Monday, 29 October 2012

Decision decision...

So here I am, 24, walking in the beautiful park of St Albans with my older brother, Justin and his wife Georgina, and here comes that scary question, “So Tessa, what are you going to do now?” Okay, before I can answer this lets first backtrack over the past few years.

I matriculated from Rustenberg Girls high school in Cape Town, with unexpected good results, and I was ready for university to continue what felt like an academic winning streak. Especially since I battled through school with a terrible learning disability where reading, writing and spelling was my worst. For instance, I remember my first grade 8 English lesson when our teacher, addressed as Sir, dictated all our notes. It was a nightmare, for a young girl coming from a local Afrikaaans junior school in Velddrift. I remember the first word he said was “Poetry”, I don’t know how others feel about this word, but I hated it. While every other student in the class immediately began writing down word for word what Sir was dictating, I sat the entire lesson nervously trying to find the word “Poetry” in my Afrikaans/English dictionary. However, the problem was I didn’t even know what “poetry” was in Afrikaans and I was convinced it was spelt “Peotry” which isn’t in my tweetalige woordedboek. All I remember was trying to look as busy as possible so that Sir wouldn’t ask me to read aloud from a book written but some guy called William Shakespeare.

After surprisingly being awarded three Academic achievements and finally finishing high school, the world was my oyster and I was convinced that university was my only option. Destiny, however, had different plans:  My sister Nina graduated as a chef from ICA some years earlier and decided to try out her sea legs, rather than work for minimum wage in the competitive restaurant industry, even though she had no experience of boats of any kind. This didn't stop her as she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean on a 40ft Catamaran as part of a crew of three. The 42 day crossing and being away from loved ones was something Nina needed to get used to quickly. However, once based in St Maarten, her career blossomed with hard work, good fortunes and contacts, and before she knew it Nina was in high demand and secured a full time position on a recognized Classic yacht called Atlantide.

Nina and me enjoying the sunset in the Caribbean
I remember the excitement when my big sister phoned home and told tales of exotic places and amazing people… how could I not want to be a part of such an exciting industry? So after school, my parents agreed that a gap year was a great idea and I was on the next flight to the Caribbean island of St Maarten, where a family friend and aspiring musician, Guy Ogier, and his band members let me stay on their couch until I found work. I couldn’t afford rent, so as my contribution I cooked, cleaned and made pancakes in the mornings. My career as a ‘yachtie’ began, 18 years old, fresh out of school and sleeping on an old couch, sharing an apartment with a local up-and-coming band called Mellowism.

Top floor was our Caribbean home in Cole Bay. St Maarten
At this stage my biggest fear was failing to find a job and being forced to return home after running out of money. I was incredibly lucky in terms of being at the right place at the right time when the opportunity came about to work onboard one of the most incredible super yachts in the industry, namely SY Maltese Falcon. This is a magnificent 88 metre sailing yacht with a remarkable free-standing, computer-controlled clipper rig, she is said to be a triumph of modern design and engineering. During my time onboard I got to, visit amazing parts of the world I never thought I’d get the opportunity to experience, eat at the very best restaurants and get VIP treatment in all the hottest clubs. Yes, the crew onboard these yachts are not only surrounded by the very rich, famous and most influencail individuals in the world, but too some extent crew are able to live life in the deceiving lap of luxury. Having a super yacht as our mobile home, rewarding pay and together with charter tips it makes living it up amongst the elite possible. I have watched the final lap of the Monaco Grand Prix from the top of the mast whilst moored in Monte Carlo, welcomed Bernie Ecclestone, the owner of the F1 series onboard “our” super yacht; served famous F1 drivers dinner, poured Richard Branson a virgin cocktail while anchored off his private island, sipped champagne with Georgio Armani in a club in Antigua; argued South African politics with Bob Geldoff and watched Prince Harry zoom past on a jet ski in Barbados. It’s all part of this “super human” lifestyle, which the yachting industry has exposed to me. It’s a lifestyle where nothing is too much, limits cannot be reached and “no” isn't a word.
With Georgio Armani in Antigua

Top of the mast over looking Monaco during the 2012 Grand Prix final lap
Sailing the St Bart's Bucket Race
Whenever I returned home and proudly told stories of my travels, most friends and family respond with “What an adventurous lifestyle you lead…” And yes, I agree my time abroad has allowed for plenty of adventures and self-discovery. However, I have always felt that a true adventure is one that challenges you not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. So at this point in time, I have the sudden desire to push myself to new limits and really put my character to the test. I am the type of person that gets driven and focused when faced with a challenge, because my entire life has been about overcoming various obsticels and I truly get the very best kick out of successfully achieving my goals. My passion for overcoming challenges is rooted in my childhood and competitive upbringing. I grew up in true PLAAS style, as rough and tough as they come. You know one of those girls that’s always barefoot, showed off her scares and spoke an Afrikaans dialect that only a few could understand.

So when I quit my job onboard the super yachts and left the lovely comfort zone of easy money, the dream-like “rock star” lifestyle as well as leaving my yachting family. Everyone and especially me waited in anticipation as to “What’s next?”

Well, now back to the walk in the park where Justin and Georgina put things into perspective for me. They pointed out that I am constantly either living in the past or living in fear of the future. At first I didn't understand what they meant, but after some thought it made perfect sense. I do still view myself as the awkward clumsy girl with numerous insecurities and forget I’m actually a fairly confident young woman with huge potential. And yes the future does frighten me, cause I’m always chasing something that I cannot achieve fast enough, which frustrates me and leads to disappointments, meanwhile I should be focusing my energy on the present and how wonderful things are in the “NOW”, however this is much easier said than done. But before I get to soppy or dramatic, don’t get me wrong my life up to now has been nothing short of a whirl-wind of fun and there is plenty more to come.

With fresh ideas and a positive outlook, I began brainstorming what I truly want to do in the years to come. I could easily just jump onto mega yacht owner by yet another billionaire and continue on the path of a cocktail making queen, or house-sit a multi-millionaires Villa in Ibiza for a few months or even become a highly paid private chalet girl in Switzerland, which basically means keep the place cozy and enjoy skiing for 4 months while being paid. However as wonderful as all the jobs may sound I was hesitant and never truly satisfied, because it was almost too easy, if that makes sense and I actually got a bit bored with the lack of challenges. So this is when my research allowed me to come across the Tour d' Afrique, and cycling challenge from Cairo to Cape Town.