When people ask me where I’m from it’s rather hard to give a concise answer. Ethnically speaking, I am Irish on my father’s side and Anglo-Dutch with a smattering of German on my mother’s side. However, my family has lived for several generations in Africa, if you really want to know all the gritty details.
Although I was born in London, my family immigrated to South Africa when I was four, so I don’t really have any memories of the place. I grew up in Johannesburg, where amongst other things, I bore witness to the fall of apartheid. Joburg wouldn’t exist if it didn’t sit atop roughly half the world’s gold. There is a general get-rich-quick attitude that permeates the place, dating back from the original gold rush. It is a rather nasty city, with huge inegalities between rich and poor, racism, gang violence, ugly architecture, pollution, you name it. I wish I hadn’t grown up there.
Ever since I was a young lad I had wanted to explore the world. I had a globe on my bedside table that I would spin round and round, memorizing the names of the world’s capitals. I would spend hours poring over the pages of my atlas, tracing the lines of rivers and roads. My parents certainly stimulated my wanderlust, driving my sister and I all around South Africa on several trips. Outside of Johannesburg, South Africa has some very beautiful countryside, it is very special thing indeed to observe wild animals in their natural habitat.
In my early twenties I went on my first trip outside of South Africa to neighbouring Mozambique. Mozambique has the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and the best seafood I have ever eaten. At the time the country had just emerging from 25 years of civil war, so it was pretty ravaged. I also contracted malaria, a souvenir I could have done without.
Shortly thereafter, I decided to spread my wings and head to Europe, so I flew to Dublin to discover my Irish roots. I settled in Ireland for two years, I guess it was alright, generally I laughed a lot and got fat drinking too much beer in pubs.
I decided I wanted to try something a little different, so I moved to France, where I lived for eight years and learnt to speak French pretty well. I lived in various different cities, including Paris, Avignon, Marseille and Montpellier. The best thing about France is the food: the bread, cheese and wine are amazing. However, the beaurocracy is infuriating and the French really do complain a lot.
Bouncing around Europe
At one time I had thought that I might settle permanently in France, buy a house and plant some trees. But I had this feeling that I was missing out on seeing the rest of the world. I was still turning that globe around in my head, imagining far away places. So one fine day I decided to sell everything, put my life in a suitcase, and live like a gypsy but without the luxury of a caravan. I sailed around the waters of Greece, then hitchhiked across the Balkans to Berlin. I was having a good time, but then I ran out of money, so I hunkered down in Marseille for a bit to do some work. I managed to get arrested for carrying two grams of cannibis. Not a proud moment. With my bank balance looking a bit healthier, I decided to hit the road again, so I went to Dublin, London and Paris, crashing with friends, using up goodwill.
After that I spent a summer in Barcelona, with the idea of learning Spanish. Barcelona was rather hot and overrun with drunken tourists, so I decided to head to the Canaries, where I had the rather good luck to borrow a friend’s sailboat and go sailing around the islands for several months. The Canaries were very nice, a blessed archipelago with an ideal climate and the friendliest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. There was something missing, I wanted to see more alternative culture, so I went back to Barcelona with the idea of throwing myself into artistic creation and wild sex.
Looking to the future
I would really like to see America, Asia and more of Africa. I toy with the idea of buying a sailboat and sailing around the world at least once in my life.
One of the toughest aspects of leading such a nomadic existence is that the friends I have made all live far away. For the people I am drawn to are nomads like me, scattered across the Earth, perpetually in movement.