Monthly Archives: December 2018

Backpack Taveler, that’s me!

I decided to walk the walk that I’m asking from my students and pack light. So, this year as I lead the study abroad course I’m only packing my backpack and I’m bringing a packable day backpack to use while we are touring. Usually, I don’t pack as light as I encourage my students to do because I’m away from home longer than them. They are in South Africa for right at two weeks and I usually am in SA for about a month. However, this time I decided to dive headfirst into the backpack traveler world.

Honestly, when I got my first backpack, claiming to be a backpack traveler was purely aspirational!  I bought the Tortuga pack but still “needed” to bring along my backpack I use for school. I had the Tortuga backpack for two years and it served me well traveling to conferences and home to see the family. Then in the summer of 2018 I passed that pack onto one of my former students who was traveling to Kenya for a month-long medical internship.

I moved onto the Eagle Creek Gear Hauler [click here] and fell in love with this rugged all-purpose pack. I first used it when I traveled to Botswana in July 2018 and you can check out this post on everything that I stuffed into this pack in a post from right before the trip [click here]. I the reason I fell hard for this pack was mainly because of how much I could stuff into it and still easily carry both by hand and on my back. Additionally, I felt confident using this pack as I traveled around Southern and Central Africa because of the high quality construction and the water/dirt resistant bottom.

I know one of the reason that I have resisted only using a backpack for “secruity” purposes. I don’t mean safety and security, but rather having extra clothes “just in case” kinf of security. I can always hear my grandmother’s voice in my head telling me to pack a little extra “just in case something happens”, but something always happens and that’s why we wash our clothes! It’ll be interesting to see how this trip goes and if I am one of those newly converted people who will then sing the praises of backpack travel.

Black Coffee – Wish You Were Here (feat. Msaki) — Afro House King

My first trip to Johannesburg was in June 2014. I was able to travel from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg because when I first arrived in South Africa in January 2014 I got bumped from my SAA flight to PE. At that time I received a voucher for a round-trip flight from PE to Joburg for my trouble. I didn’t know what I would do in Johannesburg on my own because my university had done a terrific job of terrifying us of South Africa in general and Johannesburg more specifically.  Then, the US Embassy hosted a cooperative arts event between African American artists and South African artists and the theme was dealing with race in art. The Embassy held a contest on Facebook to give away tickets to this event. I entered and won! So, now I had a reason to go to Johannesburg coupled with the means to make the trip.

The next step I needed to take was to find a place to stay. I started searching through social media and found Curiocity Backpackers, which had just opened up for the summer travel season in December 2013.  I contacted Curiocity first through Instagram and then through their website. I was worried that this wasn’t a “real” place to stay, meaning that it wasn’t going to be nice or safe. I was able to book a very affordable room (approx. $19 USD/night) and I was able to pre-book transportation from the airport to the backpackers.

At this time Maboneng was just a fledgling community compared to how you find it today. But some of the anchors were already there like Shap Braai, Pata Pata, and Arts on Main. Another anchor that was present in Maboneng was the private security. When I arrived at Curiocity I was told that “at any time you don’t feel safe the security guards will walk with you.”

I took advantage of being in Johannesburg and didn’t just hideout waiting for my event at the embassy. I took a walking tour of the Central Business District (CBD), chatted with other travelers at the backpackers and arranged to go out with a few of them, and I really enjoyed the street vibe of Arts on Main. It was exhilarating to be here, in this city, and traveling/ discovering this place for myself and by myself.

One of the many things that I love about backpackers is that even when you are traveling by yourself, you are never really alone. Other people are traveling by themselves and you just decide to do something together. Additionally, backpackers hold events which allow guests to interact with each other and creates a sense of community within the hostel. In 2014, they were hosting different types of musicians at the backpackers. My first night there it was a punk band, but on Sunday it was much more chill with an unsigned singer/songwriter Msaki. I instantly fell in love with her voice and bought several of her CDs, one to keep and several to gift.

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Then, I added her as a friend on Facebook and follwed her on Instagram. I have really enjoyed seeing her succeed and bloom as an artist. Now, this Saturday, four and a half years after seeing her perform at the backpackers, I will get to see her on stage in front of thousands as she performs with The Real Black Coffee at his Music is King Festival!

I adore their new single and I am beyond stoked for Saturday!

Black Coffee’s Wish You Were Here is one of the major music from his new EP “Music is King“. “Wish You Were Here” featuring Msaki is already Buzzing all over the country and World. Check out this House masterpiece by Black Coffee. MUSIC: Black Coffee – Wish You Were Here (feat. Msaki) FORMAT: Mp3 QUALITY: 224 Kbps […]

via Black Coffee – Wish You Were Here (feat. Msaki) — Afro House King

My heavy heart

I met with my students today for January’s study abroad. They are a small, but mighty group and I look forward to the ways they will challenge me as an instructor. One of the first tasks they do for the course is to create their blog. Then I follow them as a way to keep up with their writing throughout the study abroad program. Well, when I was connecting to their blog I had mine up and started scrolling through my posts.
I ran across this one and I’m about in the same place as I was in 2014 when I wrote it. I’m trying really hard to focus on all that I’ve had here. I’ve had amazing experiences that have enriched me in ways that I could not have imagined when I left the US back in July. I feel like my pedagogy has grown roots that now reach deep into the ground.
I have been trying to appreciate my time here, especially as it got down to the last 30 days in this apartment. I’m about to head back to the US for Christmas and then back here to teach my study abroad. My time here, in this place, in this way is about to come to an end. However, I do not want my relationship with Johannesburg or South Africa to come to an end. I don’t know how it will develop in the future, but I refuse to use the metaphor of an ex. I almost started to use that metaphor today since I have so often used the metaphor of a relationship to describe how I feel about South Africa and Jozi more specifically. Sometimes, I suppose, there is no clear metaphorical equivalency that helps other people understand. How can there be? I am not clear on this myself. The only metaphor that has ever really made sense to me is love. I deeply love this place, this city. Love is a complicated thing. So, we will go back to having a long-distance relationship when I leave at the end of January. Still, the relationship between us will exist and live into the future.

Star Thrower


As I get ready to leave South Africa my time could quite easily be consumed with marking a list of lasts.  But then I would forget to marvel in the beauty that each new day brings. I keep thinking that this is a bittersweet moment. However, today I had a realization, my heart is not heavy from sadness. On the contrary, I leave South Africa with my soul opened, a wealth of new experiences, and friends. My heart is heavy with love.

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Travel, learn, reflect, repeat

Google “Things you learn from traveling” and you’ll get millions of results.  The first several pages of these results are those wonderful listicles.

While each of these lists have some overlap, each person’s experience is unique.  When you travel, where you travel, who you travel with, and that the purpose of your trip is will all help form your experience.

In less than a month I will be leading my third study abroad program. Each year I change the program slightly because the social movements in South Africa are changing from year-to-year. One of the key learning experiences for study abroad is stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to experience another culture. Once you realize that culture is like water, then the phrase “fish out of water” takes on a whole new meaning and an almost perfect metaphor for the travel experience.

img_2935I think the most important thing to keep in mind as you travel is to stay present. You will have many uncomfortable moments as you experience a new culture and the challenge is to stay in the moment, realize what you’re experiencing, and if you are lucky why you are experiencing the discomfort. Although, don’t stress if the why comes to you later because we can only process so much at once.

But if you can take time to reflect on your experiences as you travel then you can incorporate more of those experiences into your “real life”. Often when people travel they talk about going back to their real life; however, this whole experience is part of your real life. Here’s one of my favorite posts for the non-academic traveler of Qs and Ts (Questions and Tips) [click here]. For academic travelers who might be using travel or study abroad to enrich their research, I think this post on ethonography is fantastic [click here]. img_2936The experience of travel will keep giving to you even after you’ve returned home. You will have made new connections and had new experiences that will reverberate throughout all aspects of your life. Ask all the questions! Try all the food and dance to all the beats! Remember to take all the pictures!


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