Posted in Word Stories
May 16th, 2018

Feelings…

Exactly one month into my trip and I think it’s time to start writing about feelings. Extensively writing. Writing myself into some discoveries of how this has really been going so far and what is actually going on inside.

It’s strange; in a way, I feel like I’ve gone through this first month quite emotionless. Yes, there was the all-over body tingle in the first moments of finally being on the road. Of being fully packed, as organised as is obsessively possible, as ready as I ever will be. The freedom of knowing that even if there was a forgotten purchase or download, it’s too late to worry and that I was too contingency’d to be massively affected should such a neglected recovery item or contact or How-To video be needed and missed.

I, solo traveller and now Africa-adventurer, was on the journey that I never knew my soul always needed.

But where are the feelings?

In Botswana, my initial excitement tamed into landscapes and city malls that were wholly familiar. A Wimpy for another holiday burger, Incredible Connection for a spare SD card, family of family to hold me in my final known nest. And even a border post that had a working credit card machine when my well-researched and well-rehearsed crossing left me 100 Pula short of the vehicle levy. A very soft landing indeed.

Then Zimbabwe exploded into the story.

Non-happenings of the sort of explosion I was worried about: Not an aggressive policeman nor confrontational roadblock during my entire visit. My faux wallet—a tip from friends—full of small denominations to hand over in a “This-is-all-I-got”-shrug, sat unused and dejected in my front pocket.

Actual—metaphorically speaking—explosions where I least expected them: In my heart and in my soul as I sat in and drove through landscapes that titillated every energy meridian running through my body. What wonderful surprises lay waiting for me in empty-of-people, full-of-wonder, forlorn but not beaten Zimbabwe. My spirit soared alongside my drone in the Matopos, climbed to great heights with me in the Chimanimanis and floated, happy and content, next to our boat on the Zambezi. A recurring feeling of disbelief in the spectacular vistas of this country which has been hammered so hard by unconscionable leadership and its resultant decrepit reputation.

Maybe the secret to truly ecstatic experiences it to deeply believe the opposite; that there will be nothing to see except bloodshot eyes of aggressors, and nothing to feel but respite when this chapter is over, survived.

But I had those same non-expectations of Mozambique and, unfortunately, this time they delivered. Whether it was the much more impermeable language barrier or a people that held a deep knowing that they really didn’t need the likes of me… Maybe it was my own attitude, together with my itinerary being deliberately that of pass-through and not an extensive investigation… Whatever it was, even at the shores of picture-perfect Cahora Bassa, I felt alien and somehow excluded. My Zimbabwe-high acrashing, as all ecstatic adventures do, in a depressing comedown of sober and sombre awakenings.

Nevermind, I thought. Malawi is next. The country I was probably most looking forward to of the entire trip.

And here I sit. A third of the way through my time here, grappling with the double-layered wonderings of how Malawi is doing on my adventure barometer, and how I am truly doing on my general state of emotions-measure.

That’s what got me thinking about expectations. Possibly, arguably, Malawi’s vistas so far have been more diverse and more visually powerful than Zimbabwe’s. Climbing in Mulanje tops Chimanimani, and not just in the height I reached or distances I covered. Those peaks and plateaus thudded in my chest and spoke a language to my soul that I could nearly fully understand. Zomba had its own beauty, equal to the Bvumba. And the Lake!!! Lake Malawi had me mute as I stared into the endless water on our boat outing yesterday. She lapped me to sleep last night, camping right on one of her beautiful beaches, and gently nudged me awake this morning. I’ve met and been accompanied by more travellers here than in Zim too.

Yet, now is when I’m starting to feel emotionally withered.

Why this dampened feeling? A neuropathy in my fingers, hands, feet and being. Nerve-endings that refuse to awaken or to send thrills back to my brain that are supposed to bring smiles wider than my face.

Maybe I am finally lonely. Something many suspected would happen but an opinion that I swotted away with the self-knowledge that I travel better alone. And, besides, I told them and myself, I would be meeting many people along the way for regular social injections.

Maybe it’s the shadow caused by an expectation gap realised? No matter how blue the lake’s afternoon glow is, it can never shimmer in the glitter of my earlier, uninformed fantasy.

Maybe, four weeks into pervasive silence that’s only broken by the getting-to-know-you sentences—in other words, surface ones—spoken to other adventurers, and the silt in my soul is finally starting to surface. Silt from chapters past yet still settling; scars mostly healed yet still visible. And because they’re there and able to elbow-nudge their way into my present, they’re getting the airtime they need.

It’s probably a little bit of all of these things. It’s just as likely merely a patch of subdued social energy. I have spent years trying to be, but finally accept that I am just not, massively outgoing. I recharge internally and not externally. Contrary to years of living otherwise, I actually prefer the still and not the clamour, even if it is lined with a cloud of melancholy. And my reaction to my current state might also just be hardwiring activating those feelings of “this is not how things should be nor how you should be responding,” causing a double-wham of reactions for me to hurdle over.

This, then, is where I find myself: a front-row camp site overlooking gentle, beautiful, majestic Lake Malawi, and a seat right up front with my emotions. Feelings of not being quite sure of what I’m supposed to feel. Feelings that have swung from pure joy to unfiltered numbness. Feelings that are trying just as hard to be something they “should” as they are to reach some consistent high in appreciation of this glorious adventure with its rare, exceptional, probably-never-to-be-repeated chapters.

People whose counsel I trust would urge me just to sit with whatever these things are that I’m feeling. Sit in the joy when it’s there; sit in the sulk when it rolls in. To acknowledge the fog along with the sunshine. Because both need each other, in a weird way, to feel productive. To feel alive.

That’s what I’ll do. Right here in one of the best seats in the world right now.

Lots of love from Cape Maclear in Malawi.

 


[Just in case this piece worries you—and it shouldn’t—here’s a note I recorded in the car recently. Have a listen.]

10 comments

  • Rory and Liz

    Wow Dakin reading your story makes me feel I’m right there with you. Have been fortunate to visit a lot of the places you write about albeit never on my own. Now I see them through different eyes. What a fantastic experience you are having. Will you find yourself only you will know that. What you will find is a new respect for life and you can only come back more richer and wiser. God Bless and may the road rise before you and may God hold you in the palm of his hand. Best wishes Rory and Liz

    Reply to Rory and Liz
    • Post authorDakin Parker

      So awesome to hear from you two. And thanks for reading and chiming in. I love staying connected to folks like this. And yes, a new respect for life and everybody trying to make a go at it. See you further along this crazy road, Ror and Liz. xo

      Reply to Dakin Parker
  • Emanuel

    Love this…felt like I was there with you while reading this..mis u dakes ?

    Reply to Emanuel
    • Post authorDakin Parker

      You are. You all are. Thanks for the love boytjie. xo

      Reply to Dakin Parker
  • Jackie Plank

    Epic writing and sharing. Your capacity to give words wings and to craft in this wordsmithing workshop called social media, is as breathtaking as the vistas you describe and invoke. What strikes me as I read, listen, and see you here, is the sentence “as within, so without”. The external reflections speak to me, of the African you are.
    I offer some immediate thoughts on reading and looking that are rough and tumbleweed…I hope they are welcome?

    On the feeling frontier, I imagine, we may become deeply emotionally and spiritually abraded, stunted and perhaps even a tad retarded, living the separation that is city and egoic living. Recovering the feeling facility with which to apprehend and perceive beauty – of the kind you stand face to face with – requires titration. One drop at a time. One beautiful day at a time. In my mind’s eye, this feeling facility (with which to apprehend Beauty) is like an ancient muscle that is best recovered through training in small manageable chunks. Beauty “fatigue”, it seems, may be like psycho-spiritual “muscle strain”. And from the sidelines, you are training up a storm. Never a slouch or one for half-measures… May the hippo stormers and butterfly insects teach you well how to find your way back to the deep intelligence that is your Nature Being and that Being’s capacity for Beauty. Someone once said to me that if we were able to perceive accurately the truth of who we really are – and to perceive this reflection in Nature – we’d implode (go crazy) cause we are not trained or practiced in the art of such perceptual prowess, to see such Beauty…I see that you write beautifully and look forward to your sharings a great deal. Your writings and sharings are generous and feel like balm for my parched city Soul. Thank you for the missives from Africa.
    Much love and beautiful solitude.

    Reply to Jackie Plank
    • Post authorDakin Parker

      I don’t even know where to start. As always, you give me stuff to chew on for a while after. But chew I will cos it’s tasty. Thank you Jackie.

      Reply to Dakin Parker
  • Tiffany

    Yes I feel like I’m right with you both physically and mentally.

    Maybe it’s the shadow caused by an expectation gap realised? No matter how blue the lake’s afternoon glow is, it can never shimmer in the glitter of my earlier, uninformed fantasy.

    The above is something I feel quite often as my zest for life, fun and adventure can paint some pretty amazing anticipations. Thank you for eloquently capturing that feeling for me. It’s a fine line of dream/ reality and I try to to play that game every day.

    Reply to Tiffany
    • Post authorDakin Parker

      Thanks Tif. Yes, you’re an explorer and adventurer, so it means a lot that this would resonate with you. So much African love over the seas to you!

      Reply to Dakin Parker
  • Rose

    I just read your new blog. I really admire your courage to open up and dig deep into feelings and expectations. A few years ago I was traveling by couch surfing through Australia for 4 months. I got so so tired.. having to introduce myself to new people everyday and saying goodbye the next.. I always felt guilty for not enjoying and appreciating enough. Like you’re never allowed to have an off day or week when you’re traveling. And on a different trip I stood at Epupa Falls in Namibia, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. And I was so sad. Was just sitting there crying. I think the euphoric moments come when you’re not planning for them and are much smaller and less spectacular but much more intense than you expect. They are less easy to impress your audience with but of much more meaningful to yourself. I still treasure dancing around a bonfire with some locals in a tiny place in the north of Namibia in my fake pink crocs. Allow yourself to not enjoy everything, to have off days or to just have superficial days sometimes. Take care!

    • Post authorDakin Parker

      Where to even begin. Every traveler needs to read this comment. Thank you!

      Reply to Dakin Parker

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