The transformation is complete. It may have taken six months, but the restless flibertigibbet with dangerously excessive levels of nervous energy has finally mastered the previously elusive and most complex art of relaxation. And not before time; with a return to reality, inclement weather patterns and new employment looming ever larger on the horizon, I have one final opportunity to exercise my newly-honed skills. Gone therefore are the exploratory market visits and national park hikes, the first encounter bar chats with newly-arrived backpackers, and the languid beach strolls: it is time for action, and the action is inaction.

The crucial breakthrough discovery in this slow metamorphosis came in the unexpected realisation that it takes a specific kind of psychological dexterity to do absolutely nothing for an extended period of time. As with every new art form or skill acquired through nurture rather than nature, mine has been a gradual improvement. Every new attempt sees the addition of an extra ten or fifteen minutes to the previous record of horizontal inactivity, and a directly proportional increase in the satisfaction at achieving a heightened state of idleness.

It is with great fondness that I recall the exact moment I knew that I was finally on my way to dolce farniente nirvana, on that momentously sunny morning at Cape Maclear. Walking out onto the beachfront patio deck of my backpacker hostel at 11am and sensing something special immediately. There, directly across the reception area from where I was standing: a beautiful sunbeam cutting through the gap between two parasols, hitting the hostel’s prime rattan lounger in a joyous arc of solar perfection. But as I moved towards it, my concentration was disrupted by a barely audible call from someone I had met the previous evening, sitting at a breakfast table on the other side of the deck. I focused again. ‘Be the cat, I thought to myself. Be the cat, JMK.’ Without breaking stride, I feigned deafness and homed in on my target, lowering myself into the by now well-rehearsed position of horizontal glory. Another fine performance.

So I am now a master of the game, and in Malawi I have found the perfect playing field. As the self-styled ‘Warm Heart Of Africa’, this is a country where slow is good but stop is better – a state of consciousness confirmed and reinforced by the omnipresence of Rastafarian culture and an almost permanent waft of hemp plant derivatives. When tourists are stopped in the street, it is out of genuine curiosity and concern for wellbeing rather than any ulterior motive, a welcome change from the walking-wallet-mzungu perception across the border in more touristy Tanzania. With a per capita GDP of $226.50 in 2015 cementing its continued presence on the podium of the world’s poorest countries, the reverse of the old adage of wealth not buying happiness appears to hold true in Malawi. And smiling, relaxed locals make for smiling, relaxed backpackers.

Malawi, a little jewel of a country making a very late dash up my African country charts, with incredible mountain scenery, stunning national parks and the recent reintroduction of lions once more completing the famous five band of beasts. So much to see in such a comparatively small package. But to me, it is all about the lake. This is where the final leg of the journey begins, and ends: at, along and above the shore of this breathtakingly beautiful body of water. With each day book-ended by the dreamy pastel hues and reflections of both sunrise and sunset, and the interim daytime hours a sequence of sun-kissed naps, siestas and slumbers, this is the only fitting way to wind down an African quest that has truly delivered on every count that matters.

And if Malawi is the culmination country of this unexpected journey towards inner peace, then my current location is its apotheosis. Hanging onto a steep mountainside jutting up 1,000m directly opposite the northern shore of the lake, the Mushroom Farm permaculture eco-lodge is a beacon of off-grid serenity, the ultimate peaceful escape from the reality of the world beyond its perimeter. With mellow African music playing on the beautiful ethnically decorated terrace, WiFi only available for one hour a day and the most incredible vegetarian cuisine (there, I said it…) created with produce sourced on its on grounds, my only dilemma is deciding the order in which to use the site’s three precipice-overhanging hammocks. At night, the entire gathering retires to bed no later than 10pm, full, content and without a care in the world. In the dormitory, we lower our mosquito nets and make sure the double doors are wide open. In a little under eight hours, the world’s most natural alarm clock will gently rouse us from our sleep and another wonderful day will begin. My trip may have another two weeks to run, but it is here that it has ended. Mission complete.

The breakthrough moment


… or sunset?

This is harder than it looks

6:10am – the view from my dorm bed. No hitting snooze when this alarm goes off…

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