2014 A Good Year. Gift of Promise, Hope, Travel.

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2104. A Good Year. It’s never too late to reflect on a good year. One that I embarked on with determination, hope and the promise of travel. It gave me all of that in abundance. Superseding hope. Fuelling my love and want of travel. Gifting me new friendships. Opening doors to future opportunities. Shaping my determination into something softer, I like to think more generous and better suited to me …

As I always like to do, here’s an overview of my year’s experiences. I could actually pinch myself with humble disbelief when looking back.

Thing is when I started 2014 I hadn’t even heard of some of the places I was to visit. I had a trip to Rwanda and Uganda booked, as well as the heartfelt intention of making it a year that counts, one in which I pushed personal boundaries, was braver and would seek out good things. The rest I put to the universe, delivered more than I could ever have imagined.

Gorilla Trekking Uganda

Gorilla Trekking Uganda

There were countries. RwandaUgandaZambiaSwitzerland. TurkeyGreece. KenyaReunion Island.

There were 45 flights.
Cape Town – Johannesburg – Kigali – Entebbe – Johannesburg – Cape Town (Nomad Tours). Cape Town – George – Cape Town (ShotLeft). Cape Town – Johannesburg – Bloemfontein – Durban – Cape Town (MeetSouthAfrica). Cape Town – Johannesburg – Livingstone – Johannesburg – Cape Town (Greenpop). Cape Town – George – Cape Town (Knysna Oyster Festival). Cape Town – Port Elizabeth – Cape Town (Shotleft). Cape Town – Johannesburg – Zurich – Johannesburg – Cape Town (SwitzerlandWithSwiss). Cape Town – Johannesburg – Cape Town (eSummit). Cape Town – Johannesburg – Istanbul – Izmir – Athens – Istanbul – Johannesburg – Cape Town (Trafalgar Travel|TBEX). Cape Town – Johannesburg – Nairobi – Masai Mara – Nairobi – Johannesburg – Cape Town (Kempinski’s Kenya). Cape Town – Johannesburg – Saint Louis – Helicopter – Johannesburg – Cape Town (GoToReunion).

Footnote: Feeling grateful I don’t eat meat, do plant trees and am lucky enough to be associated with Greenpop, as that certainly helps combat some of my carbon footprints. See Cowspiracy to learn how. Thanks for keeping me informed on these matters Dax.

There were varied modes of movement. Bicycle. Plane. Car. Boat. Canoe. Motorbike. Boda Boda. Bus. Overland Truck. Rickshaw. Horse. Quadbike (I fell and broke three fingers) Taxi. Luxury Train. Skilift. Cable Car. Funicular. Ferry. Hot air balloon. Helicopter. Surfboard (not for long). I swam, hiked, walked, dived, rode, fell, limped and climbed. I crossed the equator by road, and by plane.

Together with a collection of incredible bloggers hand-selected by Jessica Barker, I started my year by joining Nomad Tours for an overland trip and Gorilla Trekking in Uganda. Truly a dream come true. I’ve wanted to do this for as long as I remember and when it was offered at a reduced rate in exchange for exposure, I jumped at the opportunity. I still live the dream of this moving experience.

I spent a few days on my own in Rwanda with the aim of learning more about their history, visiting the Genocide Museum and massacre sites with a wonderful guide. This quote sums up how I felt – In all my travels, I have never seen a country’s population more determined to forgive and to build and succeed than in Rwanda. To me, Rwanda is a place of optimism, Kigali is a pristine and beautiful city.

In May I was lucky enough to work with South African Tourism on their #MeetSouthAfrica and #ShotLeft campaigns, joining a group of local and international bloggers, spreading my love for this country and its many offerings. Meeting the people who drive it. Those very individuals whose passion brings about change in the environment, art, culture and grounded make-up of South Africa. A great privilege.

During the year Swiss International AirlinesSwitzerland TourismTrafalgar TravelTurkey TourismReunion Island Tourism, DestinateDroid ProjectsRovos RailManley Communications, Fair Trade Tourism, Knysna Oyster Festival, SchooneOordt, Majeka House and McGregor, among others, trusted me to experience their products first hand, and tell the story through my words and pics. An honour.

Some stories still need telling and this pleasure will occupy my focus over the next few months while I keep travelling more local. In summary.

I continue to nurture my relationship with Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, my natural wonderland. That special place where the wifi connects automatically as I drive through the gates. I am very proud and honoured by this relationship and look forward to many opportunities to work together moving forward. Look at this place – Grootbos.

As I do every year. I visited Matjiesfontein, this time treating all rules as guidelines and climbing the turret to take in the views. Endless love for this place as I walk the veld, chat to the people who call it home, linger in the various museum and eat in their impressive dining room.

One of the highlights of my year was working with Greenpop as one of their media ambassadors, joining them at Platbos for a weekend, on some local plant days and in Zambia for their Trees for Zambia festival. This group of beautiful people truly inspire and thrill me with their enthusiasm and the way they are constantly giving back to the world. Planting trees can change lives. And getting your hands dirty, doing the physical labour out there in the hot sun. It’s soul food.

Led by their example, I planted trees every chance I got. At Grootbos, Platbos, Khayelitsha, Livingstone and at Olare Mara Kempsinki in Kenya. I like to think I’m getting quite good at it. I found the ocean at De Kelder and in Pringle Bay where my parents live, as often as I could. Best revitalising medicine.

I was lucky enough to win a freediving course with the remarkable world record holder Hanli Prinsloo of the I Am Water Foundation through Clemengold, who guided me to a depth of 15m and to holding my breath for longer than 2 minutes. I have not practised this enough. On the must do list for 2015. Besides being a most graceful mermaid, Hanli is one of our greatest ocean advocates. Do follow her work.

My copywriting work for Kempsinki Villa Rosa and Olare Mara Kempsinki increased and together with designer and dear friend Anne of Starlit, we visited Kenya to view the properties. November 2014.

I adopted this sweet baby ellie when visiting the Shedrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi during November. Such respect for the work that they do and a strong reminder that no matter how small it may appear, any support that we can offer does help to make a difference.

I set prejudice aside and enjoyed two Shark Cage Diving Experiences. One with Marine Dynamics and one with White Shark Projects. Both offer ethical conservation-themed experiences that I believe bring about awareness and will work towards helping the great white shark population. these are the only operators that I recommend.

I managed a road trip with my parents to Nieu Bethesda and Graaff Reinet. I want more of this precious quality time with them.

The biggest change for me this year was moving all of my experiences to video. A transition that I have enjoyed with the help, patience and edits of my son Eden Weiss, as well as the kind sponsorship of GoPro.

Together with fellow Chapter Leader Simon Lewis, we brought Travel Massive to Cape Town, hosting four events in the city and one in Johannesburg. The support, sponsorship and interest were phenomenal and we look forward to growing the movement and community in 2015.

If you don’t know, Travel Massive connects thousands of travel insiders to meet, learn and collaborate at free events around the world. Founded and headed up by Ian Cumming, who joined us for an event in June, we will keep organising meetups for travel and tourism companies, travel bloggers, startups, and travel media to connect and share globally. To keep in touch join our group and sign up on our new platform.

I have no words for how valuable this has been for me. Working with a dynamic team, feeling a sense of community as I play a role in building one. It took me out of the isolation I was used to working in and brought me into contact with the most incredible people. It changed my perspective and gave me a sense of belonging.

Plus, there’s nothing more rewarding than ‘seeing’ people connecting and knowing good things will come …

Pushing those boundaries, I found the courage and set aside most of my insecurities, pitching pieces to magazines, print and online, which resulted in my work appearing in OnRoute MagazineAA Traveller, Africa TravelTraveller24 and Travelstart. My Rovos Rail piece was published in Sailing Magazine and Roots.

There is promise of much more of this moving forward and my hope is that 2015 will be the year of the pen, where I get to share all the wonders and wanderings that come my way. Through it all my family and friends and my precious pups Tuscan and Dakota Storm have been my grounding and my sanctuary. I could not do this without their support and love.

In particular, I speak much about my dogs being my home. And mean it. It was therefore with great sadness that I had to come to terms with the loss of Dakota in the early hours of Sunday 11 January, when she succumbed to a cerebral tick bite fever that saw no cure. Taking her within an hour. I remain heartbroken yet cherish the many lessons she brought me, in particular that of unconditional ready love. Thank you for you, my sweetest thing. Tuscan and I remain cleaved together as we regroup and console each other.

As the 2014 months rolled by, the opportunities grew, the trips took shape and my determination took a few knocks on the personal front, moulding it in something softer and more heartfelt. Which is where I find myself today. I am grateful for this improvement to me.

Regrets. I have a few. The gorgeous wetsuit I got for my birthday almost a year ago, has never been wet. I owe a lot of people write-ups and work that I’d hoped to have done by now. I neglected some very special people as time was ever of the essence. Amazingly, most of them understand, love and support me nonetheless. I should have done more yoga.

My lessons. Don’t overreact when feeling betrayed, know that there will always be misconceptions. Don’t try too hard to defend them. One will be judged on half-facts. Not everybody will like me. Its okay to make mistakes. Never be malicious or unkind. Want the best for others. Want other people’s happiness. Follow your truth. Live your dream. Love completely. It’s okay to let go of the things you can’t change.

Keep much of your life sacred.

Greatest Gift. One of the healthiest years I’ve known and that is never to be underestimated.

Goals. Do much more conservation-themed work. Work that matters. Love and live like there is no tomorrow, savour with every sense the gifts of each day. Do more yoga.

Looking back I have nothing but gratitude for those that had faith in me, saw my worth and the value of The Incidental Tourist and offered me opportunities that have forever altered my path.

Here’s to working together in the new year …

Thanks to every single one of you who reads my blog and follows my wanderings, this would mean nothing without you. To my friends and loved ones who keep me strong and sane, encouraged and motivated, inspired and fed, who make me laugh and chat to me in the early hours, you know who you are, my unconditional love x.

Camera in hand, sand under my feet, ocean before me. I look forward to all that 2015 holds with humble anticipation. I live my dream and will continue to do so. Here’s to the year of the pen, one that matters.

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