I am sitting on the plane and a young girl strikes a conversation with me. She asks: “What brings you to South Africa? ” I say: “Holiday! ” 🙂 and I flash a beaming smile (one of my specialties). To my surprise she cringes and says: “Really?” and proceeds to tell me she is surprised because people don’t tend to find South Africa a tourist destination. She is partially right. Not many Americans come. I met a ton of Germans, Canadians, Australians, British, and many other Europeans. However, few Americans were to be seen but I also understand it is a far trek to come to South Africa from the States.
So, what brings me here? Tell you the truth, it’s all coincidence. I was traveling, someone told me they loved visiting South Africa, someone else I knew lived there and would host me, and someone else said they would come with me. BAM! The trip materialized and here I am. I didn’t plan much and basically showed up.
Let me tell you, I am so glad I came…Despite being intimidated about ebola and all of the stereotypes I had of African countries. What do you envision? Poverty? Sickness?? At this point, my New England friends are closer to Ebola cases than I am here in South Africa. I have always wanted to visit Africa but didn’t really know which country I would start with. I was curious so I started with the easiest: South Africa. Everyone speaks english, I stuck to the major cities (Joburg and Cape Town), and had a friend living there who could guide me. Let me put it in perspective: Johannesburg is the financial capital of Africa (the continent), Cape Town is a highly visited town by tourists and hosted the world cup in 2010. If you stick to the rules, it was not any more dangerous than NYC. Doing the touristy things, I got to see the best of the best; a luxury most South Africans do not get.
It was nice to have the privilege of seeing the best of South Africa but I am curious as to how the majority of the population lives. I know they endured hard times and, as I learn of the culture and history, I realize they are a resilient people. Visiting the Apartheid Museum and Soweto (South Western Township) was a humbling experience. Mandela was a true hero to these people and his message of freedom resonated greatly with them.
Freedom is relative. We can be a slave to our jobs and our vices. Sometimes, we believe we are free but we are not living freely. I realized this trip and this blog is helping me live in a way that respects and enhances freedom. As I travel, I wish to learn and humble myself as I see the world and meet people so that I can appreciate what I have and value what is truly enriching.
Soweto Tour (Joburg)
Lodging: Atlantic Point Backpackers
Must: Table Mountain Hike and Cable Ride