Admittedly, I didn't know what expect before arriving in South Africa. I tried to keep an open mind so that I wouldn't be disappointed if things weren't exactly how I expected. After being back and reflecting on my trip, I can honestly say this was one of the best trips of my life. It sounds odd, but its honestly hard to believe all that we did. That's when you know that you're living in the moment. I was sure to be mindful of the people around me and the places that we visited so that I could get the most out of my experiences.
We did some really cool things and I was able to knock quite a few things off of my bucket list. I was fortunate enough to spend my 22nd birthday in a different country with people that I'd just met and it was still so special. To start off the year, we headed to a Lion Park, where we were able to play with Lion cubs freely. I also learned so much about the different animals in the park as our tour guide Sipho told us some crazy things that he's experienced in his time working there.
We witnessed the unfortunate and terrible events that took place in Johannesburg during apartheid. As we drove through the squatter camps of Soweto and learned about the injustices that took place not so long ago, I felt a deep sadness for the people in the town. I also felt a sincere connection to the black Africans. With Nelson Mandela's recent passing, we were able to view his home and see the major influence that he continues to have on the people of South Africa.
We stayed in the cutest lodges and bungalows where we were able to leave our windows/doors open and allow the breeze to flow through. Without cell service 90% of the time, we were able to step away from our "normal" lives and build relationships with those around us. We were able to actually live in the moment, which can be so difficult to do sometimes.
The long drives were always enjoyable as we road through the magnificent mountain passes. Our drivers Sifiso and Musa made the trip that much more enjoyable as well. We conquered the Big Swing(18 story free fall!), learned traditional Zulu dances, got intimate with elephants, drove through an African Safari, did alot of hiking and so much more. The best part about the trip wasn't even all of the crazy things that we did, but the wonderful people that we met along the way. The moments we shared with each-other made this trip unforgettable.
I had the time of my life and I encourage everyone to put South Africa on their travel list! I definitely plan on going back. Hopefully next time I'll get the chance to visit Cape Town.