MULTIMEDIA STORYTELLER MALIBONGWE TYILO SAYS THAT FOR HIM, IT’S NOT JUST WHERE, BUT ALSO HOW YOU LIVE
For Malibongwe Tyilo, it’s not just where you live, but how
I’ve lived in four South African cities. As a student I stayed in Port Elizabeth, East London, and then Johannesburg all in fairly quick succession, before choosing Cape Town as my home towards the end of 1999. Then there was a time when Cape Town and I almost broke up. In 2007 I decided to move back to Joburg to work at the head office of a major clothing retailer.
I’d visited Johannesburg a few times in the years since I left it in 1999, and had a somewhat romantic, nostalgic recollection of the couple of years I spent there as a student, living in mid-to-late-’90s Yeoville, and later, Norwood’s Grant Avenue. But something in me was different when I landed on 16 July 2007. Years of coastal living and easy access to natural beauty had irreversibly affected how I liked to live.
Over the year that followed, I spent time getting reacquainted with the City of Gold. On a few occasions, I tried to incorporate the scenic drives I loved so much in Cape Town into my Joburg life: a trip to Parys, another to the Magaliesberg. But those moments felt so detached from my day-to-day life. So a year and three months after moving back to Joburg, shortly before my 30th birthday, once again I packed up for Cape Town.
Fortunately, my partner was also ready to make a change. We loaded everything we could into my tiny car and made the journey in search of a quality of life that was better aligned with our temperaments. And for that first couple of years back in the Western Cape, almost every weekend included some sort of picturesque road trip. Whenever we could, budget allowing, we’d book into some small town. Mountain hikes and seaside jogs eventually became a regular part of our lives.
The biggest lesson of the past decade has been that as much as I love a break from the city, it should never be an event so removed from my daily life that it’s something I only do for a couple of weeks at some point in the year. No. The elements I like in a holiday should be moments I am able to enjoy in smaller doses throughout the year, without incurring ridiculous expenses.
I’ve become a bit of a workaholic more recently. But being able to jump into my car and enjoy a Sunday drive around the Cape Peninsula, or perhaps a Saturday relaxing on a lagoon at the West Coast National Park, feels like a getaway. Even a simple morning walk up the city bowl’s Lion’s Head sprinkles a bit of holiday dust into my days.
Realising that has led to other changes in my life; after many years of trying, I’ve finally settled on a system that makes it possible to work completely as a freelancer. Yes, my workdays are often longer than they were when I had to go into an office. And some weeks are seven-day work periods. But none of it feels like a strain. Other than when I go out to interview people or for meetings, I do my work from home, surrounded by familiar textures of my own choosing – and while I do like to dress up, some days are spent toiling in my pyjamas.
Just the other day, halfway through my working day, I got tired of sitting in front of my computer and I was craving a snack. I remembered I had a bag of sesame seeds and a couple of cans of chickpeas. So I made tahini and then hummus. I’m not a big fan of baking bread, so I popped out to the cute – and mildly pretentious – new neighbourhood store for a loaf of sourdough to make toast. There was no rush and I took far more time than I should have taken. A couple of hours later I got back to the computer, feeling relaxed, and I worked into the night.
Of course, not every job can be done from home, and some occupations require us to live where we do. But I think a good place for all of us to start is by thinking about the quality of life that we want – not just when we go on holiday or when we retire, but every day. And then to find ways to inject that quality into our lives. For me, that included moving cities and completely changing the way I make my living. malibongwe