“I am going to cycle up Africa, with no money and literally rely on blessings and the kindness of people”
Meet Reynier van Zyl, a former carpenter who quit his job and started a journey from Cape Town to Israel (Initially it was Cape to Cairo, but like any journey in life, things can and do change) on the 21st of January 2015. He is doing this journey without money.
In putting this blog post together, I have been in contact with Reynier via Whatsapp and Gmail. Many thanks to Reynier for finding the time to answer my questions and share his inspiring story. At the time, of posting this article Reynier was in Burundi.
Let’s get to it…
Tell us a little about why you decided to quit your day job…
Today my motivations have evolved, as to what keeps me going, but the initial motivation is still there:
To live life like there is no tomorrow.
It’s a very long and in-depth story. I can only scratch the surface. To understand exactly why I quit my day job and got to this line of thinking, we really need to start at the beginning, well not entirely the beginning…
I finished school, where I attained good marks. I then went to study photography as I have a passion for visuals. Excelling in photography is by no means easy and doesn’t pay as well as some other stable jobs, such as being an Engineer. This combined with the realisation that these decisions shape your ‘career path’ made this decision a difficult one.
My mind was made up. Photography was my passion so I followed it and went to study photography. After that, I went to work in the Media Industry for one year. This was a crazy year. Everything was full of colour. It was new and exciting. I felt free from any responsibilities.
Later on, I was faced with several responsibilities such as paying rent, food and petrol etc.
I then decided to work for my fathers’ company as a carpenter as the Photography was not paying the bills. I enjoy working with my hands so I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.
During this period, I also tried working for a company. I couldn’t buy into the idea of being an employee working for a company, working in an office job. I saw no future in this. So I continued working for my father. Things were going along swimmingly. Despite enjoying it and excelling at my job, I saw no ‘future’ with the salary I was earning. I was also dating a girl.
I felt there was increasing pressure to perform. On top of that, my life felt like a continuous routine. There was no more contrast, no more colour, no more excitement.
Life was a record player on repeat. Playing the same song over and over. Life felt like a curse.
I remember speaking to someone once and he told me that there was a point in his life where he had suicidal thoughts.
Indeed, there was a point in my life where I had the same thoughts.
Am I here to live such a hard life?I don’t see the point in living If it’s going to be like this for the rest of my life.
When you hit rock bottom, you can either live with things as they are or question why you are in the situation you are in and ultimately change your current situation.
I was not happy with my life. I felt caged in.
It was like someone was making decisions for me. Society was manipulating me and the fear inside me kept me from breaking free and not conforming. I felt like I was wishing away five out of the seven days of the week.
Why should my future be worked out and scheduled? Why should I live up to expectations? Why should I toil away for money, with no apparent happiness in return? Will I regret this life one day?
I literally went around asking people, how they felt about it this, this life we are living, but they would all reply and say:”Our feeling is mutual yes, but what can I do? Someone needs to pay the bills.”
I thought: “fuck the bills man”.
I even had thoughts of just running away into the wilderness! I actually went to buy things I would need, and I wrote letters to my family to say that I cannot cope with this life. I was going to pack a few things and leave everything I had behind. It had no meaning to me.But I was never able to it!
And so I ended up telling my father that I am quitting my job to live a simpler life. The reaction from my father surprised me. My family understood and they were very supportive. I felt so thankful to my family for understanding.
If I had left in the night without talking to them there would have always been unanswered questions from their side and I would have always felt guilty.
I had some responsibilities to finish and after about six months I was able to walk out clean.
The feeling I had walking away from that life was one I can’t explain, maybe it’s like walking out of a prison you were captive in for twenty-five years. This new life I knew nothing of but it excited me.
And the events leading up to your decision to cycle from Cape Town to Israel…
After I quit my job I did some basic living. I went to live an isolated life free of money. It was my first step trying to move away from the system we live in. I stayed in Scarborough on someone’s plot during this time. I could stay there for free and stayed for four months.
Ever since then I can say life became an absolute blessing. For the first time in my life I was living.I had never felt so free. So happy. So at peace. This is what life is about.
But it does not mean my life was easy from that point forward.
The isolation got to me eventually. I realised we are social creatures. We need people in our lives to some extent and food became a problem. I was foraging a lot for food. I went into the mountain and along the coast to go look for food. I had so many hungry days due to a lack of knowledge and many days I was just so weak I could not get up.
So I volunteered to work for free at a nursery in return to learn more about edible plants and also to socialise a bit with the people. I made a friend there and I told him I wanted to move to Mozambique.
I heard there was more food there. He gave me this idea of cycling to Mozambique. He mentioned that he wanted to cycle from Cape Town to Cairo and that since I showed lots of interest we can do it together.
I was immediately hooked.
I was so hungry for life! I thought about it for a few weeks. Because I knew that if I told people I was going to do it that I had to do it! There was no hesitation in me and so I told everyone.
Some thought I was plain crazy to go and do it with no money, but I wanted to live my life like there was no tomorrow.I’ll rather live one day of utter joy than a hundred years of unhappiness and I felt like it could be spiritual to not have money.
I thought it could force me into new places. I would never have left if I had any security. Like the saying says “you can only learn outside your comfort zone.”
I asked my father if I could return home for a few months to organise everything.
Three months later I was on my bike with my home-made bags and the bare necessities.
The friend did not commit so I ended up going alone.It was very surreal up until the day I left not having a clue what I was doing!! But I was going to follow my heart!
How do you feel about the rat race? Are you looking to create a new life for yourself?