I snatched my iPhone from Ryan’s hand who had borrowed it moments ago to check his Facebook. ‘Wait, I need it for a second!’ was all the explanation he got.
‘Everything alright mate?’
‘Dude, I think I fucked up. I’m gonna miss my flight out of Africa…’
We beat the sun to the dawn for one last time on our final day on the island. Everyone in the camp was awake. One last breakfast of boiled rice, and then it was time to grab our packs and say our farewells. Everyone was waving as our wooden catamaran pulled away from the shore, and kept waving until they turned into tiny specks, then a blur and finally a memory in the past.
I left the camp with Sam, Ryan and Rachel. We flew together to Antananarivo, where we planned to spend a few nights, before catching our respective flights out of Madagascar. The ‘Le Petit Manoir Rouge’ hotel in Tana was aged but elegant, like an abandoned mansion holding on to a glorious past.
My flight out of Madagascar was scheduled at 5:30 in the afternoon, and that allowed me a leisurely sleep-in on my last morning in Africa. The others were well into their second and third re-fills by the time I made it down to the breakfast room. I piled up a plate with fruits, spreads and bread and took a seat next to others, when suddenly, like that nightmarish feeling you get when you are half-way to the airport and someone asks you ‘did you lock all the doors?’ I began second-guessing myself.
Wait, was my flight really at 5:30?
‘Shit man! I thought you said your flight was in the afternoon?’ Ryan asks, all the while making himself another ham sandwich.
I looked up my flight itinerary. And of course, my flight was scheduled to depart at 11:50 a.m. I had confused it with my 5:30pm connecting flight out of Nairobi. I looked at the clock. It was 10:10 a.m. I had less than 2 hours to pack up, make it to the airport, and get out of Africa.
The next half an hour passed in a blur. I imagined Air Madagascar employee’s words of sympathy; ‘Sorry to hear you missed your flight sir. The next available flight is tomorrow, and it will cost you a ridiculous amount, thank you very much!’ as I ran around my room trying not to leave anything important behind.
Fifteen minutes later, I was on the street looking for a taxi. Sam and Rachel were carrying one of my packs each. I flagged one down, and threw myself and the rucksacks in the back seat. The driver, took a look at me and instantly knew where I needed to go. I stuck my head out of the window as he started to pull away and waved frantically. It was the beach scene all over again. I knew I would probably never see any of them ever again and they knew it too. I wanted to tell them I was going to miss them and I knew I would because that’s just what you do when you spend two months with someone on an island.
A few minutes later, they too turn into little specks.
I made it to the airport with a few minutes to spare. I checked my battered backpack in, grabbed my boarding passes and sat on a plastic chair waiting. And then, it hit me.
‘I’ll miss Madagascar. I’ll miss it because it was different and it filled me with mixed emotions and kept me off balance. I will miss it because of its people and the people I met and befriended along the way. I will miss it and I’m not sure I could ever do it again. It was definitely time for me to move on. I need a new world, a change of air and land and sea.’ I wrote in my travel journal at the time.
I like to think that travel and life have so much in common. Travel, in essence, is a shorter, denser version of life, like a 1000-word summary of a long novel. In both, we come to love people and places and are to let go of them when the time comes.
When travelling without an itinerary on the road, every single day begins and ends with a simple choice; to leave and seek a new adventure, or to stay and set roots. All travellers make this decision on a daily basis. And come to think of it, so should we, in our everyday lives.
Of course, we fool ourselves into thinking that the choice is that much simpler for a traveller because he has little to lose; that the stakes are so much higher in real life. But shouldn’t those same higher stakes mean that we cannot afford to remain in one place or with the same eople, if they no longer makes us happy?
Madahoohar was that lesson for me. For a while, it was home and one of the best homes I’d ever had. But after two months, I was getting tired of it. The food was becoming tasteless, the daily jobs heavy with too much familiarity. I loved it there, but I knew I had to move on. I didn’t want time and repetition to turn something extraordinary into the ordinary.
I decided I would rather go and miss her, than to stay, and stop loving her.
And who knows; I might have been wrong.
Or I might have been right.
But I had made my decision.
And I will keep missing the camp people, because that’s just what you do when you spend two months with someone on an island.
I’d like to Thank you all so very much for being here.
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