Howdy! I’m Mattias, a freelance software developer from Belgium, currently living and working remotely from Cape Town, South Africa. I wear jeans where normal people don’t and these are some stories about the digital nomad lifestyle i’m exploring.

mourning routines

Focal points. A little hack to keep balanced while learning yoga exercises before my customary morning cigarette drenched in coffee. Happy Valley palm tree leaves, a miniature sailboat about to disappear behind the Atlantic horizon or slowly moving my eyes along the path of the incandescent clouds whispering over the misty twelve apostels. No sight fails to amaze in this majestical little place on earth.

A few weeks ago I set foot on land in Camps Bay and introduced myself to six other citizens of the world. I’ve been co-living with them for this first part of my stay in Cape Town.

Remarkable and rememberable things can happen when people didn’t choose each other and end up living together.

With nothing much more in common than mutual respect and an open mind, completely different cultural backgrounds can be exactly what one needs to expand your perspectives and fight off the enemy called comfort-zone.

Acoustic sunset romance with the backing vocals of dying branches gasping for their last breaths before tumbling into the ashes of the braai. Daybreak coding sessions make up for a lengthy lunch nearby the beach. If life is only as good as the memories we make, I think i’m exactly where i needed to be.

As the blended Strathearn family members are about to all go our separate ways to spend the holidays, I can somehow sense the impending doom of a lonely Christmas. No family or friends this year. No pointless conversation about the meaning of life with my furry buddy.

Far out of sight is society that conditioned me to not even try finding comfort in being alone. Set sail. I’ll do it the hard way if I have to.

Viento, que viene de la montaña
Viento, que viene del mar
Viento, tráenos la claridad
Viento, tráenos la libertad
Vuela, vuela, volá
con nosotros

There’s something peculiar about flying from one empty airport to another on an airplane with only a few seats taken. Tell-tale signs I am probably not supposed to do this. Intercontinental traveling during a global pandemic happens to come with a lot of uncertainties.

Will they refuse me at the next checkpoint because of some restriction i’ve overlooked? It crosses my mind a lot, but I feel too exhausted to even worry about it. I’ll figure it out if shit hits the fence and I’m forced to return to base.

It takes quite some preparation in order to make sure every aspect of life and running a few local companies can be managed remotely. This is not a holiday to me. Life goes on and responsibilities don’t just vanish overnight.

Since international borders might close again at any point, i’ve allowed myself exactly one week to ignore the trauma i’ve been dealing with and not miss this potentially small window to leave.

It got me caught up in a massive todo-list and ended with packing only few hours before leaving. The required PCR test-results came in when i was already on my way to the airport and it was only a few days ago I all of the sudden realized I did not have all mandatory vaccins to even be allowed on that airplane.

All of that while saying goodbyes to loved ones for too many nights in a row and maintain working fulltime to not miss my project’s mid January deadline… it’s been a hectic ride to say the least.

It was only at the Cape Town Airport customs and covid screening I could rest assured they’d let me in. And they did. As with most successes in life, luck has to be on your side as well.

So good morning, South-Africa.
May our journey commence.

so what about cape town?

Belgium is in lockdown. It has been for a while now and it’s not getting better any time soon. Restrictions including closure of all non-essential businesses and we’re not even allowed to have guests over for a dinner at home. This winter season can get cold and dark on many levels for most of us.

While in Lisbon I had several inspiring conversations about how the pandemic is forcing us into time and location independent working. Something i’ve always embraced is finally getting the adoption it deserves. And it’s here (or anywhere) to stay (or leave) for generations to come.

Aside from locations like Bali, Mexico, Greece or even Nairobi, people kept bringing “Kaapstad” up as one of the top destination for a 21st century digital boy much like myself.

After intensive research, it did tick a lot of boxes for me. The unmatched beauty of misty mountains watching over the ocean, the countless beaches, a vibrant citylife, incredible landscapes, wildlife and a digital nomad community with lots of accommodations for remote workers. Not to mention summer being just around the corner.

Most of the other possibilities got eliminated due to timezone differences. Attending team meetings at 3am is not the best way to keep work vs. life balanced.

As a cherry on top, most people in Cape Town speak English and even when they don’t, my Flemish should get me around in Afrikaans since they’re very similar languages.

Until a few weeks ago I never even aspired coming to Cape Town one day. But given my requirements no other place on the planet made more sense at this point.

Just trying to wrap my head around this now… I’ve never really been on my own and i’m about to leave for a destination unknown with nobody I’ve ever known within a radius of thousands of miles.

I have been yearning for a life like this when I was much younger… but it does scare the shit out of me right now.

In the aftermath of dreadful stages in life, i tend to make unusual game-changing decisions. When my mother got a severe stroke back in 2014, paralyzing half of her body and taking away her ability to speak, i quit my job and started my own business with zero clients and my only mentor fading out.

A while ago my fifteen year relationship passed its expiration date and the grief that comes along with that got the best of me. It’s ok to feel sad after making the right decision, they say. At least it is for a while.

After spending a few weeks working remotely in Lisbon earlier this month, i haven’t exactly been doing cartwheels coming back home. But today marks the day i’m pulling myself together. My time has come to rise from the ashes once more.

I’m leaving Europe for a hibernation in Cape Town, South-Africa.


PS: I’ve been doing some writing lately and i’m sharing parts of it over the next few weeks, so stay tuned on instagram or facebook for more updates…