Stephen and I met in 2007 in a small welsh pub called 'Tavarn y Bont 'on the north welsh island of Anglesey. How we met in Wales of all places is an entire new story on its own. But we won't go into it now. He was South African, I was Polish, both foreigners in a strange land. From the first moment we locked eyes with each other there was a spark and a connection. This was the start of our something special. In March 2011 we traveled together to South Africa - a first long haul flight for me and a first exotic holiday.
I didn't know it at the time but Stephen was planning a surprise engagement in truly South African style. We got engaged in a gorgeous bush lodge in the Pilanesberg. It was magical and everything I have ever dreamed of. I will never forget the feeling I got when I looked out of the viewing deck of the Tshukudu lodge. I felt like I was in the “out of Africa’ movie. The chills that ran down my spine when for the first time I saw wild elephants , just grazing without a care in the world was indescribable.
Having grown up in Poland the most exotic destination I dreamed of visiting was Spain. In my wildest dreams I never thought I would ever visit Africa. I remember on that trip saying to Stephen I could move to South Africa tomorrow. That was it, I got the Africa bug.
We moved to the south of England in July 2011 and got married in 2013. We lived our lives in the moment both climbing corporate ladders going on nice holidays and buying more expensive cars. You somehow think that surrounding yourself with stuff will fill a void you have in your heart, even though you may not realise yet that you have one.
In one of those moments when you feel you need to just get away from it all we booked a holiday to the Drakensberg, Durban and Nambiti Game Reserve. On one of our last game drive in Nambiti our game ranger Graham - who has since become a friend took us to a lookout point with a waterfall. I had an epiphany. What on earth are we still doing in the UK?! The wilderness, the bush, the birds the animals, the people and diversity, the cultures and all of the teething problems in South Africa, the crazy melting pot is what felt like home. This is where we belong! In the UK we didn’t truly feel like home, we didn’t feel settled, we hadn’t really put down roots. We have been married for more than two years and hadn’t planned for a family because we were not HOME and we wanted to start a family when we felt settled, truth is we never really did in the UK. Of course it has given us so much experience and opportunities that we would have never been able to gain anywhere else in the world. It gave us contact with different cultures, business experience, friendships that will last a lifetime. And for all that we will be eternally grateful. Yet it still wasn't our home.
Upon our return back from that trip we began the process of applying for a Visa for me and tried to figure out a way of making it over to SA. We knew that finding jobs would be a difficult task and we have always been passionate about people and travel and hearing their stories so heading into a travel business seemed logical. There were many times we said, we will move by December this year, and then the next and the next. Our process of moving to South Africa in the end took us 4 years. We had made so many plans that we didn’t stick to and so many projects we started that didn’t quite work out that the concept of us moving now seemed like a distant dream. Honestly it still doesn’t seem realistic.
But one should trust the timings of your life and know that people that come into your life sometimes are there for a reason. Throughout the process of developing plans to move to South Africa, we were introduced to a wonderful architect based in Durban. His name was Gerhard. It was he who introduced us to Qambathi. When we heard the story of how Gerhard fell in love with the place when it was still just a farm, and how he transformed it into this beautiful Oasis using natural and recycled materials we knew that this was meant to be. You may not be the type of person that believes that things happen for a reason and you meet people for a reason but I certainly am. And I believe that Qambathi and us - that this was meant to be. Sometimes things just feel right and start to fall into place and when that happens, no matter how nervous you may be of making changes in your life- GO FOR IT! Nothing that is worth having and fighting for comes easy and without fear.
Qambathi was to be our home as we connected with this gorgeous eco friendly lodge that provides an escape from the craziness of the outside world to it's guests.
Luckily Gerhard who I can honestly say is a man with a vision and a heart the size of Africa saw the potential in us and helped us seal the deal and we signed the dotted line. This meant we could move over straight away and start to make this dream come true and to run a thriving and wonderful lodge. It felt so unreal and so uplifting I remember crying with excitement. We signed all of the agreements without even seeing the place in person. I know it's a little crazy but it was like getting married - when you know - you know.
I guess what I am trying to say is that whatever the vision you have for yourself and however you think you future might look you WILL get knocked down. People will tell you no, because you’re not experienced enough in the field. Because you’re too young, or too poor, too fat, too inexperienced, too white or too black or too whatever for your dream. But remember- this is your dream and ultimately it is up to you to make it happen. And I know deep in my core that we will succeed. We want to live a sustainable simple life, without the corporate commute and without the spreadsheets and sales deadlines but in harmony with mother nature and all of her creations.
And I know that we will give people a holiday to remember, a dream wedding day, a proposal as memorable as my own. We will give jobs to the local people that so desperately need them, a safe home to wild animals, and a hope to a united South Africa. That is our promise to you- our future guest and friend.