Transitions

It’s been a while.

I started this post at the end of last year but never got around to finishing it. As it turns out, university is a lot of work. 2018 was an absolute roller coaster of a ride. I would describe last year for me as a boat journey. Not only did I cross the sea to move to another country, but there have been times of stress and uncertainty when it felt like I was being tossed around in a sea of crashing waves, and then there have been times of brief calm and peaceful ocean.

The main event of last year was graduating from high school and starting my very first year of university. I’ve told a couple people that if I’d known what last year was going to be like, I probably would have gone the safe route and taken a gap year. However, it’s been such a surreal year of challenge and learning that I don’t think I ever could have been ready for what this past year has thrown at me.

I started off last year on the east coast of South Africa and ended it near the west coast of Canada. I have moments in my day when I realize how crazy that change is. Culture shock is a real thing. The way I attempt to describe it to people is that it’s in the little things. South Africa is a relatively developed country compared to a lot of African countries so the cities don’t always seem quite that different, but it’s something like the smell of the ocean, the colour of the lights, or the selection of a store shelf that reminds me I’m not in a familiar place when I’m in Canada.

Don’t get me wrong, Canada is great, it’s just…. different. If you ask me which one I prefer, this is how I’ll respond: You’ve obviously never had your heart split between two countries so don’t expect to understand the complex range of emotions that comes with that experience. Go think of a worthwhile question and maybe you’ll get a worthwhile answer.

Okay, that’s definitely not what I would say if you asked me that in person. I would probably say something more along the lines of: “Oh, you can’t compare them.” Just know I’m thinking the line I stated above. But here’s some advice, just don’t ask me.

Now what was it like leaving South Africa? That’s a question I can answer.

I had to grapple with the fact that I was moving halfway across the world to my home country that no longer feels like home. Whenever I visited Canada there has always been at least one person that asks me what it feels like to be ‘home’. I never know how to answer that question because there’s this assumption that because I was born in Canada I still feel more ‘at home’ when I’m there. In reality, I’m stuck in a strange sort of limbo where I don’t feel completely at home in South Africa because I’ve kept my Canadian accent and have been homeschooled for most of my life, but because I grew up out of Canada, I don’t really know how to relate to Canadians either.

So when I had to start packing up my life of eight years in order to move to Canada to start university, it was definitely a daunting task. I had to go through all of my stuff to weed out what I didn’t need or want anymore and pack it up into cardboard boxes ready to be shipped across the ocean.

The time came for me to leave my country.

Saying goodbye to my friends was hard, but they have all been so supportive, and we manage to keep in touch (when I actually remember to respond to their sweet messages. Can I just say that long distance is hard?!)

Fast forward to finishing first year… that’s exactly what it felt like. It was as if someone had pressed the fast forward button and forgot to press play again. It went by so fast. That said, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself, about how to function in a university setting, and about how to interact with large groups of people I had never met before. Yes, I’m an extrovert, but even for an extrovert a whole university of people is frightening. Luckily, I have a brother who put up with me hanging out with him and his friends and now he can’t get rid of me if he tried.

But in all seriousness, I have met some really incredible people. While I tend to connect with people pretty quickly, it takes me quite a bit longer to form deeper relationships. First semester was rough because I was in a new setting without any friends, and I felt very disconnected from my friends in South Africa. On top of that, I made a bad course decision landing me in a biology course meant for nursing students. My friends have heard me complain about this enough, but I managed to get through it while keeping my grades relatively high thanks to a miracle of a friend who actually knew what on earth was going on (shoutout to Chels <3).

So when second semester came around I had proven to myself that I could handle the academic difficulties that come along with university. It doesn’t mean second semester was easy, but I started really connecting with people in second semester which made this social butterfly’s heart a whole lot lighter (you know who you are 🐧).

So now I’m looking back at the academic year I’ve completed and I couldn’t be more proud of myself. If I’d known the struggles I would encounter before enrolling at UBC, I would have given into fear and stayed home, but I am a better person for pushing myself out of my comfort zone and I can’t wait to continue growing throughout the rest of my undergrad degree (please remind me of these words next year when I’m staying up until 1am slowly being crushed by the heavy weight of my workload and my overachieving high standards).

And now, I get a very exciting opportunity of going back to South Africa and reconnecting with my home of eight years after the past year of crazy experiences. I’m heading out for the month of May and am planning to soak up all the South African sunshine I can. Honestly, if it’s cold and rainy I am going to be incredible grumpy, but at least I’ll have good people around me to make it better.

These photos are, in fact, around a year old, but they capture the way I feel about South Africa incredibly well, and I can’t wait to go back and capture more of this beautiful country. Expect more posts to come soon.

And with that, my first year is done.

My boat’s still floating.

I’m in peaceful waters at the moment, but it won’t be long before my little boat is put to the test again.

~Abby

Xx

Magical Evening at the Royal Ballet

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This post has been more than a month coming, but I finally had the time to put it together so here it is at last. Earlier this year my family and I were in the full swing of planning our trip back to Canada. This was my final year of high school and in the fall I am planning to attend university. This means I had to pack up all of my belongings in South Africa that I had accumulated over the 8 years I’ve lived there in order to ship them to Canada. As we were planning our trip overseas we were wondering if there was one last thing we could do as a family before I fly the nest later this year. Ideas came up about Hamilton tickets but they’re so expensive and you have to book so far in advance that it didn’t seem worth it to make the trip all the way to New York (which means flying through the States which is always a pain). Please come to Canada, Hamilton! When that idea fell through I threw out the option of flying through London Heathrow which is a regular route when flying transcontinental to see if it was possible to attend a Royal Ballet performance… I can’t believe it happened.

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I’ve been a dancer for coming up to ten years and I had only seen two ballets in person. However, I knew a lot about the classics; Nutcracker, Swan Lake, La fille mal gardée, Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, etc. One of my favourite past times (and procrastination activities shhhhhhh)  is watching the Royal Ballet rehearsal videos on the Royal Opera House’s youtube. As you start to get to know the dancers you get excited as different principal dancers are cast as different roles and you get to know more about the Royal Ballet’s repertoire.

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As our travel plans started coming together it looked like heading through London would be very possible, and not only that but the weekend we wanted to fly through Heathrow was when the Royal Ballet was planning to put on a brand new production of Swan Lake (different from their previous versions). Which ballet is more classic than Swan Lake? Is this real?

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It was pretty surreal for me to even contemplate viewing a performance in person, isn’t it only rich people who go to the Royal Ballet? Maybe not, but still, in my mind people who are paid in pounds are the ones who get to do stuff like go to the ballet and we are paid in Canadian dollars which are worth almost half what the pound is worth. Nevertheless, we wanted to make the effort for me to see this ballet, as a sort of graduation present. Generally the earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets are, but when we went to look at tickets for opening night (the night I wanted to go) they were almost entirely sold out. The best tickets we could get were roughly 80 pounds (yikes!) so while it would have been nice for my parents to come as well we decided it would be best if I went by myself and so could get a better seat that was single.

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The night that we booked was on Thursday the 17th of May. It was opening night with two of my favourite dancers, Marianela Núñez and Vadim Muntagirov as the lead roles. I don’t know if I could have been more excited. The time I fell in love with Marianela was when she danced Kitri in Don Quixote with Carlos Acosta in the Act I finale and Act II pas de deux which I was able to view on youtube and am still in love with to this day. Her theatrical capabilities, acting, and of course dancing were exceptional and from there I could see she becomes any role she steps into. The first time I saw Marianela was in a rehearsal of the old Swan Lake that had been showing in the Royal Ballet’s repertoire so to be there on opening night of a brand new production of Swan Lake sounded like the perfect night.

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As I started following Marianela, I began to notice she was being paired more and more with Vadim and as I watched more rehearsal videos I could see why; their quality of movement is so beautiful, and Vadim himself is an exceptional dancer. Was I really going to be able to see these two dancers in person?

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The night I was going to attend the ballet was actually the night after we flew into London so we would get into London after an 11 hour flight at something like 5 in the morning and I would have to go to the ballet in the evening which lasts until after 11 at night. Talk about a long day. You never know what’s going to happen between leaving the airport and arriving at your destination, I have some crazy stories let me tell you, but in the event that I lost my bags I decided it would be prudent to pack anything I needed for the ballet in my carry on so if something happened to my big bag I could at least get through the night. My camera bag also had to fit in my carry on though, so here I am with half of my bag filled with my camera, the other half filled with a dress, shawl, heels, and makeup.

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It was quite a flight. I managed to get some sleep on the plane, but of course there were a couple crying infants which made it difficult at times. When we landed we made our way to where we were staying with was a little room on top of a pub in Acton, it was quite fun actually. As soon as we had lunch though, we all flopped on our beds and had a nap; we needed it.

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I was so groggy I had to drag myself out of bed and slap some makeup on my face trying to make the bags under my eyes look less noticeable. Then I got all dressed up in my dress and heels in order to majestically walk down to the subway station and ride public transport all the way to Covent Garden. That’s right, this girl knows how to do class.

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London is such a beautiful city, I think my favourite thing about it is all of the architecture and visual interest, you can just tell it has such character, I mean, it’s been around for a long time. It was so fun walking up and down streets and exploring little nooks and crannies that you would never find anywhere else. I have to say, I fell in love with London a little bit, and I certainly hope I’ll be back.

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So let me tell you a little bit about the ballet; you might have heard me say that this is a “new production of Swan Lake” but what does that mean? You may think that Swan Lake is just Swan Lake, but in reality there must be hundreds of versions of this ballet, all slightly different. The way ballet companies produce classical ballets is they make their performance unique to all the others so while it may be the same music and parts of iconic choreography stay the same, they will fill in places with light and shade in order to make their production different. This makes it so that you won’t see the Royal Ballet version of one ballet put on by the New York City Ballet; they each have their own versions. This makes classical ballets rather unpredictable because in Swan Lake you might have a happy ending, sad ending, or even an ending resulting in mixed feelings. No two Swan Lakes are exactly alike.

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So this production was choreographed by one of the Royal Ballet’s resident artists Liam Scarlett. I’ve seen a bit of his work online, namely Frankenstein so right away you know he’s a bit different from the typical choreographer, he’s a bit darker and thinks a bit more outside of the box, so I was interested to see what he was going to do with Swan Lake. Also, costume design can change from production to production, as does set design, it all depends on the kind of feel the choreographer is going for. On social media leading up to the performance I saw teases of the tutus here and there and they looked absolutely stunning; the excitement was starting to build!

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So when we finally arrived at Covent Garden we had to have a bite to eat before my parents could drop me off at the Opera House and we ended up at a Vietnamese restaurant with a group of South African friends who also happened to be in London (small world!). Afterward which we finally got to make our way to the Opera House.

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How majestic is this building? If I could just explore the Opera House I would be 100% happy, but to think I actually got to see a performance? Well, that’s just…. well… wow.

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Can we take a moment to appreciate these two? Look how graceful they are together (pictured below)

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As I entered the Opera House I just walked around exploring anything I could. I was a good half an hour early but there were already hordes of people. A lot of people were in the Paul Hamlyn Hall which is basically a massive gallery with glass walls and ceilings where they’ve set up a bar and restaurant for people to eat beforehand and have drinks during intermission. I was so happy to be there I just kept doubling back on myself taking in the grandness of it all. Whenever I entered a room I had a jerk reflex telling me, “Don’t go in there, you’re probably not allowed in there, this is for people who have money to pay” and then I had to stop myself and say, wait a minute, I did pay! Well, my parents paid (thanks mom and dad, love you) but seriously, I had a ticket so there should be absolutely no reason to refuse me entry to any of these rooms no matter how socially unacceptable it was for me to wander around without paying for a drink. Once I got that mentality into my head I started relaxing and just enjoying everything about the Opera House. I traveled all the way from South Africa for this, I wasn’t about to let it pass me by! The staff were extremely nice and just smiled, not bothering to tell me whether my aimless exploring was socially acceptable or not. Honestly, I didn’t much care.

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And then, I got to the theatre. Um, wow. So, funny story. I was originally going to get a ticket in the amphitheatre (the cheapest option haha) and generally you want some form of binoculars to help you see some of the detail of the dancing because when you’re that far away you still want to be able to see what’s going on. So we packed our heavy-duty binoculars that we normally use for safari game viewing and carted them all the way to London. When we left for the bus station (to take us to the subway station) I realized I had left them in our room so my poor dad had to run all the way back to the pub to pick up these binoculars so I could use them to see the dancers. We missed our bus and had to wait for the next one, but at least we had the binoculars now. So remember when I said I was going to be in the amphitheater? Whell when we saw there weren’t many seats left and decided I would be going on my own, we decided to book my seat in the left circle stalls which were lower and closer to the front. Only when I took my seat in the theatre did I realize just how close to the front I was. I could see the stage (almost) perfectly from where I was sitting, no binoculars needed. I had been so prepared to see tiny moving dots on a stage far below me I was shocked when I realized I was wrong. Well, if anyone needs binoculars, let me know.

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So we all took our seats, and I couldn’t have been sat next to a nicer gentleman. He was an elderly man but I later found out that he was at the very first performance of Sleeping Beauty when the Royal Opera House reopened after WWII in 1946 and has been going to performances ever since. So here I was sitting next to a man well acquaintanced with the Royal Ballet as I got to experience my very first performance. It was a lot of fun chatting with him during intermissions about principal dancers and who has the best technique. It was extremely insightful as he also knew a lot about other versions of Swan Lake so some roles even I wasn’t aware of he was able to explain, which made the whole experience that much more enriching.

Margot Fontaine
Margot Fonteyn as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty (1946), Sadler’s Wells Ballet (later The Royal Ballet). Photograph by Frank Sharman © ROH

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The Royal Opera House entrance on Bow Street © ROH 2012

Disclaimer: The above two photos are not mine and I take no credit for them. All rights belong to the Royal Opera House, I am merely using them for visual purposes. They were taken directly from the ROH website and I highly recommend taking a moment to read their history page to learn more about the backstory of the Royal Opera House.

During WWII the Opera House was used as a dance hall and following the war, they decided to make it the official home of both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet.

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So the lights begin to dim and the very first scene is vivid and dramatic. Tchaikovsky’s music begins playing and there’s a little girl in a white dress… Rothbart approaches her menacingly, preparing to turn her into a swan. This is when Marianela Núñez bursts onto the stage; the Swan Queen in all her glory. What an opening! After the intro, we are taken to Seigfried’s kingdom and you see these huge golden gates dominating the stage, setting the scene in the purest form of the phrase. I was dazzled by the set design, my mouth literally dropped open and hung there for a good two minutes. Dancers started flowing onto the stage and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve waxed and waned about the lead principal dancers on this particular night but I didn’t know just how many principal dancers were going to grace the stage, another one of my favourite dancers Alexander Campbell played Seigfried’s friend and Seigfried’s sisters were played by Francesca Hayward and Yuhi Choe. Alexander was in a beautiful red coat while Francesca and Yuhi were in the most dazzling silver dresses I think I’ve ever seen. It was just magnificent. The performance only got better from there, I could detail every little thing I remembered and tell you about how amazing it was, but this kind of experience can never be put into words and I feel blessed and grateful to have been able to have the pleasure of witnessing it. If you want a peek at some of the amazing choreography, check out this rehearsal video showing Marianela and Vadim in their roles dancing Liam Scarlett’s expert choreography. I’m probably going to go and watch it now if I’m honest….

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Vadim Muntagirov as Prince Siegfried and Marianela Nuñez as Odile in Swan Lake, The Royal Ballet © 2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper

White Swans
Artists of The Royal Ballet in Swan Lake, The Royal Ballet © 2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper

Disclaimer: Again, all rights belong to the Royal Ballet, I take no credit for the above two images. Read more about the ROH’s production of Swan Lake here.

“The Royal Ballet performs a new production of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent classical ballet. Production and additional choreography by Liam Scarlett and designs by John Macfarlane.”

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I’ve said so much already, but as I’m recounting all that happened I’m reliving the night in my head and there’s so much I can say. The first act was, of course, incredible. During intermission I walked around a bit, had a drink of water upstairs (it was free) and just enjoyed the Opera House. The second act was even grander than the first with a massive gold ballroom and throne for the Queen to sit on. The Black Swan pas de deux (this is a link from an older production but it’s the Royal Ballet’s choreography) is possibly one of my favourite pas de deuxs in ballet because it’s so theatrical and exciting to watch. I got to see the Moscow Ballet do just the Black Swan at the Playhouse in Durban with my dance studio, and ask them; I was gasping excitedly telling them all what was going to happen next, “here come the fouetté’s!” I would say. One of the most iconic segments of Swan Lake are the Black Swan fouetté’s during the coda which is basically when the ballerina gets to spin around a million times on her pointe shoe (32 to be exact). Of course, Marianela and Vadim did not disappoint. I also loved how the black swan’s tutu mimicked the white swan as they both had silver threads lacing up and down the costume making for a detailed effect and less ornate than the previous tutus. I appreciated this because in my opinion it made the tutus more elegant and less stuffy than they had previously been while tying the story together.

Tutu drawing ROH
All rights belong to the Royal Opera House and Royal Ballet. This image was taken from their facebook page. Visit their instagram page as well if you want to do a bit of stalking and find some more photos.

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Then, as if this all wasn’t enough, the director of the Royal Ballet himself was there and I got to walk right past him on my way to the amphitheater viewing gallery during one of the intermissions. I pretty much just stared at him as I walked past and I think he saw me and probably wondered what on earth I was doing. And then the man I was sitting next to pointed out Liam Scarlett in the crowd as he was taking his seat so I stared at him too. What a surreal experience.

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Honestly, if I lived in London I would go to as many ballets as I could, even if I had to get cheap nosebleed tickets in the amphitheater. Just being in that theatre and hearing the music would be enough for me. I hope it is not my last visit to the Royal Ballet although it may be a number of years before I get the chance to go again, but until then, I love you London, I love you Royal Ballet, and until next time….

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~Abby

Xx

 

 

Time to Relax

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These photos are from the longest freshwater beach in the world. A. K. A. Wasaga Beach in Ontario Canada. That’s right, I’m from an awesome country. I’ve really been trying to appreciate it in the short time that we’ve been here and I feel like I’ve just been swept away by a tornado of busyness. Over the past month my family and I have been travelling all over Ontario and the longest we stayed in one place was a week at my Aunt and Uncle’s house.

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However, we still got to do some cool stuff even though we were busy meeting people and going places. On one such occasion, we drove down to Wasaga for an ice cream; I had maple walnut and oh man was it ever good.

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But we’ve moved on yet again from Ontario to Kelowna, BC and we actually get to stay in one place for a month. I’m still trying to get used to the feeling.

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Unfortunately, travelling doesn’t agree with me, so far I’ve gotten sick pretty much every time we’ve flown. Even driving to Edmonton I had a head cold. Fun times. But this time it was almost a blessing as well as a curse because it meant I didn’t have to feel guilty about being tired, I can just blame it on being sick and I literally lied on the couch for a whole day in front of the Olympics drifting in and out of sleep. I think that day did me a world of good even though I lost my voice the next day after my cousin came to stay. (Haha it was so worth it!) But I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that now; it’s time to relax.

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We’ve been away from South Africa since April (almost 4 months!) and it feels like we’ve been running every step of the way. It’s been absolutely amazing, but now, it’s time to relax.

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Cayo Costa

As I write this I’m up in the air on my way to Kitchener, Ontario. After 7 weeks in Calgary, we’ve now packed up and moved on. During those 7 weeks in Calgary, I finished up my schoolwork for the summer and went to my brother’s graduation. Once I sent all of my last minute work on to my teachers, I pretty much closed my laptop for a long while. Instead, I spent a lot of time reading, as I said I would. I broke my record while reading the Harry Potter series and managed to finish all 7 books in just over a week and a half. Sheer bliss. This is the reason I haven’t been blogging as much, I didn’t want to worry about the pressure of uploading. Between my last post and the present, I’ve done a fair few things. One of the most beautiful days though was when we were in Florida and went out in a friend’s boat to Cayo Costa, which is a little island off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s paradise there with the stereotypical yet stunning white sands and turquoise waters.

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The boat ride up was an experience, as the water was a little bit rough as we were attempting to reach the island. Luckily I was in the back so I didn’t get too wet, but it was quite a bit of fun trying to hold on to the pitching boat beneath us. I did get sprayed a fair few times but that was nothing compared to the people riding in the front. We went swimming on the beach anyways, so it’s not like it was a huge loss. Once we actually got to the island we got to wade ashore because since the island is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, there’s not a public dock that you can get off at, but the water was marvelous

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I so wish we could’ve made multiple trips, but the day that we did manage to go up to the island was incredible. It was a photographer’s dream and the opportunities were just endless. As soon as we arrived we began walking along the island through some intricate driftwood taking many pictures along the way. We set up camp by the boat and had a picnic lunch in and amongst many swimming trips. My goodness, I could have spent forever in that water. It wasn’t cold whatsoever, but it also didn’t feel like bathwater. It was the perfect temperature, on a perfect Florida summer’s day.

There were shells everywhere and the atmosphere was just one of peace, serenity, and joy.

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The weather in and of itself was absolutely stunning because of the shining sun and the salty breeze. It was a great place just to decompress and relax in nature. Because it’s away from the city, there aren’t any distractions and you can literally just lie on the beach doing nothing. During our time in Canada I’ve begun to appreciate the blessing of just being in nature, and letting your mind wander. Doing nothing and just breathing in your surroundings is more satisfying than you may think, and something I think we often take for granted in our modernized world. Cayo Costa, I can say with full confidence, was a perfect place to get away from technology (besides your camera) and have no worries other than when you’re going to go in the water again, and whether or not you can find a sand dollar.

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Honestly, the pictures just speak for themselves. I mean look at this!

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So, I’m just going to leave these here…

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I hope you liked reading about my day at Cayo Costa. Sorry about the lack of posts up until now, but I’ve got lots more coming!

~Abby

Xx

Table Mountain 2016

Table Mountain… I count myself among the lucky few who have had the amazing opportunity to travel the world at such a young age. I hope that if  you feel like you never get to experience adventures, you’ll be inspired as I share my Table Mountain experience.

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What a beautiful day it was! The sun was shining, and there was hardly any wind. A tip for if you ever want to head up Table Mountain, don’t plan to go when it’s windy! The reason is that when it’s windy it’s not very nice up on the mountain as you’re constantly getting buffeted by gusts of air, and secondly, the cable car will be shut down if the wind is too strong . If the cable car isn’t running, there’s almost no point in going up anyway as any wind down at the bottom will be much worse once you’re at the top. We had a cool breeze when we went up, but nothing too intense, making for a really nice day.

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The cable car itself was an experience because once you start heading up, the floor will rotate, making sure that everyone gets a decent view. So be sure to get on the outside! That way, when you start moving, every time you get to an open window, you have the best chance to get a shot of the incredible view (not that pictures do it justice though).

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Once you get up there, it’s simply amazing! Because the mountain is so big, the top isn’t crowded with tourists meaning you aren’t pressed by a throng of people and you can walk in any direction you like. As soon as you look out over the city of Cape Town, there is absolutely no doubt or wonder how Table Mountain is a famous tourist destination. It is outstanding, and it’s not overly developed either. The Mountain’s natural beauty is able to shine! Aside from a gift shop and a cafe, there are endless empty miles with beautiful rocks and lovely wildlife. Look how cute!

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After hiking around a bit and having a bite to eat, we stuck around to watch the sunset. Although it was decidedly chilly, it was so worth it to see views like this!

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J silhouette version

Sunset silhouette (1)

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There’s something so magical about watching a city during the night with all the little twinkling lights… I find it so beautiful. It always gives you time to think. You know that every light down there represents a home and that the world can be both big and small at times. Being able to experience wonders like this are things that I want to be able to remember. So many of us forget about the incredible things we’ve been able to be a part of as time goes on. We feel sorry for ourselves because we don’t think anything ever happens to us, when really, we have a chest full of good vibes that we sweep to the back of our minds in order to not interfere with our routine of self-pity. This is my gentle reminder to you that you’re amazing, in case you were beginning to think otherwise.

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What an incredible experience. At times, I love my life, and at other times, it doesn’t seem as amazing, as I’m sure is normal for most people (please tell me I’m right, ahh!), but it’s experiences such as these that I look back on and reap happiness from. Sometimes, a memory is all you need to keep you going, and I can’t wait to make more of them! Who’s with me?

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I hope you enjoyed my little wanderlust post, please show your support by following my blog, and leave a comment below if you’d like!

Xx