“A year ago I was able to spend some time exploring the coast line with someone who had a true passion for the area and was very comfortable in the wild.
Through his eyes I saw the true simple beauty of it all and it is now embedded in my heart.”
I met Candáce three and a half years ago in South Korea at an orientation week for new English teachers. As far as first impressions went, she was just an American girl looking for adventure and fun.
That mindset was a commonality amongst the other new teachers; different ages and different nationalities leaving their lives behind for: a year of new, a year of exciting, and a year of adventure. It was a fun and carefree life to be sure however, eventually, every single expat that I met needed to make a choice: stay or leave.
It’s not an easy decision; many people have difficulty leaving the lifestyle and, like a bad relationship, end up staying for reasons of comfort as opposed to personal happiness. This wasn’t the case with my friend Candáce; she turned away the life of contentment and left.
It is this strength of character, and ability to stand fast against the counter-forces of fear and uncertainty that lead her to become who she is today: a successful business owner in South Africa.
Candáce was originally from South Africa; she had moved to the United States when she was 16 and it would be 18 years and a brief stint teaching in South Korea before she finally returned to visit. During her visit, she realized that she was in love with the country and wanted to stay longer. Her next few months were spent becoming reacquainted with her family and homeland.
“South Africa is unique in that it has several strong cultures, all very different from each other and yet we all find a way to get along. I love the diversity and strength of the different cultures. Also the people are very open and friendly. There is no PC (politically correct) mentality.”
Before long she decided that she needed a plan. Since returning to the United States was not something she was interested in, her choices were to find a job in another country or relocate to South Africa for good.
Ultimately, SA had too strong a hold on her heart and she decided to stay.
Her first few months were viewed through a warm lens of nostalgia and new-life-in-paradise happiness. Eventually the comforting illusion gave way and the reality of her situation became apparent: this was not the South Africa she remembered and expected. In the years that she had been away, the political changes and increasing danger had desensitized and toughened the people.
What also became apparent, was that she had become more American than she was originally willing to admit, and as a result, her expectation of South African life was unrealistic. Her life in The United States had ingrained in her a sense of entitlement that would ultimately be counterproductive if she wanted to make it.
She struggled for awhile and found that her American attitude only worked to segregate Candáce from her immediate company, giving rise to her nickname: ‘The American.’ The locals thought of her as another fly-by-night dreamer; they didn’t think she would last so they kept their distance. When she tried to get involved, they upgraded the label to ‘The Pushy American.’
Candáce’s first office was her very own car. She started by advertising to the local accommodation businesses, (hotels, B&Bs, etc…) that she was trained in Thai Massage; business slowly grew. However after five months of promoting and taking odd jobs for cash, the lustre that once radiated from the idea of South African life dimmed, and Candáce was almost ready to give up.
Instead of throwing in the towel, she took a mini-vacation and travelled to Johannesburg to visit friends and gain some perspective. There, at the height of her uncertainty and at the limits of her perseverance, she met someone; a stranger who meant nothing to her at the time, but who led her down the path to renew her resolve. He lectured Candáce about being brave, being strong, and following her heart.
After some reflection, she decided that she was not a fly-by-night American; she was strong, and she was African. There had been many times since when she would question her decision to move to St. Lucia, limiting herself from other life paths like travelling. She always arrived at the same answer: “My soul is happiest here. I find strength in this soil; this is where I belong. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
The first year was difficult; there was so much uncertainty about how well she would do and she needed to acclimatize herself to the intricacies of running a business in her industry. Slowly her operation grew and in 2013 she took over a small shop and set up a spa and beauty shop. She now leads a fulfilling life doing what she loves, living in her version of paradise, surrounded by the happy faces of those she serves.
“No one is ever unhappy with a massage therapist so I am surrounded by happy people and it’s great.”
South African life has changed Candáce in the end. The struggles have made her more cautious, often shying away from requesting help. But it’s also strengthened her; she is now fiercely independent. Persevering through the first few years has developed a confidence that is borderline indomitable. Before the move she never dreamed that she could be the type of person who would own a business, now she’s the girl who takes impossible chances and thrives outside of her comfort zone.
To her, it couldn’t have gone any other way.
“I don’t remember how I survived when I was living in the states, working corporate jobs and aiming to please everyone but myself, I must have been in a coma back then. Now I am free and happy.”
She currently resides in a small village by the sea with a population of less than 500; there are more hippos than people. Her favourite spot is the nature park where she could cycle through the trails and see animals that, in her past life, only existed in documentaries. It’s taken some work, but over the years she’s managed to shed the label of the fly-by-night dreamer. The locals, endearingly, still consider her ‘The Pushy American.”
Khoi: “What is your favourite thing about living there?”
Candace: “The nature!! There is a raw energy that exudes from nature and wildlife and it gives me strength. There are leopards, hippos, and crocodiles around the corner; that is thrilling. The African lifestyle is not easy and I am constantly pushed out of my comfort zone and I love it.”
If you’re interested in seeing how Candáce’s shop is doing, you can keep up with her on her Facebook page.
Khoi is an artsy, bohemian, former-traveller in his late twenties. He enjoys adventure, feeling lost, being healthy, and looking good. An intellectual who relishes in frank discussion, his friends describe spending time with him as ‘refreshing.’ Despite a highly social existence during his university years and his early-to-late twenties, Khoi now focuses his attention on developing relationships with more strong-willed, and independent thinkers.