The first Saturday I arrived in Cape Town, it was dark, foggy, and windy – what my roommates and I deemed optimal conditions for a sunrise hike. As the four of us ventured off into the shield of fog that was guarding Lion’s Head, I kept thinking about how it resembled my first few days in the iXperience program: I didn’t know what to expect.

lion's headView of Table Mountain from Lion's Head – Ram Patel, iX Cape Town 2019

For the first half hour of the hike, we navigated our way through the darkness with the light of only our phones. We stayed close but silent, together but on our own. Despite taking the same trail as my roommates on the way up, I shied away from following their footsteps in hopes of making my own path. 

Halfway up the hike, my vision was no longer obstructed by the darkness and the group started to pick up its pace. We were all still together but with a new sense of independence. With the light, I was able to not only appreciate the natural beauty of the Earth, but also embrace it. I was mesmerized. I swiftly scaled up the mountain as if there was something waiting for me at the top.

As I stood on top of Lion’s Head, for some odd reason, I didn’t feel that sense of accomplishment that had motivated me to climb the mountain in the first place. Although the view of the landscape was amazing, even surreal, it had no deeper meaning to me.

I realized that I would need to spend more time understanding all the other little things that made the city so collectively beautiful – I would have to let my curiosity be my drive.

My curiosity drove me to all parts of the city, where I was able to appreciate and better understand the unique aspects of African culture. Whether listening to traditional African music at the V&A Waterfront or indulging in a local foodie experience, each experience helped me realize the importance of culture as a momentary escape from the everyday hardships of life. Through conversations with local residents about poverty, crime, and hunger, I was shocked by the vast disparity in quality of life around the globe and more importantly, grew more appreciative of what I had.

ram patel ix cape town 2019Ram Patel, iX Cape Town 2019

Reflecting on my time in Cape Town, I can say that one of the most important lessons I’ve learned here is to approach new surroundings with an open and curious mindset. By letting curiosity take the helm of my time in Cape Town, I learned not only to seek meaningful experiences, but also find new, refreshing meaning in things that I have experienced already. And so, while I began my iXperience journey with Lion’s Head, I ended it with the strength to take on life with a Lion’s determination.

 

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