Quick Thoughts on South Africa

Matt South Africa

As I board a plane back home to Washington, DC today I find myself reflecting on my second experience traveling through South Africa. After my first visit last year to Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula I fell in love, but I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the rest of the country. I was worried I wouldn’t have the same feelings and frankly wasn’t entirely sure how the trip would go. Even though this trip was different, it was important on a personal level as it firmly entrenched in my heart a fierce love of this massive, sometimes misunderstood but always stunning country.

I get asked all the time where I love to visit the most; which countries are my favorite. I understand why people ask me this, but it’s an almost impossible one to answer. But after visiting South Africa again, I’m beginning to formulate a truly honest and comprehensive answer.

South Africa

South Africa is different from so many other destinations; the width and breadth of the offerings here are dynamic and remarkable. Everything from urban to extreme rural travel is possible, making it a lot of fun to explore. But just like my experience last year what I love most here isn’t seeing a rhino or traveling up Table Mountain, it’s the people.

I think that the power the people of a nation have on one’s travel experience is entirely underrated. So many times people will say they love seeing the Eiffel Tower or going on a Caribbean cruise, but all too rarely do they mention the people and yet they matter the most.

Whether or not we realize it, a nation’s people define our experience. If the people are rude and uncaring, we tend not to like a destination. It’s just how it is. A tourism entity can spend millions every year, but if the people don’t buy in to the effort it simply doesn’t matter.

The people in South Africa aren’t just friendly, that’s not it. No it’s their fierce pride and love of country that transforms the travel experience into something much more. It’s hard not to sense the infectious love most South Africans have and by the end of the trip I noticed I was feeling the same way.

Masiphumelele Township

This pride is thankfully realized in many ways but most wonderful is how many times people have taken the time either in person or through social media to help me with my trip and to offer suggestions of what to see and do. This is absolutely invaluable and on both trips dramatically transformed the experience into something life-altering.

I write this sitting in South Africa, still high on the effects of a dazzling travel experience and so this post may be taken with a grain of salt. But if my experiences last year are any indication, I don’t think that this feeling will fade anytime soon. If anything, like a spicy Durban curry, the feelings slowly build and accumulate over time until the love of traveling in South Africa becomes just a part of one’s soul.


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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

7 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts on South Africa”

  1. Just saw one of your tweets being retweeted, and am happy to stumble upon this article…and glad you managed to go a level deeper than most tourists and connect with the people.

    They’re such great experiences, that it’s easy for tourists to just go through the motions of seeing the Big 5, viewing Victoria Falls, surfing down the tallest dune in the Namib, and lazing on the beaches of Mozambique and Cape Town; without ever connecting with the people.

    I hope we see you again in SA soon, and in the meantime I’m stalking you on twitter.

  2. You are so fortunate to get to go back to SA so soon! I co-sign what you said 100%. South Africa is a country of limitless travel options and experiences. I had been wanting to go for 25 years, thoroughly researched and planned my trip and I was still surprised every day by what was possible there. The diversity of the land, people, even the food, exceeded a lifetime of hopes and expectations for my time there.

    The country has its troubles, as all countries do, but I’ve never met so many people who are determined to show you *their* country and what is possible for their country’s future.

    I think about my time there every single day and cannot wait to go back and explore some more.

    1. Krista,
      Thank you so much for sharing that, it made me tear up! It’s amazing what travel can do for us and this is really the perfect example. Here’s to planning your next visit!

  3. I have been following your SA instagram travels jealously… We have moved to Canada from South Africa just over four months ago! We have been missing EVERYTHING about SA… & your post just strengthened that feelings! Thanks for a great article/post & just confirming our feelings of pride in our country! There is something about SA that just cant be duplicated anywhere else! And the people certainly plays a huge part in that! Glad you enjoyed your stay there! We hope to return soon!!!

    1. Xandré, thank you both for following and for these wonderful comments. I’m glad it resonated with you and that my love of the country comes through. It is a place that certainly ‘gets under one’s skin’ :)

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