The Adventures of a Part Time Professional Gypsy (and her ginormous teddy thing)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thank You for being Born

Coming home is not quite as easy as you might think. 
Even when you "just take a plane"...

While everyone else breezed past security, I had that bear scanned at all five airports on the way (Cairns. Bali. Bangkok. Addis Ababa. Johannesburg). 
Apparently either he or I look like we might be pushing drugs or smuggling some small children inside (although I'm not quite sure how I might have gotten said "small children" inside). 

And yes it was great to lick South African soil (some may call it "airport floor") 
and have my grandmother smiling and ready to make me her eternal housemate, never allowing me to venture off on another adventure ever again; 
but I had to keep her waiting an hour while I attempted to change $20 into rands. 
I didn't own an address or a phone number... even with a foreign passport, this simple task was impossible!

It took me four days and five attempts to try and acquire a phone number [luckily Ouma came in to rescue me... she'll have to do the same again as I attempt to unfreeze my bank account...]  

Meet Ouma. She's amazing!
I tried to hire a car, but without a credit card, nobody wanted to give me one. 
That's okay I suppose, I have started exploited our non-existent transport system for what it's not worth! 
And have enjoyed a whole host of incredible "taxis" with a plethora of friends and family!

But despite the bureaucracy and transportlessness, I have to admit it is flipping good to be back.
 I've spent a few days with my brother and his "pets". 
I've witnessed the miraculous growth of families as almost everyone I know has milked their wombs for their fertileness.
 I've spent time with my granny and cousins and friends. 
And I even had the privilege of crashing a best friend's wedding!

And just one of his many pets.
Look how fertile South African soil is...

It was a great wedding to crash too!
On long flights, in bank and sim card queues, on long bus rides, 
and while trapped in camp by herds of elephants; I've had much time to think and reminisce. 
I don't think any of you have an inkling of an idea of how incredible you really are and how much you've given to my life! 
In fact the list of people I need to thank for keeping me alive, off the streets, out of prison, and with a smile on my face is impossibly long!

They seem to get a kick out of trapping you inside
Some of you I have known for years and you've actively shaped and guided my life; 
you've put up with my nonsense, 
encouraged me, inspired me, given me all sorts of sound advices, 
and you've supported my weird life directions (sometimes with bated breath). 
For that I thank you profusely! 

But there's also all those people who hitched me (to get an ice-cream, or across countries, or oceans).
And those who hitched with me. 
Those who helped me reach dreams (like getting out of prison, or spending a day filling in potholes, or visiting Ikea, or building a raft and sailing it out into the ocean...) 
The amount of people who have taken me in for a night (or a month), 
those who have have fed me, 
or eaten with me (thank you too to the cannibals who refrained from eating me), 
who have kept me entertained and positive through all sorts of trials and tribulations and the hours/days/weeks of border crossings.

On some random border somewhere in central Asia 
Turkmenistan: where every time you stop to ask directions, you get welcomed in for a meal!
Thank you for random hugs and laughs and adventures.
Thank you too to those who carried a scowl and a frown; your misery reminded me I needed joy.
Thank you to all those who stop and help when crises strike!

Three flat tyres, at the same time in Mongolia.
A party ensued with all those who stopped to help!

In fact. It doesn't matter who you are, and whether I've known you for a minute or a decade; 
I want to thank you for being born! 
There's a reason you are here, and the world is a happier, friendlier, and epicer place because of it!

Somewhere in Australia with some happy people who made my week!

Monday, October 3, 2016


The end was in sight. 
In just three weeks my circumnavigation would be [more or less] complete. 
After 4 awesome [and challenging] years of hitch hiking on other peoples boats across the Indian, the Atlantic, and now the Pacific, I could just about smell the accomplishment.

S/V Fiddler.
60 Foot steel sloop
On which [not entirely against my will] I was forced to be a vegetarian.
I sailed her across the Indian Ocean and rejoined again in the Caribbean
S/Y Nereid
47 foot Beneteau
We survived the freezing cold of  the Atlantic and the Pirates who stole everything including my birthday plans
Although it wasn't all bad celebrating at sea! 
S/Y Yoldia
27 foot toiletless Albin Vega
I hitched her to Panama but then forgot to get off and stayed on board [through loss of autopilot and propane and rigging] all the way to Tonga.
Schooner Sjostrom
96 foot gaff rig
I sailed her through the glassy, windless waters from New Zealand to Fiji
S/Y Yacare
25 foot fiber Beneteau.
The waves were frequently bigger than the boat.
I sailed her from Fiji through the Solomons and PNG
But epiphany strikes when you expect it.
I was casually sailing through some of the most phenomenal islands in the world when one hit me with vengeance.
I suddenly knew what I wanted to do.
(As a woman that's just about unheard of)
And I was so excited about it, it couldn't wait!

Sunset in the Louisiades
It wasn't an easy decision. 
But when more-or-less-civilization struck (Port Moresby), I jumped ship.
I watched Yacare sail off to Indonesia and had tears roll down my face as I realized I was giving up on one dream in the quest for another.

For years I have been helping other people chase their goals and build their projects and float their ships. 
I've sweated and toiled and pushed myself because I don't believe in doing anything half-hearted, 
but at the end of the day I've walked away with only memories (and warm fuzzy feelings).
I've loved most of it, and learned a lot but, and this sounds selfish, it's time for me to build something myself. 
Time to start my own exploit.
I'm quite literally exhausted by "aimlessly" floating around the world.
And even more agonizing is my dire case of homesickness 

I missed the people.
The colours.
I missed the culture.
The animals.
I missed the braais.
The beaches and mountains and forests.
Even the jaapies.

Instagram photo by my incredibly talented baby brother Jeandre' Gerding
(Follow him @Umlunguish)
Photo by @Umlunguish
Photo by @Umlunguish
In fact, I also had a rather peculiar realization;
one that will save months of my life:
And so I gave up trying to wangle my way onto cargo ships (or other random means of transport) and bit the bullet.
Although it's not quite as easy as it sounds!

I flew from Papua New Guinea to Cairns.
From Cairns to Bali.
From Bali to Bangkok.
And my final flights have just been confirmed.
Tonight I fly to Addis Abba and in the morning, for the first time in three long years,  I'll be home.

Photo by @Umlunguish
I'm quite terrified!
I have no idea what's waiting for me in South Africa.
I've been gone for so long that I'm not even sure my family will recognise me, let alone friends.
I've seen, experienced, learned and grown so much that I don't even recognise myself.

Beetle nut for breakfast
In the last 9 years of Part Time Professional Gypsyism (PTPG), this is the first time I've decided to go home for me. 
Not for a wedding. Or by accident. Or for any other reason.
Just because it's time. 
It's where I need and want to be.
I always thought I'd return fit and lean, with excessive bundles of foreign cash...
Instead I carry a squiggy sailor's build and I'm broke (but fortunately not broken).
But if you wait for perfect conditions, you'd better by quite good at knitting.
I'm can't knit!

I'm not sure how long I'll be back for.
I'm not at all sure of the practicalities of what I'm setting out to do...
(The "epiphony" still carries some haziness)
For so long I have taken solace in knowing that I'm a good gypsy.
I'm good at scumming it; scavenging for food, hitching, exchanging skills and muscle for shelter and adventure.
I'm used to migrating. To moving. To letting life distract me.
But I crave a base. A home. Community.

I might be 27 degrees short of a circumnavigation, but for now 
I've had enough of licking foreign soils. 
Enough stories. 
Enough challenges and new places.
 For a while at least.
It's time for something different.
It's time to catch up and reconnect with old friends (if any of you remember me?)
It's time to remember my roots.
It's very much time to go to the airport.
It's time to go home!