Having lived for 36 years in the UK, 8 in South Africa and now in Portland on a 7 year visa, the question of where is ‘home’ came up recently, in a not too friendly discussion of whether I could count Cape Town as my home. I am a British (now Euro I guess) National with permanent South African residency and a 7 year US visa!
When I first moved to SA, I felt compelled to return to the UK every Christmas to savour the festive spirit and relieve homesickness. A lot of my family are still an 11 plane ride away, albeit through time zones unlike the SA flight. The majority of my friends are in SA, especially those who have been understanding and supportive over the last year or so. But so are a lot of people I have hurt. Badly.
I loved Portland from day 1. It’s my kind of city. Not too big. Safe, walkable, amazing trails to run on and safe roads to ride on. It’s Cape Town without the sea, but also without the security and safety issues. But a city is only bricks and mortar until you make friends, find a structure and start living a normal life there.
Maybe my personality is too restless and rootless to need a place to call home? Should that make me feel sad and unfulfilled? I guess that’s where I come back to the title of this blog; There’s more to life, apparently? It was another question put to me in the run up to African X when my mileage was high and I was running twice a day most days, with the rest of the time work and sleep. It is after all only a hobby, isn’t it. But is one that gets you to places and to meet people who seem to have a more rounded philosophy on life than the sedentary part of the population. Running on a treadmill or pounding the street maybe, but being on the trails, often with just the sound of your feet and breathing does make you appreciate the simplicity of life. There’s that great African running saying, that in the morning the lion must run to catch the gazelle to eat to live, and the gazelle must run to avoid being eaten. So when you wake up in Africa you better be sure you are running! Are runners always running towards something or away from something?
Many of the top US trail runners here seem to be struggling with the new paraphilia that goes with the trail running explosion. They want to keep working in the local Whole Foods store, want to spend time building a house, or race the races they want to do, not those of their sponsors or those expected of them as the elite. Nobody’s forcing them to conform of course, but it seems an irresistible pull for many. Away from the simple life the American mountain men had, to sponsor’s invitations, product endorsements, branded kit (its safe to say that sponsoring an American trail runner where running without tops, hydration packs and any obvious branding is common place doesn’t seem that great an investment) and performance bonuses.
Which comes back to there’s more to life. Maybe, but being able to run in the forest, live a sustainable, low environmentally damaging lifestyle, and keep it simple is a pretty good philosophy for life. Having always worked for companies where I have a passion for the business and their products, and having a highly fulfilling pastime, I don’t feel I’m that far from Nirvana (pun intended).