Do you remember the first time we ever travelled together?
It was just after Indaba 2014. I had called you two weeks earlier and asked you if you wanted to drive with me from Durban, along the entire coast of South Africa to Cape Town, stopping to do the Otter Trail, and then back through the Karoo.
I had plotted it would take 3 weeks. I could get accommodation in the Western Cape for us, and we could stay in backpackers for the rest. You didn’t even hesitate. In fact, I think you laughed because I asked so nervously.
We weren’t at all close at that point. But you were the only person I knew who I could call and ask the question. I had quit my job the December before at SA Tourism, following in your footsteps, and started writing freelance and blogging.
You were so sick before we left. Your dad nearly freaked out when you said you were still going. I’m pretty sure you had pneumonia and was playing it down. At night, you would cough through your sleep, it drove me nuts because it meant I hardly slept. We even had to go get you a flippin’ chest x-ray when we got to Cape Town on your dad’s orders!
After hours on end in my mom’s Nissan Juke, and three weeks on the road, I knew we’d be in each other’s lives forever. I even missed that stupid cough when I got home, and couldn’t fall asleep without it!
You always made what we did look so easy. You could walk into a room and introduce yourself without any anxiety attached to it. You made yourself known and people remembered that. You took the time to have meaningful conversations with everybody we met.
I never said it to you, because maybe I didn’t realise it until now, but by being yourself, you showed me how to become the me I am now.
You taught me to be open, and interested. You showed me how stories don’t need grand occasions and sometimes if you’re still enough, stories will announce themselves to you in the most magical ways.
Thank you for starting a community of travel bloggers that would pave the way for the South African industry. I think your kindness, liberal spirit and wisdom made us into who we are today. We’re open and helpful to each other. We want to know each other. We care about each other, and you played a huge part in that Meru.
It’s hard to write this letter to you. I knew you were going to leave us when I saw you three weeks ago, but I just thought we had more time. That I would have more time to swap magic with you. Swap books, swap scarves, swap wine, swap burgers, swap dance moves.
I have too many memories of us to list them all, but do you remember when…
- We did the Otter Trail on that roadtrip. I was sure your lungs would give in and only by the grace of Jack Daniels Honey did we get through it.
- When we showed up at the swanky The Plettenberg hotel in our Otter Trail gear, smelling like dirty socks and were so excited to have baths, and then I proposed to the masseuse because it was so amazing to get a massage after that gruelling hike.
- When we drank a magnum of red wine, followed it with two more bottles of red wine, and then danced with strangers at Coffee Shack Backpackers?
- The stage at the end of 2014 when we were both so broke that we accepted every event invite we could and took each other as plus one’s, just so we could eat and drink for free. We sold our souls for cocktail sandwiches Meru!
- We almost broke Cape Town on #MeetSouthAfrica in 2015. I have never had a hangover like that and hope to never again. In fact, I can’t even remember how we got there.
- The first ever Travel Massive in Jozi? That seems like it wasn’t even that long ago now. I don’t think there was any wine and we may have been upset about that.
- Martinis at PRON!
- You hair – was always everywhere. And by everywhere I mean on my clothes, in my handbag, in my car. Is it weird I wish I had stashed it all somewhere now? Yes that is weird, but somehow I don’t think you’d mind.
- Bloemfontein – remember Speedy’s Taxis and Die Mystic Boer and how we were pretty sure that’s where our lives would end. And then we all got a text message to say the taxi driver had died. I mean he was about 500kg and driving the oldest Toyota Conquest on the continent, so it wasn’t a surprise, but we were still pretty sad for him.
- Meeting up in New York – “Meet me on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building” – only us right?
- My most recent memory of you is one of my favourites, at our wedding. You were just back from AfrikaBurn and were honestly quite feral on the dance floor. Your dress slipped down and your nipples were exposed to everybody, and you just kept dancing. We’d pull your dress up, and it would just float down again. People still ask me who the girl with the nipples was.
I feel like I can’t write enough words for you. Put enough down about you. Remember enough about you. The road ahead will be hard for us, but I hope for you it was as simple as packing a suitcase and heading out the door.
I love you. Thank you for letting me be me, and thank you for being exactly the friend I didn’t know I would need to get through so much.