I write this in another world from the one I’ve been moulding myself to for the past seven months. Away from jagged mountains, cold seas, soft sand and fields of fruit; the air here is warm and spicy; the ocean gentle and healing, the landscape green and lush. My bones relax, and I get the inevitable sniffles as my body slows down and reassesses the past few months. Takes a deep breath in and out. My shoulders un-hunch and I like what I see in the mirror. The rounded belly, strong, wide shoulders, wild hair, slim legs. I sleep in, read, swim, sleep some more. Isn’t this how it should be, every day? The reflections begin. Where we’ve come from, what we’ve done.
In six months, we’ve started renovating an extremely run-down and out-dated guesthouse. We still have so much more to do there in the quiet winter months. We’ve put up new fences and gates and signs and cleared forests and made gravel and brick paths and fixed broken borehole pumps over and over again. We’ve had to learn how to navigate the pipe and electrical systems. We’ve fixed broken geysers and installed an extremely expensive air-con system which, annoyingly, ended up not working. We’ve had workmen in our ceilings all night, guests throwing chairs into swimming pools and spraying red wine on ceilings and into kettles. Guests stealing towels and sheets. Lovely guests bringing gifts and coming back over and over again. It’s been a roller coaster ride.
And then a couple of months ago, we started working on and planning our new baby. A passion project, a restaurant we’ve been dreaming about for a long time. A place where we both could eat, being an omnivore (Andrew) and a vegan (me), a place with options and choices, a place where everyone is welcome and made to feel comfortable in their individual lifestyles. A place where food and its origin is respected and where we try to keep our produce as local and sustainable as possible. What would we call this place? I liked the concept of travel, fluidity, food in flux with the changing seasons. I opened up my thesaurus and came across the word Nomad. I wrote it down and it spoke to my heart. That day we took a drive to Somerset West and Andrew pointed out the word “Nomad” written on a building near the N2. We paid for our smoothies at Kuaui with our cards and the machine displayed the word “Nomad” as it processed our payment. It was surely a sign and we both burst out laughing. We enlisted the help of designer extraordinaire, Andrea Barras, to conceptualise our branding and she came up with the moons in phase in our logo. I’m obsessed with my brother’s tattoo of a compass on his arm, and so she incorporated that into our branding too. It all fit together so wonderfully: our concept, the words and the imagery. We got Chef Marile van Niekerk on board and set to work renovating the restaurant building on the property.
We opened on the first of February, my birthday. There’s still much to do, including a large amount of landscaping and a dam to fill with water. But we’re happy and excited about our passion project and everything that we’re going to learn and experience on this journey. We also have the most amazing team helping us every step of the way – Klaries, Marile, Ray and Keenan are all unbelievably hard-working souls and we are so thankful to have them! Having vegans come up and thank me in in the restaurant for having a choice of pizzas, platters, mains, starters, salads and desserts has assured me we’re on the right path. Making a lactose-intolerant little boy his first ever “cheese” pizza with vegan mozzarella made my heart all mushy. I know the pain of having to go to a restaurant and ask if there are any vegan options, or having to order a tasteless green salad with french fries again. No more. There is no eye-rolling at Nomad from our waiters or chefs about vegans and vegetarians – we are prepared and happy to feed you – and all your omni friends and family! Nomad is about having a good time and celebrating in comfort with your loved ones. We’re about no judgement, good food, good times and flowing wine! I hope you come and pay us a visit.
When I first went vegan, I received some nasty comments from people, saying I shouldn’t promote veganism whilst living on a cattle farm and being married to a man who owns a meat-serving restaurant. But being vegan is so much more than black and white, and in these shadows is where most of the work is done. Removing yourself from life is not the solution. Even before then, the cogs were in motion to set about a new way of making a living. While I would obviously love to be involved in a vegan-only restaurant, I think it’s also important to start incorporating more vegan options at omni restaurants. Although it won’t happen most of the time, now and then, an omni might choose a vegan starter or pizza or salad and to me, even that tiny choice, can make a difference to our planet’s health and the lives of people and animals around the world. The more vegan choices there are out there, the more able we are to start making a real change.
So I sit here on this little tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and I am at peace. This year has been crazy-hard-fun so far and I know I need to go back to a bit more balance – more yoga, more massages, letting go, trusting people, writing more, opening myself up again, allowing myself to be vulnerable. And most of all, finishing up my next passion project… which I can’t wait to share with you all soon! But most of all, to continue living, as best as I can, without judgement, and in alignment with my convictions.