What do the places in the title of this post have to do with each other? Two are on the same continent, so that is sort of a connection, but the other two are European and are heavily populated by olive skinned people who speak Greek. They have different climates and histories. What is the common thread that ties them together for the purpose of this post?
I have been to all four places.
I figured it was about time to share my previous travel experience. I haven’t traveled extensively and though I’ve been out of the country, I’ve only been to one other state besides the one I live in. So I wouldn’t call myself well traveled. Lucky, yes. Well traveled? No.
I’m lucky because I’m connected to all four places in some pretty substantial ways that have allowed me to visit them. Let’s start with the place I was born and have visited the most:
I was born in SA and lived there until I was about five. I’ve gone back three times to visit family and I absolutely love it. South Africa feels like home to me in such a strange and integral way. It’s not about the buildings or even the people (even though my family in SA is amazing and I love them so much). There is something about South Africa itself that makes me feel like I’ve come home. It’s the smell. It’s the red dirt. It’s the sounds. Its the hills and kopjes. I don’t know. I just love it. It is so beautiful and I miss it all the time.
Now let’s go to something slightly similar:
Botswana might be the most off the beat and track place I’ve been. As mentioned before, I work for a safari company and so does my mother. When I was turning sixteen, my mom planned a trip to SA to visit family and was going to take me for my birthday. Work decided that if my mom was going all the way to Africa she might as well check out some properties. These properties just so happened to be in Botswana and I got to go with. I was on safari for a grand total of four nights and they are four of the most amazing nights of my life.
Botswana was incredible. So much open space and wilderness and so few humans or anything I had grown so attached to up to that point (IE: laptop, cell phone, internet). The camps we stayed in were spectacular, but the scenery and wildlife were the truly breathtaking aspects. I took nearly two thousand photos in those four days.
Botswana felt like an integral part of who I was as a human being and while I was there I felt like I was connected to rest of the world and universe for the first time. It wasn’t about being home or feeling like I was home like South Africa. It was feeling like I was suddenly connected to nature and I loved it. I cried like a baby when I had to leave Botswana. I had decided I was going to live there for the rest of my life. My mother had other ideas… Like finishing high school and going to college. Oh Mom.
I’m Greek. My family is Greek. My uncle lives in Greece. I’ve been twice to visit him, but both times were very short (a few days each time, if I’m not mistaken). I saw the Parthenon and ate yummy food and went to a beautiful beach.
So, my family is Greek but (plot twist) we are Cypriot Greeks. Yes, indeed, my family comes from the small Mediterranean island that is half Turkish, half Greek. My grandparents (both sets) live there and it is where my mother was born.
I’ve been all over the Greek part of Cyprus. My one set of grandparents lives in Limasol, my cousin lived in Nicosia, we visited Pafos and Platres in the mountains and traveled along the coast to different beaches. I saw the place where Aphrodite is thought to have emerged from the ocean. I spent most of my time in Cyprus in Limasol but overall I got to see some really beautiful places!
Cyprus was also the country that made me realize I am not cut out for city life and I would rather live in the countryside surrounded by farmland and mountains.
So those are the places I have traveled! None of them are anything like Japan and I went to all these places with family that guided me and translated where necessary. Going to Japan I’ll be on my own most of the time. I’ve never been on my own. This is going to be intensely exciting.