GlobalETA’s Guide to Game Drive Etiquette

GlobalETA’s Guide to Game Drive Etiquette

Ever been on a safari or game drive in Africa? If you have been on as many as I have (game drives are my happy place!) then you get to the point where you can be pretty particular about your experiences and sometimes disappointed by the behavior of some of the other guests. It’s always good to have an open mind and patience when in the middle of a vehicle full of other tourists who may or may not have the same goals or knowledge as you when it comes to the safari experience. But if you are new to game drives, you should also prepare yourself for what it’s like and what’s expected. Start here with some general information and some “dos and don’ts” of game drives!

There are many ways to experience the wildlife of Southern Africa. One of the most common is to visit game and nature reserves and either go on a self-drive or a guided tour. This post will focus on guided tours of Southern Africa. Whether you stay at within a large park such as the Kruger in South Africa or Etosha in Namibia or you choose a lodge outside of a park or in a private park, most accommodations will offer game drives. Do check the excursions available at the place you choose before you book because fees and inclusions will vary, some require advanced booking, etc.

​While each lodge offering is different, there are some common game drive practices that you can expect. For instance, a lodge will usually offer a morning drive and an afternoon drive. The middle of the day is often to hot and the chances of seeing wildlife goes down but I have taken an all-day game drive in Namibia and had some luck, so they do exist. I find it is nice to have a break in-between drives though, to freshen up, have lunch, take a swim, do some exploring, rest, etc.
​Game drives in the morning and afternoon usually last around three hours each. There is usually a break offered in the middle where you can exit the vehicle and have a snack. In the morning, hot coffee or tea and biscuits are a welcome way to enjoy the sunrise. And frankly, nothing beats a G&T sundowner in the afternoon bush. After the break, you get back in the vehicle and enjoy the rest of the drive.
All guides and game rangers are not created equal. I have had my fair share of guides who were not good but we will focus on the ones who have been extraordinary! Good guides will start by introducing themselves and explaining what to expect and how to stay safe during your drive. They will also encourage you to ask questions and let them know if you see something during the drive. They aren’t the only ones who can spot the wildlife – you’re a team on this adventure! Just be sure to be aware of your volume and timing to not scare animals away or disrupt others’ experiences on the drive. More on this below…
​Be aware that drives first thing in the morning and last thing at night are often cold. Layer your clothes, bring a hat, or otherwise come prepared for changing temps. Many lodges will offer wool blankets to guests in their vehicles but this isn’t a given. If it looks like rain, bring a hat or rain poncho.
​Game drives tend to be very bumpy because the good ones get off the tarred roads and onto gravel or dirt ones. I personally love this aspect but if you have a bad back or get carsick, it’s best to prepare for this in advance. I always bring lip balm and water, for example, because I hate the dry feeling I often get while traveling that can be exacerbated by dust and wind on drives.
Now that we’ve covered some general information about what to expect on your game drive, keep reading for some more specific suggestions for good game drive etiquette!
  • ​Please be aware of your volume. I mean, we all want to talk and ask questions and share our excitement with others but be aware of your volume, language, and laughter. This includes clicking, snapping, whistling, or otherwise trying to get an animal’s attention for a photo opp. This is just annoying and may cause the animal to run away.
  • The exception to the above is when you see spot something great – you are encouraged to alert your guide when you see something. The common way to do this is, “Isaac, giraffe on the right, 3 o’clock!” or similar.
  • Bring your camera! Well, duh. But what I said was bring your camera. As opposed to your iPad. Your iPhone, okay, but taking a photo with a giant iPad can really get in the way of other passengers in the vehicle. Also, turn off the sound on your camera and phone – some of the wildlife such as wildebeest and small antelopes are very skittish so you don’t want to spook the animal you’ve hoped to see all morning.
  • Listen to your guide and ask questions. A good game ranger or guide can make or break your game drive. If you have a good one, listen to them for they are the experts! You can learn so much about the flora and fauna and they will spot things that most of us would miss.
  • Do not get out of the vehicle. This should be obvious but you would be surprised… When animals see a game drive vehicle, they see a large animal. If you all get out of the vehicle, they see a few weak, stupid creatures that some may want for lunch. So, it really is in your best interest to stay inside the vehicle. The exception to this of course is when a driver invites you to exit the vehicle, for instance for your afternoon sundowner. For these breaks, the guide will stop at a place they know is safe and where they can keep an eye on the surrounding area. Also, keep your hands and arms in the vehicle and watch for branches, etc. that may hit you during a drive – those acacia thorns are no joke!
  • Be prepared. Be aware of the weather and wear appropriate clothing. Bring water or a small snack. Bring sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. I also bring my animal and bird pocket guides and a pen so that I can mark off what we see. This can be a good activity for kids as well.
  • Please also prepare your children. If you are traveling with kids, explain to them in advance what types of behaviors are acceptable. Please pay attention to them when they are noisy or running around when you stop for a sundowner. Their behavior influences the experiences of the other passengers.
  • At the end of a drive, please do tip your guide and/or driver. Your tip can be commensurate with the experience you had so don’t be shy to recognize someone who gave you an excellent drive!
  • Please keep in mind that there is no guarantee to see an abundance of wildlife on each and every drive. Depending on the weather, time of day, etc., you may have some great sightings or you may not. Good guides know where animals were spotted that morning or the day before and will take you there. They know how to track animals and are used to seeing them in the bush. But they are not magicians and cannot make that lion just appear before your eyes! So please be don’t blame your guide if you have a “slow” drive. Good guides will be able to fill the drive with fascinating information about birds, insects, trees, bushes, and the local people and geology even if the big game aren’t cooperating.

 

​Essentially, my best advice for those on game drives (and, let’s face it, when being out in the world in general) is to be aware and considerate of others around you. Most of the time, you will not be alone on your game drive so be aware of others around you and the experience that they would like to have as well. This may mean switching up seating in the vehicle to give others a chance to sit in the front or the back as they would like. It means looking back occasionally to ensure that the folks behind you can see and take a photo. It also means being aware of your volume when you are talking. So, bottom line: exercise common courtesy, have an open mind and wide eyes, and you will have, what is for many, a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

What advice do you have for folks who are headed on safari for the first time? What have been your favorite sightings or experiences on game drives? Let me know in the comments section below! 

Driving in South Africa

Many people do not feel comfortable driving in a new country. I can understand this; perhaps people there drive on the other side of the street than you are used to or sit on the opposite side of the car or the signs are in a completely different language. All of this combined with not knowing where you are going can be overwhelming!

Me? I love to drive. And I love to drive in new places. To me, it’s one of the best ways to explore a new place and get a fuller perspective on its culture, landscape, and people. I love the feeling of freedom I get when I drive (I know, such an American). While I have never driven in a country where none of the signs are in English, say somewhere in SE Asia perhaps, I do find that driving in a new place doesn’t have to be as scary or challenging as you may think. South Africa is one of my favorite places and definitely one of my favorite places to drive. This post will give you some information and tips, so perhaps you will consider driving yourself in this amazing country the next time you visit! (Also check out our accompanying photo essay!)

Should I drive myself?

This is the first question you should ask yourself when considering driving yourself in South Africa or any new place. Considering your comfort and skill with driving is very important. If you are a fearful driver at home, perhaps you should consider getting someone else to drive. If you are traveling with a group and the thought of driving a larger vehicle is scary, maybe sit that one out. Some other questions to consider:

  • What is your itinerary and for how long will someone need to drive at a stretch?
  • Are there others you are traveling with who would sharing the driving responsibilities?
  • What are the licensing rules where you are traveling?
  • What are the road conditions like there?
  • Are there particular safety concerns?
  • Is a GPS available and/or do you know how to read a map?

All of these questions should be considered when deciding whether or not to drive yourself in a new place. In South Africa, it is entirely possible for one to drive themselves without major issues. I have done it five times now, so don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you! When deciding whether or not I should drive that first time, my evaluation started like this:

I enjoy driving and know how to read a map, just in case. I knew there would only be two of us in a compact car and that I would be the only driver (my traveling companion, my son, didn’t have his license yet). I created the itinerary and knew I would have control over it so as to avoid any night driving or driving for long stretches. I feel I am a capable and assertive driver. Now that you’ve gotten this far, let’s answer some of the other questions above for South Africa in particular.

​​Renting a car in South Africa

There are many major car rental agencies in South Africa so obtaining a road-worthy, safe, affordable car rental is a fairly easy process. Some of the major companies include First, Dollar, Avis, Hertz, and Budget and most have locations at airports and city centers for your convenience. Be sure to check out the rules and fine print at each company before you go as they may differ slightly. It’s also advisable to opt for an insurance package, unless you are already covered by your travel insurance or credit card company.

I have had the best luck booking car rentals through Drive South Africa, at which you put in your preferences and they will search across car rental companies to find you what you are looking for. Most car rentals will default to offering you manual transmission vehicles but if you need or desire automatic transmission (like I do!), ensure you request that specifically from the agency. On the Drive South Africa website, the cars are clearly marked so you will be able to tell which ones are manual and which are automatic; be aware that automatic choices are more expensive.

They accept major credit cards and after you book, you will receive a confirmation from them but also an email from the actual company from whom you are renting the car, so you can be assured that they indeed have your reservation. Print out any confirmations and bring them with you on your trip to present when you pick up your vehicle. Car rental agencies do charge an extra fee for additional drivers and each driver must have proper documentation.

TIP: Be sure to book a GPS unit in advance with your car rental agency or there may not be one available when you arrive!

Licensing regulations in South Africa

While an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is recommended along with your valid home license (as long as it has a photo and is printed in English), it is not required for driving in South Africa and you will be fine without one. I don’t have an IDP yet and have had no issues whatsoever every time I have rented vehicles and driven there (even that one time I was pulled over for speeding… ;).
Road conditions in South Africa

The road infrastructure in South Africa is quite good, especially along the main highways, such as the N1 or N2. That said, if you are thinking about driving in more rural or mountainous areas, to or through a game park, or to an out-of-the-way game lodge, rent a four-wheel drive vehicle! While most places are still accessible via regular car, your trip will be much more comfortable in a 4×4, trust me on this. Also, in a 4×4, you will have the freedom to travel on the unpaved 4×4-only roads that are otherwise unpassable in a smaller, less-rugged vehicle… and this is often where the magic happens!
Toll system in South Africa

One of the reasons that South Africa has such a high-quality road system is because there are tolls everywhere! Some along major highways now have automated tolls, especially in Gauteng province (where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located), so when you drive through the gate or under a large toll structure, you don’t have to stop and the toll is automatically charged to an e-tag in your car. Don’t worry, your rental car will have an e-tag in it already; it is usually attached to the inside top of the windscreen. You will need to pay for any toll fees when you drop your car rental back at the agency at the end of your trip.
TIP: Many tolls around South Africa are not automated, so be sure to have cash and change on hand! Fees will vary from R10 to R200 for passenger vehicles.
Road signage in South Africa

Becoming familiar with the common road signs used in South Africa before you go can be helpful. Most road atlases will list and explain these in the beginning pages. I especially love seeing this sign:
See more great South African road signs in the accompanying photo essay!
General road rules in South Africa

In South Africa, drivers sit on the right side of the vehicle and drive on the left side of the road. So keep left, pass right. On major highways, the “slow lane” is on the left and the “fast lane” is on the right. If you forget this while there, another driver in the right lane is sure to remind you! Exits from the highway are also on the left. Some other basics you should know:

  • In South Africa, a stoplight is called a robot.
  • Distances are measure in kilometers and speed limits are measured in kilometers an hour.
  • Speed limits on major routes is usually 120km/h (75mph), on rural roads is 100km/h (60mph), and in busy areas is 60km/h (35mph).
  • Drivers in the US are used to being able to turn right on a red light but turning left on a red light in South Africa is not allowed.
  • Mobile phone use will driving is prohibited.
There is one common, yet not legally sanctioned, practice in South Africa that occurs on the highways of which you should be aware. When driving on a highway with two lanes (one in each direction), it is common for a truck or slow-moving car to drive on the shoulder in order to allow the faster moving vehicle behind to pass. I have seen this mostly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and less so in the western provinces. It is so common in KZN that oncoming traffic will also drive on their shoulder at times if they see that someone is trying to pass going the other direction, to give the passser more room to do so. I should stress that this is not legal per se but again, a very common practice along the N2 in KZN. I follow the custom while driving there, not only because of the many, many big trucks holding me up but also because you become a hold-up to other traffic if you don’t. I would say that even if you aren’t comfortable passing in this way, be aware that folks coming up behind you will want to pass and they may want or expect you to move onto the shoulder so they can pass more easily. If you do move onto the shoulder (which can sometimes be wide and paved, to almost seem to allow for this practice), you MUST watch for pedestrians and animals and be very careful. After you move to the shoulder and someone passes you, they will flash their hazard lights 2-3 times as a “thank you.” The person passed then usually flashes back as a “You’re welcome.” This flashing of lights takes place in other situations as well but I have noticed in mainly on the roads of KZN.     ​
Fuel
Refueling your vehicle shouldn’t be difficult in South Africa, as in most areas, stations are plentiful and usually 24 hours, except in more rural areas. Be aware that stations are full-service, so you can expect to be guided next to a pump by an attendant, who will then fill your tank, wash your windows and perform any other related task you wish. You will then give them the money and they will go up to the counter to pay and bring you any change. Other tips:

  • Gas is called petrol in South Africa and service stations are called garages.
  • Petrol will be sold by the liter (one gallon = 3.8 liters).
  • Please tip your service station attendant, anywhere between R2 and R5 is expected.
TIP: Garages will not always accept credit cards, so be ready with cash in hand. 
Parking in South Africa

Parking is parking, right? Yes but in South Africa, there are many people who will help you park. So parking attendants can be found at almost every parking lot; sometimes they are hired by the establlishment and other times they just are there of their own accord, trying to make a rand or two. These guys will direct you to and into an empty spot, offer to watch your car and keep it safe, and then guide you out of your spot when you come back out. Of course, they are hoping to get a tip for this service. Sometimes this can actually be helpful, more often, they “help” even when it’s not needed in which casse, I give them a small tip anyway. Just something to be aware of.
Safety while driving in South Africa

First, buckle up and for the love of Pete, don’t drive under the influence! This should be obvious, but I have to say it. Next, it is advisable to keep windows up and doors locked in major urban areas. You will encounter many people asking for money or trying to sell you things at intersections; I usually just wave them off. It can be really jarring to encounter so many people on the roadways in South Africa; they are at intersections in urban areas, walking in and along roads in more rural areas, selling things along the roadsides, and crossing busy highways, often to get from their township to the city. Between people and the animals you see in and on the roads, you must exercise caution. Stay alert and pay attention! Seriously, folks, if I had a dime for the number of people, goats, vervet monkeys, or cattle that I’ve had to swerve to avoid, I could’ve paid for one of my trips. 😉

Joking aside, it is important to be aware that carjacking, or hijacking as it is called in South Africa, is a problem, especially in urban areas. I’ve even seen signs at exits from highways that warn of a high highjacking area. While the threat of highjacking is real, it has never stopped me from driving and I have never experienced anything even close to this (knocking on wood). Hence keeping your windows closed and doors locked in urban, high pedestrian areas. It is also almost acceptable practice to roll through a stop sign or robot, if you can safely do so, to avoid stopping when there may be a threat nearby. Listen to your gut, don’t freak out, and make good choices.

I want to be sure to include a caution about driving in urban areas. I would advise anyone to think twice about driving in inner-city Johannesburg because it can be very busy and the minibus taxis rule the road whether you like it or not. They pretty much do what they want and can put other drivers in very dangerous situations. Driving from the airport to Pretoria is not so bad and even driving to the Maboneng precinct of Joburg is do-able. Just plan your route ahead, follow your GPS, and exercise caution. Cape Town diving isn’t quite as bad with the taxis but the traffic at rush hours is horrendous at best and it will take you a long time to get to your destination.
Other tips:

  • When parking and leaving your car, be sure to lock it. Store any bags or other personal items in the trunk (called the boot in South Africa) of your car.
  • It’s best to avoid driving after dark.
  • Don’t ever get out of your car to photograph or feed wild animals you may see while driving.
  • Watch out for potholes on back roads.
  • South Africa is a big country and can take more time to drive than you originally think, so be sure to plan plenty of time to get to your destination (and make any stops along the way!) so as to not have to drive after dark.
I hope this article helps you to get on the road in South Africa. It is such a beautiful country with stunning landscapes, villages, and people that are best seen and experienced at your own pace. It’s great to have control over where you are able to go and when, so give self-driving some thought for your next holiday in South Africa!
Now it’s your turn! Do you like to drive when visiting other countries? Would you drive in South Africa? Please comment below! And did you check out the accompanying photo essay?

Top Nelson Mandela Sites to Visit in South Africa

There are plenty of reasons to visit South Africa: the landscape, the people, the food, the wildlife…all amazing. But no less deserving of your interest is South Africa’s rich, yet turbulent history. Between 1948 and 1994, the African majority of the country was under the stranglehold of apartheid, a legalized system of racism and oppression forced upon them by minority Afrikaners.

As you know, Nelson Mandela was one of the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Under his inspired leadership, millions of people showed strength and resiliency through terrible violence, poverty, and discrimination.

My doctoral research studying South African libraries and their role in alleviating information inequality has taken me to this fascinating country six times. Throughout my travels, I have been able to visit many sites dedicated to Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy. Here are some that I suggest you visit on your next trip!

1. Robben Island, Cape Town

A must-see when in South Africa. Once a leper colony and a military base, Robben Island became the prison in which Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in captivity. From Cape Town’s lovely Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, visitors take a 45-minute ferry ride to the island, which offers outstanding views of Table Mountain! Once there, they begin on a guided bus tour to see military remnants, gravesites, and the community where many ex-employees of the prison still live.

After disembarking the bus, visitors are led on an extraordinary guided tour led by a former captive of the prison. To me, this is the best part of the tour: to hear what life was really like for the men held there, directly from the source. Visitors are able to hear about what prisoners ate, see where the slept and worked, and even see the cell in which Nelson Mandela himself was held. Overall, Robben Island should be on the top of your list when visiting South Africa. Tip: Get tickets online ahead of time so you are not disappointed. Fees charged; allow a half-day for the trip.

2. Mandela House, Vilakazi Street, Soweto
Head to 8115 Vilakazi Street in Soweto to visit the Mandela House Museum. Mandela lived in this house with his first and second wives, as well as briefly after his release from prison in 1990. It’s been restored to its 1946 state and for a modest fee, you can get an informative guided tour.

Vilakazi Street boasts the honor of being the only street in the world on which two Nobel Prize winners have lived. One is Mandela; do you know the other?? When there, be sure to walk the street, visit the vendors and get a bite to eat at Sakhumzi. Also visit The Hector Pieterson Museum (just a couple of blocks away on Moema and Vilakazi) and other area sights. Allow one hour for Mandela House or 2-4 hours for it and the broader Vilakazi Street area, or make this part of your day-long visit to Soweto!

3. Liliesleaf, Rivonia
A lesser-known but no-less important historical site outside of Johannesburg in Rivonia, Liliesleaf is where members of the African National Congress (ANC) hid out and met secretly during the height of the anti-apartheid movement. On 11 July 1963, Liliesleaf was raided and 19 ANC members were arrested and charged with sabotage and the resulting trial, dubbed the Rivonia Trial, would change South Africa forever. This is an interesting site and I highly recommend it. There are several buildings and the exhibits are very well-done. Guided or self-guided tours are available for an entrance fee. Allow around two hours to make your way through the grounds.
4. Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg
The Apartheid Museum is located in Johannesburg and is dedicated to telling the often heart-wrenching story of apartheid in South Africa. The museum is filled with exhibits that tell the full story of apartheid so that the visitor can get a look into what the system was really like. Effectively done, the museum is at once stark and full of hope. A special Mandela exhibit is not to be missed. Entrance for a fee; cafe and gift shop on site. Allow at least 2-3 hours.
5. Chancellor House, Johannesburg
Located in downtown Johannesburg, Chancellor House was the building that housed Mandela’s law practice with Oliver Tambo in the 1950s. Recently fully renovated, a pictorial timeline in the windows of the building is available for visitors to browse at no cost. Allow 30 minutes minimum.

6. Mandela Capture Site, Howick 
A bit off the beaten track, the Mandela Capture Site is affiliated with the Apartheid Museum, and totally worth the drive. Near Howick, between Johannesburg and Durban, the site is minimal but includes an exhibit as well as a beautiful and unique sculpture commemorating Mandela’s capture at the site in 1962. The site is free; allow one hour.

7. Constitution Hill, Johannesburg
Located in downtown Johannesburg, Constitution Hill is one of my favorite historical sites in South Africa. While it was once a fort and then a prison where many, including Mandela, spent time in transit to other prisons, in the 1990s it was chosen as the spot for the new Constitutional Court. Visitors can now get an informative guided tour of the complex’s buildings including the prison facilities as well as the new building where South Africa’s highest Court meets and hears cases. This is a building filled with symbolism, from the giant wood entry doors, to the bricks in the Court chamber. Fee-based; allow two hours minimum.
​These are only a few of the sites that commemorate Mandela and his fight for freedom in South Africa. Whether you can visit site one or all, you will find the spirit of Madiba graces every corner of this nation and lives on in the people who will never forget him.

Have you been to any of these sites? What are your favorites? Did I miss any? Please comment below!

Information Inequality, Libraries, South Africa, and Superpowers

One week from today, I will be on my way back to South Africa. This trip is unique to me for several reasons: first, I’m going to participate in my graduation ceremony after completing my doctorate; second, it’s the first time there that I won’t be completing fieldwork, leading students, or in some other way working while there – it’s an actual vacation this time!; third, my family is coming along (partner, sister, and brother-in-law), so there is a sense of responsibility but also excitement in sharing this amazing place with them; last, it may be my final time there, at least for a while. So it’s a big one.

My doctoral research was my initial excuse for going to SA as well as my reason for returning; now that it is complete and I have been there five times, I look forward to spending my time and funds exploring the rest of the world. So it is a funny feeling of sadness, anxiety, pride, and excitement all rolled into one. You probably want to know where we’ll be going – that is the subject of the next blog post! Some of you asked what my doctoral research was focused on, so that is the focus of this post. But believe me, this journey to complete my doctorate was about so much more than the piece of paper or the new letters behind my surname,

I am librarian and my primary reason for becoming and remaining a librarian is to help people get the information they need in order to empower themselves and improve their lives, whatever that may look like. My mission in work and life (I am so lucky and privileged that they overlap and connect as they do) is to support people and communities in their quest for empowerment, equality, justice, and dignity. I knew early on how tall that order was and so when the time came, I narrowed my focus to helping others get the information they need to get that job, finish that paper or grant proposal, assess their NGO’s on-the-ground activities, vote, defend themselves, or just generally kick some ass in any number of other ways.

It’s become my superpower.

While I joyfully serve all folks, I focus on women and girls. And LGBT folks. And those working to improve their lives in the world. I’m a Feminist. Not only do I help folks to get information but I teach them how to do it for themselves. I believe in the power of information and libraries to change peoples’ lives. Libraries can fuel revolutions. Information plus action = knowledge and we all know, knowledge is power. And I am proud of all. of. this.

You see, the freedom and skills to access needed information to improve one’s life or situation is a cornerstone of living an autonomous, fulfilling, dignified life. It’s something we in the West often take for granted. For folks in developing and transitional countries such as South Africa, it is a constant struggle for a multitude of reasons. Living in an information age where access to technology is imperative to keep up and get ahead, the lack of infrastructure for stable internet access, the lack of digital literacy skills, the high cost of data plans and internet cafes… all of these play a role in whether or not people can get access to the information they need. And if they can’t? The gap widens between those who have information and those who do not.

The state of not having the information one needs to thrive is called information poverty. Because it’s important to realize that information poverty is not just about technology, I broadened the scope of my research beyond information poverty to information inequality, which explores the social justice aspects of this the lack of information. Some folks (often those holding power and funds) are not convinced of the power of information for development or they are and intentionally keep that power from the people to keep them subordinate.

Some groups (women and girls, especially) are especially disadvantaged in the acquisition of information to improve their lives. Staggering rates of illiteracy, poverty, and violence show the dysfunction of societies and contribute to the masses living to survive as opposed to living to thrive. And the list goes on…

But so I don’t re-write my whole dissertation here, I will just say that information is imperative to freedom, justice, and equality. People need free access to the right information, in the right language, at the right time, and in the right format so that they may use it to empower themselves, to get out of poverty, to care for their families, to be productive citizens, to live dignified lives.

And libraries have everything to do with this process! Libraries can and should play an extensive role in the alleviation of information inequality and poverty throughout the world. This was the subject of my dissertation but it was focused on the KwaZulu-Natal province of SA, where I spent time in public libraries to see what they were doing (or could be doing) to help alleviate information inequality within their communities.

It’s been an amazing seven years working on this research. And it almost ended me! (I think this is what we call a “first-world problem.”) But thanks to a fantastically supportive partner, as well as my son, friends, and family, I was able to do it. So next week I go back to walk in the graduation ceremony at University of Pretoria.

I will don the cap, gown, and hood, and celebrate for 2+ weeks over there, and see friends, and say, “Hello again!” and “Farewell…” to places I have come to love and long for. I can only hope that future travel experiences can provide even an ounce of what SA has for me. The education I have received there will last me a lifetime…and I’m not only referring to that piece of paper I will receive.

That’s the reason we travel, right? To learn, to broaden our horizons, to see things from multiple perspectives, to explore, to grow, to change and affect change, to live fully and gratefully. Here’s to South Africa and to all the new adventures to come.

Thanks, friends, for reading.

Beautiful South Africa… A Photo Essay

So for the first actual blog post, I thought I would start easy with a place I have come to know and love… South Africa! If you have ever been there, then you know how stunningly beautiful the landscape is and how amazingly openhearted the people are. My love for South Africa started when I was a teen growing up in small-town Wisconsin, USA.

I was fascinated by the worldwide effort to free the people of South Africa through the boycott and divestment movement. My heart broke reading stories and seeing photos of people my age fighting and dying for the freedoms I took for granted every day.

I turned 16 the day it was announced that Mandela would be freed and I still have the newspaper clippings in my scrapbook. South Africa struck me. And it stayed with me. And I vowed one day to visit.

And then life happened. I graduated secondary school, went to university, got a job… by the time my son was born in 1998, I had traveled extensively throughout the United States, mostly via two lane roads (the BEST way!), but had never been out of the country.

Funny how little travel money one has as a single mom! ANYway… with making a good life for my son as my inspiration, I graduated university, got my Masters in library and information science (#fuckyeahlibrarians), and eventually decided to pursue my doctorate.

I knew there was an opportunity there to study libraries in South Africa as part of my research and I went for it! I found an advisor who was local but from South Africa, enrolled as an international student at the University of Pretoria, and traveled there for the first time in 2009. Seven years and five trips to South Africa later, I finally finished writing my dissertation and successfully defended in February 2016.

But that’s actually of secondary importance to experiencing South Africa and that’s what I want to share with others. But even though my two cents is usually a quarter, I will start small and just post some of my favorite pics here from my South African travels… just to whet your appetite.

But never fear, there are so many more posts about this amazing country to come!

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