So, I met Piet in Knysna, South Africa. It was a slightly surreal time for me as I was on the hop from Jeffrey’s Bay (South Africa’s surfing mecca) and kind of in hiding from a fascinating but completely off the wall character – a tattoo artist from Cape Town who spelled TROUBLE. So after doing a midnight flit, I found myself in a beautiful home in this sleepy town with breath-taking harbour views. I was making myself breakfast and in walked Piet with a pram. A pram filled with all his wordly belongings and we started talking…
Isn’t it funny how when you reach the point of questioning everything, life throws you a bone often in human form and you suddenly see the world from a whole new perspective. At this point in my adventure it was starting to trouble me that I was going to have to go back to a life I no longer wanted. I couldn’t see any alternative and I knew this just wasn’t going to be possible with my newfound sense of freedom. Piet landed in my path at a pivotal moment in my mini internal meltdown and showed me that life is not a clearly defined route. If conventional living isn’t for you then don’t bloody do it!
Piet was walking from Cape Town to Cairo. Yes walking! He’d planned it all out and it’s going to take him three years. This long-haired guy from the Netherlands was breaking all the rules to satisfy his need for adventure. He had a wife back home – a very understanding one! A busy successful psychologist wife who has her own goals and ambitions too. He has three children, of the fully grown variety. He had a well paid career and he left it all. This massive walking mission was just something he had to do. He’d even done the same journey before but by hitching and using public transport, the ‘luxury’ way, haha.
This man was bursting with life, ideas and wisdom… oh and blisters! I guess all that time walking gives you the opportunity to look deep inside yourself and really develop your thoughts. I don’t think many of us allow ourselves to do that, or perhaps have the luxury of time and peace to do so. It’s so unbelievably important and something I only learnt to do when I hit the road.
Anyway, Piet had similar tales to Simon (Inspirational Traveller 1) about the kindness of strangers and the support he’d had from the randoms he’d crossed paths with. I guess it’s only when you’re vulnerable, like really obviously and publicly vulnerable that you get to experience true humanity. In a Western lifestyle you do everything you can to be self-sufficient and totally independent. Asking for help almost feels like a failure. Not only does it feel like a failure, society often treats you like one. Just look at the homeless, those that suffer with mental illness and addiction. Our networks have become smaller with the majority only allowing support from trusted friends and family. It’s good to be vulnerable sometimes and just trust in people – just pick your country wisely!
When I met him, Piet was walking all the way and if he was ever picked up by a passerby and given a place to rest for the night, he had to be dropped back in the same place the next day to continue his walking. This long, long route has been trekked before, by three different people I believe. I remember his vivid tales of one British lady who did it and then sadly lost the plot.
I’ve found it hard to keep up with Piet’s travels as he blogs sporadically and mostly in Dutch. We met back in April 2014 so it’s been a while. But, I have just discovered his Facebook page… he’s been home to see his family and has just landed back in Africa. He and his wife have now separated and his adventures continue. I guess we all have our limits. The desire to roam can be destructive to those around you. Maybe some people are just born in the wrong place or perhaps with the need for an ever-evolving environment. Would you let your free spirit go?