rush. I didn’t talk. I had no smart phone to distract me. Just me, the water, and a winter’s breeze.