Hi, South Africa. Nice to Meet You.

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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14 Comments

  • Reply moirads May 1, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Oh wow! Well done! Looking forward to reading all about your fabulous trip.

  • Reply makeascene21 May 1, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Wow, sounds amazing. Incredibly lucky and blessed. I look forward to reading about the trip!

  • Reply Catherine May 1, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Really nice pictures! Makes me want to go right away! Keep up the good work.

  • Reply longandluxe May 2, 2014 at 12:23 am

    WOW!!! I love your story – supremely inspiring indeed!! I know what you mean about blogging, it saved my inner creative soul. I can’t wait to follow along at #MeetSouthAfrica!

    Wishing you peace and inspiration always 🙂

    Allison

  • Reply amelie88 May 2, 2014 at 1:36 am

    Your story is very motivational (I was trying to avoid that awful cliche I hate “inspiring/inspirational.”) No matter how much life knocks us down, there is always hope for something better or that things will get better. I think I started reading your blog not very long after Jon had died and it’s been amazing to see the journey you’ve taken since then. I can’t wait to read about this trip!

  • Reply Sunshinebright May 3, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I am so grateful that I found your blog (I’ve been following for several months, now). I know I’ll never go to Africa (South Africa in particular), so I love reading all about it and your experiences, and appreciating your photos. Thank you. 🙂

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish May 5, 2014 at 4:28 am

    I’m so glad it’s all taken off for you, although when you love something so much, it can’t help but make your life bigger. I, too, came upon this great blog either just before or just after Jon died, and I felt like I’d found an old friend I hadn’t met yet, one who just wanted me to be there. Thank you, and well done!

  • Reply liz2you May 5, 2014 at 9:52 am

    I ‘ll be watching! I wonderedd after you wrote about Jon, if you would stay. One beautiful country, where I spent almost 50 years of my life. Enjoy! Liz

  • Reply Firefly - Jonker May 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I am so jealous. I would love to have been chosen to go on this trip. Its an amazing opportunity. You get to experience a great hosted trip, meet new people, see new places, have new experiences and probably gain a lot of new followers on the different social media platforms.

    • Reply 2summers May 5, 2014 at 11:45 am

      I know, such an amazing opportunity!

  • Reply Cindy Naidoo May 6, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Hi, 2 summers. Nice to meet you.

  • Reply stevenpin1992 May 6, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    i like it

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough May 6, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    What an awesome opportunity, Heather! I’m so happy for you. Sorry to be late getting to this post. It’s been Sara’s birthday, and she has been sick–though finally better today and able to go to work. Looking forward to reading more about your adventure!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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