Hannah and I left late one morning for our second journey to Stellenbosch. We had gone wine tasting the weekend before with our best friend Kelly. But she flew back to the U.S. on a Sunday and Hannah and I needed sun, wine, and mountains to cope with the emptiness we felt.
The three of us had been inseparable since July. I met them when I moved to South Africa last year to attend the University of Pretoria as an exchange student. Kelly was my roommate and Hannah lived a couple of houses down in our commune in Hatfield. We instantly bonded over our love of adventure, good food, and the wild experience of immersing ourselves into South African culture. And wine.
Hannah quickly realized how difficult it was for me to say goodbye after she witnessed my embarrassing, loud outbursts of tears and uncomfortable laughter when I hugged Kelly for the last time at the airport. I think she was worried what would happen when the two of us would have to part ways later that week, so she suggested we spend the day in the most heavenly place. The instant I had arrived in Cape Town a few weeks before, I was entirely enamored. I never wanted to leave. Then I went to Stellenbosch and considered selling all of my belongings to pick grapes at a winery and live in a tree forever.
We arrived at the Jordan Estate around 11:00. When 16:00 rolled around, I was ready to go back to our Couch Surfing host’s house and take a nap. I can only handle so much wine and Tom Petty in one day. However Hannah had a different plan and wanted to go to one more winery before the day ended. I had no choice because she was the only one who could drive a stick and I couldn’t walk back to the city.
At that moment, we were eating olives and drinking the best Cab I had ever tasted at the Tokara winery. One of the men who worked there told us to go Camberley. It was right down the street and apparently had a beautiful view of the mountains. He laughed when Hannah told me to get my shit together and perk up.
We were the only visitors there. It was a small, but gorgeous estate. And yes, had a very beautiful view of the mountains. We were led up the stairs to the floor above the dark cellar. The tasting room was intimate and cleansing; and it was the first time I had felt at peace since Kelly went back to the U.S.
The man guiding the tasting placed a bottle called the Philosopher’s Stone in front of me. I didn’t think much of it until Hannah asked why it was given that name. The man went on to say that the owner of the estate read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho during a difficult time in his life. In the book, the Philosopher’s Stone is used by the Alchemist to turn metal into gold while in Egypt. The owner became instantaneously inspired. For him, metal was a grape and wine was his gold. Hannah then smiled at me with a loving, whimsical look in her eyes.
I had read The Alchemist on the plane from Oklahoma City to Chicago the summer after I had graduated from high school. I had just broken up with the only boy I had thought I would ever love; I was trying to figure out who I was and what I really wanted. Before that summer, the last time I had been to Chicago was nine years prior for my mother’s funeral. It was a confusing and emotional time in my life. The Alchemist was the book that changed everything for me. I read it twice that week and many times after that. It has played such an influential role in my life – more than I could even begin to describe here.
To remind me of my mission and take risks on my path to my personal legend, I had a pyramid tattooed on my forearm a couple of years ago. When Hannah smiled at me, I looked at my tattoo, then the wine, then out the window at the beautiful mountains and felt the spark. The spark you feel when you are entirely encompassed in the present moment. The spark that reminds you everything happens for a reason. Never before that moment had I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. It was the most magical experience of life as I knew it.
“Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense.” – Paulo Coelho