Become A Tourist In Your Own City
A few years ago, myself and an ex girlfriend were in Barcelona for a night, and set out on foot to explore the tiny little side streets littered with bars and people. We had no goal in mind but to see whatever came our way, explorers in a place we knew nothing about. We did no research on it really, because you know what you get then? All the tourist attractions. When you’ve only got one night, you live it like there’s no tomorrow and so we filled it with beer and pizza and walking down dark streets and hoping for the best. It’s times like these where you go from just living, to really feeling alive. Those moments where it feels like gold coated dopamine is pouring down on you. I’ll be honest, these moments are rare these days, because we all really do the same things don’t we? I mean, how much do you know about Cape Town outside of your regular spots? You might go to different places, but you probably go there with the same people all the time. I’m guilty of that.
It kind of numbs me, going to places where I know everyone and everyone speaks of the same things.
The thing is, you can leave Cape Town for weeks, even years at a time and you come back and it’s like discovering a box of treasures you buried when you were a kid. You open it up and everything is still the same as when you buried it. But maybe dig a little deeper and you’ll find the real treasure worth searching for, and worth finding.
A couple of days ago I took my DSLR out to take photos of the surfers at Muizenberg, and asked my friend Lyn if she’d be keen to join, which she did. The light wasn’t great and after about an hour we decided to pack up and grab a drink somewhere. Naturally i thought about all the usual spots (Brass Bell, Toad On The Road etc), and then we noticed a bar on the beach front, with people standing at the entrance who were way different to us. I immediately had that feeling that I haven’t felt in years, that feeling of entering a place I knew nothing about with people that seemed to have nothing in common with me. That feeling of being alive. The people were dressed like gypsies, dreadlocked, smoking rollies, wearing that sort of hemp clothing. They were smiling though, and happy.
And we thought ‘You know what, fuck it, we’re going in’
There’s life. There’s being alive. And then there’s feeling alive. I felt it for the first time in ages that night, and if you could bottle and sell that feeling, you’d be a millionaire a thousand times over.
We walked in the door and from what we were wearing we didn’t fit in at all and were warned that we might be fed tequila and cheesecake by the group. We sat down for a beer and a double vodka and blast (R25) and got chatting. Easy conversation, none of that normal forced conversation of “Oh so what do you do?”. Chatting about where these people came from, where they’re going next and then a bit of work. A couple of them were here to work on ‘Black Sails’, the TV series. They don’t have a lot, but as the one guy said ‘We make do with what we’ve got’
Oh one more thing, I don’t drink tequila but this is THE best stuff I have ever drank in my entire life!
If people like this walked into one of the trendy spots in Cape Town, they’d be judged to within an inch of their lives. Yet we walked in as outsiders and the next thing you know they’re rolling Lyn a cigarette, chatting and laughing, playing music up on stage and sharing food. All this from people with considerably less than many people I know. I realised right there that you don’t need to have a lot to give a lot. The simple act of sharing a cigarette and some food is amazing, and I’d choose that over a thousand physical gifts.
You realise right there that we’re not our clothes or the places we hang out in. I experienced kindness, laughter and realness that night on a whole new level and it left me wanting to write in the first time in ages. I wanted to write because it was a real experience. We didn’t need to travel across the globe to find that happiness.
All we needed to do was see a bar on the beachfront that we’d never been to, put aside any judgement of what clothes these people were wearing, and walk through that door and into the unknown. It’s in these decisions that we truly get to experience Cape Town and the amazing people that live here and pass through here. Cape Town is bigger than your 4 favourite spots to hangout, it’s bigger than your TV room, it’s bigger than your circle of friends.
There’s a great Tweet I saw the other day that said ‘A billion people sitting watching TV in the room that they call Living’
A group of Columbians walked in and they are working here for a few months and we all got chatting, exchanged numbers and I got chatting about Cape Town and a few of my favourite spots that I’d recommend. It’s weird that the places you’d think are the most obvious, aren’t always obvious to tourists. I told them about my love for Llandudno, the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay, Caprice Sundays…they hadn’t heard of any of it. I told them that if they love beer they should go to Beerhouse on Long Street, even though Long Street is my worst street.
I can honestly say these have been some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. They’re authentic and real and just looking for the good times, seeing the good in everything. Isn’t that what life is about? The things I see on Facebook are so menial and pathetic, people complaining about a fridge being broken or their mechanic taking too long on their car or Woolies not having the low fat cream cheese. It’s all just so bizarre what people stress about when there is a whole world waiting to welcome you into it’s fun arms and squeeze you not until you’re dead, but until you’re alive.
Go ahead, dig beyond the confines of your life, and you’ll see that that’s where the gold lies.