I am writing this from 2937329732 miles above sea level, hopefully on my way home. It has been a great two weeks away, but I am so incredibly glad to be going home. I have missed my kids terribly.
I am too tired to spell check this blog post. Grammar police, this is going to be painful. If you are feeling stabby, I suggest you look away immediately.
I have a love-hate relationship with travel. Going away from home and my kids makes me anxious (surprise! XYZ makes me anxious, how novel), and yet it is such an honour and a privilege to be able to see more of the world. It really is such a gift to visit other countries and cultures. I love and hate going abroad.
I always learn a lot when I travel, some of it is old lessons, some are new. Things I learnt / observed:
Travelling overseas when you are a South African is PAINFUL. OMG things are expensive in Europe. People (Marko! Melany!) say you mustn’t convert but I can’t help myself. Sixty forking Ront for a cappuccino!! It costs R20 in South Africa. R40 for a coke. It costs a third of that in SA. Basically everything is 3x more expensive. I ordered a glass of wine at a not-terribly-posh place, it was 14 farking pounds. Two hundred and eighty ront (give or take a million) for a glass of wine!!!! I can buy three bottles of really, really nice wine for that price. I just couldn’t. In the end, I felt physically ill at how much things cost. I drove Marko mad. Poor guy. I really am a pain in the arse.
Germans are scary! Some really friendly people but also some really strict people! The customer service people were unfriendly and even shouted at people who knowingly or unknowing broke the rules (stepped over the line / went in the wrong queue). Shouted! Marko and I were too scared to ask for help in case someone shouted at us. Plus there was that whole jaywalking incident. So no, Munich is not my favourite place. (Of course, we have only seen a tiny part of Germany and I am sure the rest of Germany is lovely etc. Looked really pretty from the air).
I love London. It is dull and dreary sometimes, overcrowded, busy, frenetic, dirty and full of non-residents, but I love it. I love how small and big it is at the same time. I just hate the bloody exchange rate, but that is not London’s fault.
Priceline is a win! I have used Priceline a few times in a few cities across the world and you can get some good rates on accommodation. It suits me perfectly as there is nothing I love more than a bargain. Even if I don’t need it or want it, if it is a bargain, I am happy. I use Priceline to book 5 star accommodation (so I am never surprised by crappy hotels in crappy areas) which I get for 3 or 4 star pricing. Love it. We stayed in a lovely hotel in London which I would NEVER, EVER have paid full price for – are they mad!! Beautiful but expensive. I refused to eat breakfast there (breakfast for £35 for two on ‘special’. What!) We went downstairs to a coffee shop and had a perfectly good breakfast for two for £22. Also, I forbade Marko to even look at the mini bar. Marko unsupervised can be detrimental to the wallet.
The tube: Do Londoners even realize how lucky they are to have such excellent public transport?! What a total win to hop on and off as you need it. Sure it is hot and sweaty and full during peak times, but how fabulous that you have that as an option. Having said that, I am glad I don’t have to do it every day. Very useful for visitors though.
London is busy. OMG, it is busy. The tube stations were busy every single moment of every day. Crazy busy – there is always so much going on. People coming and going. Frenetic. Marko loved it, I started to get sensory overload after a while.
OPK (Other People’s Kids). As a parent to young children, you forget how annoying children can be. They are loud and busy (and my children are especially loud and busy) and I love children madly, but it is only when you are without your own kids that you realize what a pain (some, including my own I am sure) children can be. I actually feel sorry for those people who have to travel / eat out / catch public transport and are forced to deal with other people’s kids. I fully support having childfree sections on flights / areas / restaurants.
I miss my children very, very much and hate being apart from them. I never feel complete when I am without them.
Skype is great – I am not sure what travelling parents did before Skype. At least we could Skype several times a day. Which was mostly great and not so great when Adam would stalk me several times a day asking whether I had bought him any presents.
I am extremely grateful for my ‘village’ who look after my children while I am away. Rose, Jayde and my mom were awesome. I am so lucky.
I love my husband dearly, he is the most perfect husband for me in every way (and probably for many other people as well), but there is such a thing as too much quality time. Certainly for me. I desperately need alone time to reset my insides (head/heart/nerves/senses etc). Being together 24/7 in a hotel room can be a bit challenging for me. I wasn’t very nice to him sometimes. Luckily he loves me, in spite of me being a total over-sensitive, tight-arsed cow.
I have awesome friends. I went to stay with my beautiful, clever, class, generous friend Nicky for a night. She is a South African who lives in Bath in the UK. It was such a great experience, I am so glad I went. I got to experience a bit more of the UK besides London. So much history. I am glad I did it. I don’t usually like to stay over at anyone’s house (it makes me anxious – what if I don’t like it there? I will have to stay and then I will feel trapped and scared and sad and OMG am I five years old??!), but Nicky made it perfect for me. I am really, really glad I did it. I love Nicky.
I am an antisocial extrovert. I hate going out. I am not shy and I can chat to anyone, but I hate going out. I hate staying up late / going to clubs / going out / dressing up / wearing makeup / staying over. I LOVE staying home. I really love staying home. I think some people don’t believe me, but honestly – staying home is a 9/10, going out is a 1/10. The only reason why each option doesn’t have full marks is my fear that by not going out I am going to hurt someone’s feelings. If I didn’t think it would hurt someone’s feelings (by not going to that dinner party / visiting someone / going for a drink or coffee), I would choose staying home every time. I could stay home for the rest of my life.
Because our time in London was so short, I didn’t get to see any of my other friends. Which is a pity because I do love my friends. Kirsty, Juliette, Mandy, Lisa – sorry. At least I got to see my brother, albeit for a very short while.
Businesswise, the trip was a great success. I had two very good meetings, one in Germany and one in London that made the trip worthwhile from a financial point of view. Phew!! Can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I probably could have made the trip shorter by a week in terms of meetings / business, but unfortunately for me Marko booked the flights. Marko is the opposite of me when it comes to quality time / socializing / travelling / being away from home etc.
Funnily enough, at home Marko is the saver and I am the spender. He squirrels money away while I spend it all. On bills like the house bond, the school fees, salaries, food etc. So it is not like I am wasting it (a lot). But when we travel overseas, Marko likes to travel in style. I prefer to MOAN ABOUT HOW EXPENSIVE EVERYTHING IS.
Have I mentioned what a pain in the arse I am?
I love my home. I have missed home some much. I have missed my kids, my parents, my friends, my work, Woolies, salads, wine that doesn’t cost a forking fortune, biltong, my car, driving, I miss Cape Town. Cape Town is one of the best cities in the world, it certainly is one of the most beautiful. I know we have our problems, some of them are really big. But I love Cape Town. I love South Africa. And I love Africa. I can’t wait to touch down on African soil.
I am honoured to be able to travel, but there is no place like home.