[words and photograph Narina Exelby]
This week, for what seems like the first time in more than a decade (although in truth it’s probably the fourth), I’m travelling without an agenda. I have no stories to file, no deadlines to meet. There is no one I need to interview; no accommodation to be reviewed; no vehicle that needs testing. I’m not carrying a tripod. I don’t need to know what time the sun rises, or what time it sets. There is no opening spread that has to be captured; no cover to be crafted. And this all feels rather strange.
This week I’m on holiday – a real one – and it’s becoming an exercise in letting go. After travelling so many thousands of kilometres around the world searching for stories, always on the lookout for an interesting angle or image, I’ve driven across South Africa from Cape Town to the Drakensberg – less than 200km from where I grew up – to practise the art of doing nothing. And it’s a lot harder than I thought. My whole being is wired to notice the intricate details of the world; to record them; to capture them; to store them to memory, to be called on when writing a feature from a fluorescent-lit air-conditioned office. It’s hard to turn that part of me off.
So this week, my challenge is to discover a new way to travel. Instead of setting my alarm for before dawn so I can make the most of the early morning light, I wake when the Egyptian geese start rustling on our thatch roof. Instead of worrying that the afternoon rain will arrive with low clouds that could ruin any photo opps, I relish the thunder that boulders down the valleys. Instead of climbing every hill, every tree, to find the best vantage point, I’m walking wherever the day takes me. It’s a challenge, but instead of researching, planning and doing, I’m trying my very best to let go, and to just… be. And it’s becoming a curious lesson in self-control, and in freedom.
PS I still couldn’t resist, when the Egyptian geese woke me at dawn this morning, leaning out of my window to take the pic above. That’s a peak called Champagne Castle, in the central Drakensberg.