Travelling is preconceived as a luxurious concept, although history proves that human travel and trekking is something the human race is well-known for. We speak South Africa’s avid travel blogger Katchi Nzama about the beauty of travelling, decrypting its misconceptions and using her platform as a way in forging a unified Africa.
What inspired you to become a travel blogger, and how did you get in this niche field?
Growing up I always loved traveling. My wanderlust is something I definitely inherited from my maternal grandparents. As a young professional in corporate, I always had a bit of disposal income that I wanted to spend traveling. I always knew I enjoyed spending my money on experiences rather than material things.
Interested in traveling on a budget, I always found it extremely difficult to find travel options that accommodate my budget whether traveling with friends or solo. And that is how the Travel Mzantsi blog came about. I wanted to create a platform that finds the travel gems for you, brings them together and readily available at your disposal. Everything that I put on my blog will be something that I had personally experienced and travelled to said destination as a way to create the relationship between myself and other travellers interested in my content.
Through chatting to other young professionals, I realised that they too were interested in traveling but unfortunately they didn’t know where to begin in looking for the information as our tourism boards do not focus their marketing on budget travellers or wanderlusters.
In traveling over 12 countries in all regions across Africa, what is your take home? What have you learnt from your experience in your career?
After traveling 11 African countries in 6 months, I underestimated the emotional toll this journey would have on me. I learnt under some not so pretty situations that I had to be my own best friend and what it means to be my own best friend.
My level of independence scares me sometimes. How I moved from one country to the next with all the language barriers and I still made it to my destination.
Having connected with so many other young Africans and trying to understand how they lead their lives and how they have become who they are, their views on Africa and Africans.
Having experienced the visa challenges that seem to make it harder for Africans to travel Africa but easier for Europeans. Now knowing that our tourism on the continent as a whole neglects us Africans and focuses on Asian, European and American markets. And through all of this we are to blame. We are so concerned on making other people feel welcomed and at home but never ourselves.
We have such big challenges in loving and accepting ourselves.
Through everything I have learned, I plan to incorporate all of this knowledge in spreading a positive message of Africa to Africans.to inspire that change that we can and we will write our own stories and not have to be dictated to on what to believe about ourselves. And one day, we will have an Africa of Africans that truly understand what it means to truly be a Pan-Africanist.
What were your highs and lows in travel blogging?
Sadly there are people who think blogging is just about setting up a blog for free and just wing it from there. There are so many misconceptions around blogging. The idea that it is just like updating a Facebook status just longer, so misinformed. There is a lot of work that goes into just a blogpost. Making sure that all is aligned, well presented and proof reading everything can take up to 2 hours. That is 2 hours of not writing. Just on presentation.
Setting up the blog to look like a presentable website that would like people to come back and visit again. The work behind the scenes, learning how to code and choosing the appropriate widgets for your audience, that’s a side of blogging no one ever tells you about. the biggest challenge for me is that i am technologically challenged, but man I have taught myself to code and now I am really good at it, thanks to google really.
The worst, has to be traveling to a place that I want to write about and I struggle to write about it and I already know why. When I walk into a place, something already inspires me and by the time I walk out of that place the blogpost will have written itself. Some places will never inspire you, no matter how hard you look. That will happen, and its up to you to decide whether you want to write about the place. Bear in mind that you have an audience that trusts you and the places you recommend, you also don’t want to mess up that trust. I personally don’t write about the places that do not inspire me. I have been to a few.
Do you believe that your work has an impact on the entire image of Africa?
Most definitely. Through my regular updates on social media during my travels, a lot of people were learning so many things that they had been ignorant about without realizing that they were.
I remember in Nairobi, I went to the movies with the girls and when I shared this on social media there were people who were shocked that there are movie cinemas in Kenya.
The things we take for granted every day. And I couldn’t have access to them. I remember the one KFC in Lusaka that did not have more than 7 items on their menu. I just wanted ice cream that always comforts me when I was home.
Some of the educated and very well read people that I knew, was shocking how little they knew about Africa as a continent. Through my travels I have proved that traveling our continent using public transport is possible and very doable. Unfortunately the visas might hinder your progress but that’s a conversation for another day.
I have met people who now understand how big our continent is and how we are all as Africans so different and yet so similar at the same time.
Do you see your work as a tool in forging a united peaceful front for Africans, and ruling out xenophobia?
Oh yes. That has really been my mission. To educate Africans about Africa and to change the negative perceptions that as Africans we often have about Africa and fellow Africans. I find the best way I learn about people has been as a traveller. I immerse myself in their culture and live like a local for my stay.
One thing that really unites us Africans has to be our love for music and dancing. I attend a lot of African music festivals and promote them on my blog. This is just for those music lovers who aren’t sure about travel and if they really like it. I have found that there are people who love music and will go to a foreign country for a concert but those people don’t realise that they are a tourist at that point.
Where xenophobia is concerned, I believe that is due to lack of education. We as Africans don’t know much about each other and every day we are made to believe that our history was never documented. And if there is an effort to show Africa in a different light, it is always through the view of a European or American. I feel it is time we as Africans get proactive in telling African stories and telling those stories from an African child.
You can put me and a young European in the middle of any African country, how we relate to the place will be totally different simply because I am an African child and I would understand and relate to the people and their way of life better.
catch more of her work, and travel journey through her blog Travel Mzantsi