How a brain tumour made one South African change his life and travel the world

2016-08-08 09:39 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - Have you ever thought, "If only I had the time or money to live my dream and travel more?"

For South African Marc Dinkelmann, a 30-year-old former investment banker who thrived on structure and a plan, it eventually took a massive health scare to find the courage and realise that sometimes there is no better moment than the here and now.

As a result he is currently travelling the world.

After his successful surgery and the removal of the tumour he now calls Frank, his adventure began with no clear end in sight.

"I found out that I had an unwelcome guest living in my head for the past roughly 17 years. I doubt I’ll ever forget looking through MRI scans of my brain whilst huddled in a stairway vestibule, alone and scared about what the images in front of me meant and whether or not I’d see the year out, and if I did, if I’d be the same person I was at that current point," says Dinkelmann.

"All the voices in my head were firing away… Are you sure? You can still turn back… No one will care; no one will have to know…

But Frank certainly made his big life decision a lot easier. 

'Tumour free and a new man'

"Fast forward 16 months, here I am, tumour free and a new man (I hope). I owe my life, literally, to one of the best surgeons out there and his team. How could I possibly thank someone adequately for changing the trajectory of my life? I hope I can one day adequately express my gratitude to my surgeon.

"Maybe this decision of mine to travel the world is in some small, convoluted way, a way of saying thanks?

"Here I am now, on my adventure, and I find myself asking whether or not I would have embarked on this journey if I hadn’t had the wind knocked out of my sails with Frank?

"If I’m honest with myself, I don’t think I would have.

"Why? Well, we’ve all done it. We decide we want something to happen and then we wait. We wait for a sign or for somebody to say ‘go ahead and do it’, that we have their permission. Or that, by sheer chance that the very thing we want will create itself; that it will tap dance its way into our lives and yell 'surprise'.

But then nothing happens.

"I know I’ve always wanted to travel. I know I enjoy exploring, I know that the thought of exploring a foreign city does things to the hairs on my neck that I can’t even begin to put into words and that getting onto a plane plays with those whispery parts of my heart and soul to the point my legs shake with excitement.

'Living your dream'

"I realised that if I was able to walk away from this experience, knowing what I know now – what this tumour made me realise, that I have to live this dream."

Six weeks ago he decided to head to Russia, where he did the trans-Siberian railway and crossed into Mongolia. Thereafter he spent a few weeks in the Gobi desert.

Dinkelmann now finds himself in China, "perversely grateful" for the second chance life has handed him.

"My mind is a 6 ring circus, and I can’t blame that on the walking dead! It’s been a whole six weeks since this expedition of mine started. It may as well be 2 years - my life in South Africa feels like a million years ago. I tease myself and say 'what would you be doing right now if you weren’t doing this?'

"Inevitably, the answer is something like working or driving or some mundane chore. All of which I do feel a tickle of withdrawal from. I think the tickle is emphasised by the knowing that the next time I do such things is unknown. I tease myself further and say, 'Would you have it any other way?'.

'Can't think of any other place I'd rather be'

"Definitely not," says Dinkelmann, describing how he writes whilst watching the sunset through a train window, whilst traversing through China, listening to The Fighter by Gym Class Heroes. "I can’t think of any place, other than this place, that I'd rather be right now."

He admits his journey thus far has been like a "rodeo reaching the top of a roller coaster after it clinks its way to the top, before it releases and sends you flying through hoops".

But his conclusion is simple. "If you’re thinking about travelling, or doing something different, please please do it. Don’t wait, life can be fickle and you don’t want to be that person with regrets. Hell, I could have been that guy.

"I’d have never lived my dream if it weren’t for this pothole in my path. It is at this point that I realise that the thing that we truly want in our lives is on hold because it is up to us… we are waiting for ourselves." 

If you’d like to follow his journey, visit or like him on Facebook: Dinks in Transit or on Instagram. Have your own travel adventure you're like to share? Email

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