Throughout my year I have had the unbelievable opportunity to experience so many aspects of my project, myself, and the world.
Even though it is easy to become overwhelmingly immersed in my project, I am learning to create a healthy balance where I allow myself the time to explore other passions and interests as I continue to learn about myself.
Through this experience I have had the unique blessing of being able to separate and distance myself from my established life at home to take the time to reflect about the many different parts of my life as I explore and grow within myself.
I have been learning how to acknowledge, embrace, and learn from my flaws.
I have been learning how to trust in myself, value myself, and acknowledge my strengths as I grow in confidence and self acceptance.
And I am learning how to become a stronger, more independent, more open-minded, and more compassionate person as I interact with new cultures and form relationships with people from all over the world.
I have also learned to combat several fears.
As I grow in respect and care for myself through a year of solo travel, I am learning how to overcome my fear of rejection and my fear of being alone.
As I become more spontaneous and adventurous I am learning how to overcome my fear of change and fear of the unknown.
At this point in my journey, I decided to take a few days away from my project and focus on facing fears, self exploration, and taking the chance to experience new things with a Garden Route adventure across the southern part of the African Continent from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
Little did I know, my Garden Route adventure would become one of the most memorable parts of my Watson Fellowship year so far as I conquered several fears, met incredible people, made amazing memories, and spent time exploring and trying new things.
My few days were filled with adrenaline pumping experiences, beautiful sights, new challenges, and wonderful moments with new friends in new places.
I traveled to Gaansbaai where I boarded a boat to Shark Alley and swam in a shark cage surrounded by Great White Sharks.
I drove along the great coastal road, I visited Hermanus and Cape Agulhas where I explored the “Southernmost tip of the African continent” where “the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet”, I saw a ship wreck site, and I walked along the beautiful coastline.
I traveled through Little Karoo, visited Ronnie’s Sex Shop, and traveled to Oudtshoorn.
I went on my first wine-tasting at a vineyard.
I explored an ostrich farm where I had an ostrich peck at food in front of my face, stood on incredibly strong ostrich eggs, and rode an ostrich.
I went on an adventure cave experience at Cango Caves where I climbed, slid, and maneuvered my way through tunnels called “Devil’s Chimney”, “The Love Tunnel”, and “The Postbox”.
I traveled over the Outenique Mountain Pass and explored Wilderness National Park where I canoed, hiked, and visited a waterfall.
I ate oysters in Knysna Waterfront and visited Sedgefield.
I faced my fear of heights and completed the tallest bridge bungee jump in the world at Bloukran’s Bridge (216 meters).
I explored Tsitsikamma National Park, hiked a path to suspension bridges, and was drenched in the pouring rain.
I spent a night at a gorgeous working citrus farm.
I explored Addo Elephant National Park where I saw animals through a guided Big Five Game Safari and a driving tour from my fabulous tour guide Stephanie.
I continued my adrenaline adventures by skydiving in Mossel Bay.
I ate incredible foods including ostrich kebabs, a traditional South African braai (barbecue), meats, biltong (similar to jerky), ostrich carpaccio, homemade museli (granola), and delicious local cuisine.
And most importantly I made incredible memories with truly wonderful people. I cannot thank everyone on my tour (Chloe, Daphne, Rukky, Shain, Thanos, Cecile, Sandra, Josefina, Luciano, Ifi,and Ines) for making the experience truly unforgettable.
I could not have asked for a better group of people as they made me laugh, supported and comforted me, listened to my lame jokes and stories, and showed me absolute kindness and compassion!
I also am incredibly grateful for my wonderful tour guide Stephanie who helped to make this experience amazing with her warm and bright personality, caring and supportive nature, and fun and positive spirit.
I will always remember our fun and interesting conversations, inappropriate and sometimes lame jokes, our adventures together as we conquered fears and checked things off of our bucket lists, explored new sights together, spent time getting to know each other on a more personal level with walks on the beach and talks about our lives, fun memories like our canoe “crocodile” spotting experience, and car singing.
Thank you for accepting me and embracing my bubbly quirkiness, my strange sense of humor, and my hyper excitement. And thank you so much for creating a space where I was able to completely be myself and feel strong and supported while exploring and trying new things.
This mini-trip has continued to show me how fortunate I am to be able to meet amazing people, explore beautiful places, and have incredible new experiences.
Through this short trip I have seen how much I continue to grow throughout my year as I am becoming a more confident, beautiful, self aware, compassionate, funny, adventurous, and strong person.