The photo above shows a fleeting moment of affection between two young impala in Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve, about an hours drive from Richards Bay.
Being immersed in nature is a truly wonderful thing. Whether I am walking through autumnal deciduous woodland in England or swimming with man-eating sharks in the pelagic waters of South Africa, I always feel a sense of awe and wonder, but also of complete contentment. In that moment, I know that the world is constantly changing. That small section of time in which I am immersed is completely impermanent. But yet, in the very same moment, there is no future and there is no past. There is only the present. For me, the experience is very spiritual. I am truly enjoying a moment that has never been experienced before and will never be experienced again. I am not concerned with the regrets of yesterday or the worries of tomorrow. I am enjoying what is in front of me – now.
Being around wild animals in particular gives me this spiritual feeling more than anything else. Creatures have knowledge, abilities, feelings and behaviours that, despite all the scientific study in the world we will never fully understand or be able to predict. When I get the opportunity to interact with such creatures, especially when they choose to interact (or at least tolerate) back, are truly some of my most special moments. I appreciate the existence of that amazing transient moment, knowing that it will end, but that other wondrous events will take place in the future.
Of course, eventually everything will end. My precious moments in nature will end. The people I love most in the world will die. I will die. My universe will completely cease to be, while others will continue being and experience transient moments of their own.
The biggest joy we can give ourselves during our lifetime is to be present in the moment and enjoy the beauty of existence. Appreciate the indifferent rawness of nature and accept the changing ripples of the universe. This is something that travel offers – diverse and ever-changing moments of wonder – unique and meaningful to each and every one of us. This circumnavigation has provided me with more of these opportunities than I ever dreamed possible. I am so incredibly lucky.
You might be wondering why I’m starting to sound more like a Buddhist monk preaching a path to enlightenment rather than telling you about our recent adventures or future exploits. Well, to be honest I’m not entirely sure myself. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent four months now in my favourite continent. The place where life on Earth began. Where the human species began. The landscape and wildlife here blows my mind completely. I feel so dizzyingly thrilled by it, completely contented by it and also deeply saddened by its impermanence – all these emotions at the same time – that I succumb to the inevitable and simply enjoy what Mother Nature has put in front of me.
It might also be because we have now left South Africa and are sailing across the final ocean of our voyage – the Atlantic. It’s hard to believe that after three years we are finally on the home run of this mammoth undertaking. We left Cape Town last Wednesday 13th March for the Caribbean (via St Helena and Fernando De Noronha hopefully) and my feelings about this are conflicted to say the least. I am so excited about the next chapter of my life after this voyage. To see family and friends again. To form new friendships that I can bask in for many years into the future rather than having to say goodbye after just a few short weeks. To be settled somewhere where I know where to find my favourite supermarket or restaurant. To know where the nearest atm is! But I am sad at the idea of leaving behind the adventures of sailing. The ever-changing people, places, wildlife and landscapes has had a profound impact on me. I am a very different person than who I was when I first stepped onto Bob three years ago. How exactly have I changed? I don’t think I could explain it. Will I be able to adapt back into the modern world in a few months time?
Only time will tell.