I’ve been writing a lot about hashtags lately, which is a little embarrassing. Hashtags are so trendy. But sorry, I can’t help it. Once you’ve read this post you’ll understand my newfound hashtag passion.

South African Tourism has a social media campaign called #MeetSouthAfrica that promotes South Africa as a travel destination, and they’ve invited 14 travel bloggers — nine international bloggers and five local bloggers — to explore the country for ten days. The journey starts in Joburg tomorrow and finishes in Durban next weekend at South Africa’s Tourism Indaba (a huge travel convention). Throughout the trip, the bloggers will share their experiences through social media using the #MeetSouthAfrica hashtag.

Omphi

#MeetSouthAfrica: Omphi on a bridge in Soweto. (I’ve populated this post with some of my favorite Instagrams from the past few weeks.)

A few weeks ago I learned that I was one of the local bloggers selected to participate in the #MeetSouthAfrica campaign. I was stunned. Actually I was overjoyed. I’ve been trying to play it cool but the truth is I am more excited about this than I’ve been about anything in a long time. (Read more about the #MeetSouthAfrica trip here.)

Let me back up and try to explain why.

A bit more than two years ago in January 2012, I sat crying in my therapist’s office. My South African boyfriend, whom I had moved to South Africa to be with 18 months earlier, had just died. I was distraught with grief. I didn’t have a job or an income. I didn’t have a car or a bank account. I didn’t have a South African visa.

All I had in South Africa, really, were a few good friends, a roof over my head, a cat, and a blog.

World of Samoosas

#MeetSouthAfrica: World of Samoosas in Joburg’s Oriental Plaza.

Back then I didn’t really know why I was still in South Africa or why I was writing this blog. I had nothing to tie me here and blogging was just a hobby. It might have been easier to go back to the U.S. and pick up the pieces of my “old” life as a nonprofit nine-to-fiver.

But somehow I knew that I had to stay, and I had to keep blogging.

Blogging and everything that comes with it — exploring, writing, taking photos, and telling stories about life in South Africa — was the only thing that kept me sane during those dark days. Blogging gave me a sense of purpose and made me feel truly alive for the first time ever. And I knew that my blog couldn’t (or shouldn’t) exist anywhere but South Africa.

Now it’s May 2014 and I’ve built a career telling stories about Joburg and South Africa. I’ve clawed my way out of a terrible abyss, into a life that is truly mine. I’ve seen so many amazing places around this country (and all around Southern Africa). I’ve co-authored a book about northern Joburg, to be published at the end of this month.

And now I’m about to embark on this remarkable journey around South Africa with the sole purpose of showing the world what a beautiful country this is. Literally, there is nothing else on earth that I would rather do.

Hiking Magaliesburg

#MeetSouthAfrica: Hiking in the foothills of the Magaliesburg.

How did this happen? I’m honestly not sure. I guess luck and shear force of will have something to do with it. More than that though, I think that South Africa, blogging, and I just clicked. I’m glad that the three of us found one another. And I’m beyond excited that we (along with 13 other bloggers) get to help the world to #MeetSouthAfrica.

Kliptown graffiti

#MeetSouthAfrica: Boy and graffiti in Soweto. (By the way, #MeetSouthAfrica is hosting an Instawalk in Soweto on Saturday morning and you’re all invited. Details here.)

I won’t tell you anything about my #MeetSouthAfrica itinerary right now. (Other than to say it’s going to be AWESOME.) But time and wifi permitting, I’ll post daily pics on my blog as I go along. I’ll fill you in more fully once I return.

In the meantime, follow #MeetSouthAfrica on Twitter and Instagram. I’ll also post updates on my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds, and you can follow all the other bloggers too. (Read the bloggers’ bios and find their social media accounts here, here, and here.)

Looking forward to getting to know you better, South Africa.

Jeppestown

#MeetSouthAfrica: Sunset over Jeppestown near the Joburg city centre.

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