Falling in love with the African way of life: Moving from Europe to Africa. 

By: TheAfriDane, Katarina Olesen 

Growing up in a classic suburban town where my school was around the corner, danger was learning to ride a bike without scraping my knees, and I have often encountered the question “Why Zimbabwe?”. If we haven’t met yet, my name is Katarina Olesen. I’m 25 years old, born and bred in Denmark, and now calling Zimbabwe my second home. 

In the heart of Southern Africa, you stumble upon the Victoria Falls, which is a testament to the raw beauty of Zimbabwe. For me, this enchanting town is not just a destination but a love affair that sprouted its roots 6 years ago. As a young and maybe naive Danish girl, I could have never foreseen the profound impact this place would have on my life. 

My first trip to The Falls was in 2017, an essential year not only for me personally but also for Zimbabwe as a nation. Despite the backdrop of political turmoil during that period, what truly captured my attention was the overwhelming sense of community and love that infused the air. The whole town came together and sat side by side watching Mugabe’s speech. The streets transformed into a symphony of people, dancing with pure joy. This remarkable display of community and the genuine warmth of the local residents left an undeniable mark on my soul. 

Safe to say I lost my heart to Victoria Falls on this trip. I so clearly remember sitting in the airport, calling my dad while waiting for the plane to Namibia. My voice started trembling and tears started rolling down my cheeks. My dad tried to comfort me over the phone, reassuring me that being homesick was all normal and that they would all be there when I got home – to which I answered: “But I am not homesick for Copenhagen.. I am homesick for the place I haven’t even left yet”.

I found myself craving the essence of this city as the years went on. The allure of a slower-paced life in Africa became increasingly irresistible, a strong contrast to the relentless pursuit of material possessions in the fast-paced world I grew up in. In Denmark, the isolation of big city living often left me yearning for a deeper sense of community, while here, the bonds between people are as strong as the majestic lions and elephants that roam the landscape. In Africa, everything feels more real and present – a vivid tapestry woven with the threads of authentic connections, untamed nature, and the timeless rhythm of life. The few times I came back to visit was like coming up for air – even though Miss Corona did not make this easy.

Fast forward to the year 2022, and I found myself making the monumental decision to leave my life in Copenhagen behind and make Victoria Falls my new home. Since then, my love for The Falls has blossomed as I’ve allowed myself to fully immerse in the community’s embrace.

On the first night in my new house, the electricity went out, and I hadn’t yet familiarized myself with the solar panels – resulting in complete darkness. Sitting on my doorstep, wondering what to do, thinking twice about why I decided to move to a place with less secure electricity (amongst other things), and I knew that despite its occasional flaws (which become apparent only when one becomes a full-time resident), Zimbabwe offers a life that one can only dream of.

My days are filled with enchanting experiences – drifting down hidden channels on the Zambezi River at sunset, gliding past hippos preparing to venture onto land for their nightly feast. Weekends are marked by delightful braais, where the air is infused with the aromas of seasoned meat and resonant laughter. I revel in the simple pleasure of crafting fresh lemonade from lemons plucked right from the garden. Living among animals that most people only have the privilege of seeing on their social media feeds is a constant source of awe. The weekends are a canvas of adventure, spent camping in nature’s most hidden and exquisite corners, dancing with my best friends at the local hostel, all while wearing 5-dollar dresses from the local market. These moments, even when woven together, still seem like fragments from a beautiful dream.

Should you ever find yourself with the opportunity to embrace Africa’s wonders, Victoria Falls would undoubtedly stand as my most fervent recommendation. With its untouched, stunning landscapes, breathtaking wildlife, and an unparalleled sense of community, it promises an experience of a lifetime. Who knows, perhaps you, too, will find yourself captivated by the town, returning again and again, just as I did.

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