Since our trip to Nicaragua in May, Tim and I have been in the wonderful position of having absolutely no idea where we wanted to go for three weeks this fall. So for several months (I'll admit, mostly as a halfhearted attempt to distract us from Belly's passing) we've checked out numerous guidebooks from the local library just hoping that something would jump out at us, that something would click.
Think of most any country in the world and we've most likely considered visiting it over these past few months. China, Vietnam, Bolivia, and all the countries in Central America were investigated. Egypt, Morocco, Russia, and Indonesia were studied. Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Mexico, and Slovakia were thought about. And yet nothing, no matter how much reading we were doing, clicked.
We figured in part this was because we've been so distraught after Belly's passing. But it was also because there were just too many places to choose from. And sometimes too many options is not a good thing. In fact, looking over all the guidebooks at our disposal – all of the countries we could choose from at random – reminded us an awful lot of standing in the bread aisle of an American grocery store when we first came home from our round-the-world trip. In short, we felt utterly confounded. (Most likely you are too after that whole travel versus bread aisle comparison. Stay with me here....)
You see, during our trip when fresh bread wasn't available in a foreign land, we had grown accustomed to having one, possibly two, lackluster loafs of bread to choose between. Heavily processed, harder than a rock, and completely unappealing, but there for our taking nevertheless. When there's no choice, you just grab what's available and move on.
But in America there are entire aisles devoted to all types and flavors and shapes of bread you can imagine. (Still heavily processed, of course, but amazingly soft and very appealing.) And we stood in that bread aisle for a good long time, trying to figure out the best choice. And you know what? Eventually we said to heck with it and opted not to get any bread at all.
Now that's where my comparison between shopping for bread and figuring out where to travel this fall ends. Because certainly, if you know anything about Tim or myself, certainly you'll know we are going to travel this fall. We weren't about to walk away from all those guidebooks and say, "Forget about it. We'll just go somewhere next year."
I mean, we can live without bread. We can't, however, live without travel.
So I'll admit we were feeling a bit frustrated. And a bit overwhelmed by the number of choices. But we figured at the very least, if nothing really clicked, we'd just hop on a cheap flight down to Mexico or Central America and explore some off-the-beaten path villages for three weeks. Just knowing we had a back-up plan for our long holiday made us feel a bit less twitchy.
Ironically, though, it was in the midst of our "back-up destination" discussion when we realized something important. We realized there is a country we really want to go this fall. It wasn't one of the countries we had considered for this year. It wasn't even a country we had a guidebook for at the time. But it was a country we planned on visiting sometime in 2011 or maybe 2012. In fact, earlier this year (thanks to our tax refund) we actually set aside a specific travel budget just for this particular country because it's such a special place to us.
You see, somehow in all our travels, Tim and I have never been to any African country. We've daydreamed about doing one of the famed overland trips that we've read so much about, like from Cairo to Capetown. We included a few northern African countries on our original round-the-world itinerary, only to have to axe them later. And yet we've still never gotten around to visiting anywhere on the continent together.
This omission seems particularly glaring given Tim's family is from South Africa. Tim's parents immigrated from South Africa to the US in the late 1960's. His family history in South Africa dates back to the early 1900s and he has family members who still live there. Tim visited South Africa once as a boy with his older sister and his Dad, but that was nearly three decades ago and perhaps a bit before he was fully appreciative of the family history he was experiencing. So there's still a lot to explore and a lot of people to meet. And, perhaps the best reason of all, the farm where Tim's Dad grew up – the same farm that Tim has grown up hearing stories about and looking at pictures of – is now a delightful little bed and breakfast.
So, there we have it. South Africa is where we plan to travel for three weeks this fall. It feels right. It clicks. And we are incredibly, incredibly excited.
And did I mention that a popular South African dish in Durban called "bunny chow" is served on fresh bread? Clearly this trip is meant to be.