I am greatly honoured to be included in the ‘Woman&Home South African Amazing Women 40 over 40 Awards’ social influencers category, alongside the most inspiring women – each admirably leading the way in their fields of interest and expertise.
Thank you very very much to everybody who reads and follows my travels and blog, you make this possible. There is a condensed version in the feature, but I include the full interview below for your interest.
Do you mind sharing your age, please?
I turned 52 years old in February, born of the late ‘60s.
How and when did you start your blog? What was the inspiration behind it?
I started ‘The Incidental Tourist’ in early 2010. Having founded my own tour operating company a decade earlier and established a close network of high-end clients that I arranged dream holidays for, I increasingly felt the need to share the experiences that I was having, specifically in Africa.
The call to write soon outweighed my ability to stick to a corporate routine and I sold my company and started a blog, never imagining the possibilities it would bring or the incredible impact this chosen career would have on my life.
Do you remember your first trip? Was there a specific trip that inspired you to start the blog?
The first trip that I remember taking was with my parents and brothers from Welkom in the Free State, where I grew up, to Cape Town. We had padkos packed, flasks of sweet coffee, egg sandwiches and biscuits in the cool box at our feet, as we took to the open road, the barren Karoo landscape and ultimately the city where we’d spend our annual hard-earned holidays with family.
My remarkable parents made an occasion of any excursion we embarked on, no matter how near or far it took us, and that has always stuck with me. I’ve adopted the same approach to all of my travels.
The first international trip that I took was as a bright-eyed exchange student who’d been posted to Jerusalem, Israel for a year, a country I would go on to adopt and live in for four years, and where my two children were born.
It’s been pretty much non-stop in my quest to see, learn and be as a traveller ever since – when finances allowed – but it was a trip to Tanzania to see the migration of wildebeest and zebra in the Serengeti National Park during my tour operating years that ultimately stirred in me the need to start a blog.
What do you hope to achieve through your blog/writing?
Initially, the idea was to encourage travel and to show that it can be done affordably with the correct amount of planning and guidance. My mission had a focus on being a tourist in your own backyard, on domestic travel – as I love exploring South Africa, and debunking the perception that travel within Africa is difficult, especially as a woman.
I have always considered myself a conscious and considerate traveller, which meant that the evolution to promote ethical and sustainable practices and also share news of conservation efforts that I work with and support, came naturally. Ultimately it has become somewhat of a calling, and the ethos forms a powerful narrative that I am proud to be driving.
What has been a really stand-out moment in your career?
There have been many, with highlights the opportunities that I’ve enjoyed, from gorilla trekking in Uganda to working at a turtle rescue centre in Kenya and setting up a temporary home in Lisbon, as none of this would have come my way without my work at The Incidental Tourist.
But it remains the people that I meet, the lessons that I take away from the places that I visit and the fact that sometimes in my own modest way – “I do have an impact’.
Also, letters from readers saying I guided them to an experience of a lifetime, or awards, accolades and acknowledgment for the work that I do. Seeing my work in print will always give me a thrill too.
There’s also a beautiful travel book that is due to be released in the next months and is somewhat of a culmination of the last years of work and writing, which fills me with pride.
What do you love most about your job?
The love for what I do is multi-faceted and ever-evolving.
Of course, I’m completely driven and inspired by the destinations that I visit, the things that I see and the experiences that I have – with the highlight always on the people and cultures that I am introduced to. But it is also very much about how I feel when I’m travelling, the freedom, the lightness, the sense that I belong anywhere and everywhere.
I am lucky enough to then relive this privilege when I write up and share the stories, engaging with my readers and encouraging others to consider these places for their next trip.
The positive feedback about a shift in the way that people travel, more of an awareness and appreciation for the communities they’re in and adopting more eco-friendly and conscious travel practices because of something I suggested – is the best!
What advice do you have for midlife women who love travelling?
Beyond the joys of destination discovery and adventure, travel helps you to get to know yourself better, what you do and don’t like, it builds confidence and creates memories that are truly preciously yours.
I encourage every woman to start a fund that is purely dedicated to her travels, be they modest or great, as travel is one of the greatest things a woman can gift herself.
As for the types of travel, I recommend at least one solo trip – more is better. Book a safari to connect with the African bushveld, embark on a road trip somewhere exotic with a girlfriend, enjoy a wellness retreat or off the grid trek to reboot the soul, and make time for a trip with just your mother. All of these will be treasured forever.
Travelling itself makes you more present, more observant and able to take in all the details. I believe it teaches adversity. It is also a huge character builder; figuring out how to navigate a foreign city, managing your own travel arrangements and budget, and making the reservations, gives a great sense of accomplishment.
Travel takes you far enough away for you to long to return to home, and when you do it’s almost always with a settled and satisfied heart, a newfound appreciation and more humble approach to day to day life.
What is your attitude to ageing?
To age is a privilege, as it is to live. I celebrate each day and do my best to look after my health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, to be present and grateful. Too many good people have their lives cut short prematurely, I cherish each day – and each year, wrinkle and laugh line – for all of us.
South Africa’s Amazing Women Over 40 Awards
** Please buy the mag to read about the other women. It’s bumper packed with interesting articles that span from lifestyle to fashion, food and all my other favourite things.
** The feature pic was taken in my beloved Lisbon on one of my trips there.