As much as I’d like to deny it, traveling when on a deadline doesn’t always work that well for me. While in Johannesburg last week, I had a great time meeting people, exploring the city, and going dancing. It was all pretty damn fantastic. But I probably wrote a thousand words those entire ten days.
I’m in Durban now. A place I discovered through the fond memories of a good friend. The beach is nice – even though I just found out South Africa is one of the shark attack capitals of the world – and it’s got a slow enough pace that I imagine myself getting lots done. Imagining isn’t the same as doing, though.
When I opened my laptop a couple of days ago to get some words in, I found out I had somehow overlooked a deadline come due THAT day. Yikes! For the first time since being away, I was actually happy for the seven-hour time difference. I edited until my brain was mush, frantically checking New York time every so often to make sure the hours hadn’t accelerated while I wasn’t paying attention. Deadline safely met (by midnight local time!) I decided to reward myself with a walking tour of Durban and an afternoon at the beach. Never mind that no actual new writing (for my April 15th deadline) got done that day.
Écrivain. Escritora. Schriftsteller. For someone who’s not doing a lot of writing, I’ve had to learn how to say “writer” in a few different languages. This has been to explain why I’m lolling around parts of Africa for two months as a working adult who lives in America, land of copious overtime and proud workaholics. During these conversations with other travelers, I don’t admit to being a slacker although that much is obvious from the bathing suit and cut-off shorts drying on the terrace.
On a normal coffee shop day, it’s challenging enough to eke out the necessary amount of words. Still, I go into “travel on a deadline” with such optimism – i.e. delusions – that hopping on trains/planes/automobiles to see the beauty of people and places across this world won’t interfere with my productivity. Ridiculous.
On the other hand, staying in hostels, I see how little time most people spend in one place – a day or three here then there – eagerly roaming the shiny spots of the new landscape to absorb as much as possible before heading back to their every day lives in whatever country they arrived from. I try to spend at least a week in each place, even if there’s only a day or two worth of sights to see. With one rapturous and loving exception, most people in Joburg told me there’s nothing fun to do in the city except go to Cape Town. I spent almost ten days in Johannesburg and found the perfect balance between checking out the city and giving myself time to breathe. When I reserved my Durban hostel for nearly a week, it was with the intention of only getting tanned and sand exfoliated on the beach in the mornings then diving into my work in the evenings. I remain ever an optimist.
In that vein, my plans for today are: blog in the morning, visit the fabric district in the afternoon, and write about romance in Atlanta for the evening.
Half full all the way, baby!