We often hear about fellow travellers and volunteers who have become attached and fallen in love with a particular country or city. Maybe they have only visited for a couple of weeks on holiday, during a gap year experience or on a volunteer program but they strongly believe that’s enough for them. They know it's the one place in the whole world for them, the location where they are supposed to be.
In this post we here from one of our World Volunteering Destination Managers, who tells us how he became so passionate about Africa, and how somehow this place always kept calling him back, until he finally decided to listen and move from his home country of Argentina to South Africa.
I’ve been living in Cape Town, South Africa for about six months now, working with a wonderful group of people and volunteers at World Volunteering, who provide exceptional volunteering experiences and help out great initiatives all over the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel many places in the globe and visit some amazing locations in the 5 continents but none of them have the same meaning and appeal to me that Africa does.
One of the things I get asked the most from my fellow colleagues here at the head office is what my friends and family thought when I told them I was moving to Africa. To be honest I think most of them said something like, “Of course! You are finally doing it! We’ve spent so much time hearing you talk and talk about your love for Africa. It was about time!” So I guess they are probably right and I have been talking about Africa and having the opportunity of living abroad for quite a while!
Where it all started...
Let’s recap about how I am here today sharing my story. The first time I travelled to Africa was in 1997, when I was only 10 years old. My parents had decided that South Africa was a quite unique, diverse and not yet so popular tourist destination and it would be a great idea to visit and see its wildlife, beaches, culture, and landscapes, while understanding and finding out a bit more about how people were living in the post apartheid regime. Thanks Mum and Dad for that decision! I hope you don’t regret it now, knowing how it impacted my decision to move here so early in life. At that moment to be honest I didn’t know much about Africa and I don’t think my family did either. Tourism was quite different 20 years ago without the perks of technology, it wasn’t as easy to find information, videos and pictures of each location. So it was a big adventure for us all! I don’t remember everything of course, but I have some clear and vivid images that are stuck in my mind. I can never forget what it felt like driving through the Kruger National Park and discovering its amazing plains and landscapes, while trying to spot the beautiful wildlife! The sense of immensity! I remember being obsessed with the wildlife and I would try to spot every single animal there was on the book my parents had bought me. I was determined to find the Big 5, and I even made the driver turn around once we were long gone from the Park since I thought I had seen a Rhino, foolish me! This trip really had an impact on me and it was not just the landscapes and the animals but the people too! I can clearly remember the smiles and happiness of the people, I recall the music, the dancing, the passion and the joy everyone had. That stuck in my mind, and that’s why I always think fondly of Africa.
Reuniting with Africa..
After that first incredible trip, Africa and I had to wait 13 long years to meet again, but it was definitely worth the wait! In 2010 South Africa hosted the Football World Cup, and of course, being Argentinean, I am a huge football fan! My dad had decided to apply for tickets online for the World Cup and we were really lucky to get tickets for a couple of games to see our National Team compete! So this time my Dad, brother and I were ready for a new and different adventure in Africa! It was a one week trip only and we were going to see Argentina play its first two games in Johannesburg against Nigeria and South Korea. We arrived the day of the first game, rushed to get our tickets at the airport and then went to our hotel which was full of football fans from all over the world. The ambiance was amazing! We took pictures with fans from the other teams, went to the stadium with them as well as lots of other Argentineans we’d met. Unbelievable!
But to make that trip even better, after the first game we took a flight to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to visit one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, and go on game drives and cruise safaris in the neighbouring country of Botswana. Wow, I don’t have the words to describe the feeling and what I saw there! We even had the chance to walk with lions Zimbabwe and find out about the huge efforts to conserve the African lions. The combination of the wildlife, the thrill of the safaris, the views of the Majestic Victoria Falls, and also the pleasure of meeting such kind, helpful and down to earth people throughout the trip made it a once in a lifetime experience. And when you add the benefit of watching and supporting my country play in the World Cup, and winning both games I went to, it was like the cherry on top of the cake!
My love for Africa and travelling should be quite clear by now. And if I were to meet someone to share my life with, it would have to be someone who was also interested in travelling and Africa. And lucky enough, it happened! About 8 years ago I started dating Lis, who I met through volunteering, and we dreamt together about travelling the world. We decided we wanted travel to Africa together and visit South Africa, Tanzania and the Seychelles Islands, but as two young 22 year olds it wasn’t realistic to do at that time, so we decided that if we ever got married we would do it as our honeymoon! Well, life sometimes can make dreams come true, and not only did I fulfil my dream of marrying her last year, but we also had our dream honeymoon. It would take a whole other post to describe our honeymoon in those 3 countries, but it really was a dream come true. Everything we expected and had imagined for over 8 years was accomplished. Imagine this: the views and culture of Cape Town, the unique drive along the Garden route, the thrill of the highest bungee jump in Africa, a 5 day safari trip in Ngorongoro Crater, Serengueti National Park and Tarangire, including the Big 5 (Yes, I finally saw that eluded rhino), and the relaxing atmosphere and diving opportunities in the most pristine and warm water in the Indian Ocean, and those are just some highlights!
Something I do want to bring up about that trip is that I clearly remember walking with my wife through the streets of beautiful Cape Town and both dreaming of living in this amazing city. 6 months later we were moving into Cape Town in order to work in something I wanted to do for years, combining both my profession in tourism and interest in volunteering and social projects. After years of long distance relationship with Africa, we finally managed to stay together! Life is absolutely wonderful, it can really surprise you at times in ways you may have never imagined
So, if like Pablo you are eager to fulfil your dreams, jump in to the experience of a lifetime and take a hands-on role in helping others. Then check out our incredible volunteer programs: