CityPress - - Voices - In this edited ex­tract from her lat­est book, busi­ness­woman de­cides to escape from ex­ces­sive burnout by tak­ing three months off to do a car­a­van trip across the coun­try with her fam­ily

Blacks Do Car­a­van by Fik­ile Hlatshwayo Ja­cana Me­dia 240 pages R225

In 2014, I was at a point where I had lots of money but lit­tle hap­pi­ness. I had be­come ex­hausted – phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally and men­tally. So it wasn’t a sur­prise when I was di­ag­nosed with ex­ces­sive ‘burnout’, a con­di­tion that has be­come preva­lent in our coun­try.

I had worked so hard through­out my life to ac­cu­mu­late as much money as I could at the ex­pense of my fam­ily, my health and my so­cial life. I had be­come a vic­tim of the con­stant de­mands of my work, to a point that I had to leave my job. I be­came the op­po­site of Su­per­woman and was lost in my own world of se­vere de­pres­sion. Enough was enough, and I needed to escape by leav­ing home to seek ful­fil­ment and heal­ing else­where.

I come from a cul­ture where camp­ing is purely for white peo­ple. Even if black peo­ple were to camp, they would not en­joy it be­cause it is rem­i­nis­cent of how many of us used to live. In fact, a lot of black peo­ple still live like that to­day – cook­ing on a fire, us­ing com­mu­nal toilets, hav­ing ac­cess to lit­tle or no tech­nol­ogy. I thought there was no way I would agree to this camp­ing ex­pe­di­tion. I am, af­ter all, a so­phis­ti­cated and highly suc­cess­ful black woman, com­fort­able in my high heels and suits. I love my com­fort!

But I had no choice – ei­ther I stayed mis­er­able and se­verely de­pressed in my se­cure home, or I joined my fam­ily to en­joy the beauty of our coun­try in the most af­ford­able way. I gave in, but it did take a lot of con­vinc­ing!

What re­ally in­ter­ested me was that this trip un­folded so nat­u­rally. I needed com­fort, so my only con­di­tion was that I would not sleep in a tent. We de­cided to buy a car­a­van that came with a fridge, mi­crowave, com­fort­able beds and, of course, a lit­tle out­side kitch­enette. As first­time buy­ers, all we wanted was a car­a­van that was re­li­able, af­ford­able and able to ac­com­mo­date a fam­ily of four.

Luck­ily, we met Glenda Fourie, a friendly and ex­tremely knowl­edge­able sales­per­son. She lis­tened to all our needs and sold us a good used car­a­van. Once we had our car­a­van, I be­came so ex­cited that I took over as the lead plan­ner of the trip. We learnt a few im­por­tant things, such as the need for a spe­cial li­cence to tow a car­a­van that was over a cer­tain weight. We also had to con­sider se­cu­rity, al­though, once on the road, we learnt about the close­ness of the camp­ing com­mu­nity and how peo­ple look out for one an­other.

The jour­ney be­gan on Septem­ber 15 2014 and we kept postponing our re­turn date be­cause we didn’t want it all to end. We vis­ited more than 25 car­a­van parks, cov­ered more than 10 000km and tra­versed all nine prov­inces. Sub­se­quent to this trip, we had sev­eral other trips partly spon­sored. At the end of these trips, we had been to more than 60 camp­ing/car­a­van parks and had driven more than 25 000km. We also trav­elled to Swazi­land to see if they faced sim­i­lar chal­lenges to South Africa’s.

I have trav­elled a lot within South Africa and be­yond, for both leisure and work pur­poses. But these three months were some­thing dif­fer­ent: out of this world, in­cred­i­ble. I can’t suf­fi­ciently ex­press the value of tak­ing three months out of our so-called nor­mal lives and mak­ing this dream trip.

This trip was sim­ply price­less and re­ward­ing on so many lev­els. Hav­ing first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence in the African wild, I can stand tall and proudly say we have a beau­ti­ful coun­try. South Africa is very rich in nat­u­ral scenery: beaches, vine­yards, coun­try­side and moun­tain ranges. It is also en­dowed with di­verse cul­tures in each prov­ince, so much so that you feel like you are in a dif­fer­ent coun­try as you drive from one prov­ince to the other, and yet there is a dis­tinct sense of con­nec­tiv­ity; of be­ing in one coun­try.

The only sad story is that this wealth of na­ture is only en­joyed by a few South Africans and in­ter­na­tional tourists.

The re­al­ity is, we black South Africans strongly be­lieve that be­cause many of us come from ru­ral ar­eas, there is no need for us to pay money and go and see ele­phants or lions. In any case, we can go to the zoo and see them. How­ever, we do not re­alise the ben­e­fits of be­ing in the wild, the ben­e­fits of out­door life, the ef­fect na­ture has on our chil­dren and us as a fam­ily. On the other hand, many white South Africans have mas­tered the art of trav­el­ling and ap­pre­ci­at­ing our coun­try. Through my in­ter­ac­tions with fel­low campers, I have come to un­der­stand why they camp and how it all started.

Life in the wild is noth­ing like life in the sub­urbs. We have a huge house, but it feels like a pri­son with high walls, an elec­tric fence, top-of-the-range alarm sys­tem, cam­eras on the street and a 24-hour se­cu­rity guard walk­ing up and down the street. How­ever, in a car­a­van park, there is no sense of fear, no walls, no alarms and no se­cu­rity cam­eras, but there is a fence to keep the hip­pos out! There is a sense of be­long­ing, con­nect­ing with your inner self and, of course, the lib­er­a­tion na­ture has to of­fer.

As I sat with my fam­ily around the fire, roast­ing veg­eta­bles, smelling the aroma of lamb chops, spicy chicken wings and boere­wors on the fire, and en­joy­ing chilled drinks un­der the full moon with the sounds of jack­als in the dis­tance, I felt eman­ci­pa­tion, I felt en­rich­ment and I felt I was liv­ing life to the fullest.

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