Ostrich sculptures in the Wilds

Looking Back at 2019. Looking Forward to 2020.

I don’t normally write year-end wrap-up posts. I’m usually long asleep by midnight on 31 December. I don’t make New Years resolutions or assign much importance to the end of a calendar year.

But this isn’t just the end of a year — it’s the end of a decade. And boy, was it a doozie. Perhaps that’s why I feel compelled to summarize my transition from the 20-teens into the 20-twenties.

Ostrich sculptures in the Wilds
My beautiful Jozi as seen from the top of the Wilds in 2019.

I’ll have a lot more to say about my decade of life in South Africa as 2020 progresses. In the meantime, here are some highlights and lowlights of 2019 and thoughts looking forward to the coming year.

2019 Travel Highlights

I had a comparatively low-key travel year. But I really enjoyed every trip I took, and my South African travels inspired the idea for my upcoming #10SouthAfricanTowns project. (More on that later.)

These were my five favorite trips in 2019.

1) Maputo

At the produce market in Maputo
Chillis and peri peri sauce for sale in Maputo.

In March I spent five days in Maputo, Mozambique, wandering the city on foot and exploring museums, markets, restaurants, and architecture. Maputo is a highly underrated city, as I detailed in my post.

2) The Swartland and Hermanus

In May I flew into Cape Town, headed northwest to the Swartland wine region for a few days, then southeast to Hermanus for a few days more.

Heather hiking in the Swartland
Hiking in the Swartland. (Photo by the Good Holiday)
By the sea in Hermanus
By the sea in Hermanus.

Wine was the main focus of these visits, and I realized again how much I enjoy South Africa’s lesser known wine regions (although I love Franschhoek and Stellenbosch too). I was completely overwhelmed, as always, by the drop-dead gorgeousness of the Western Cape.

3) Limpopo

In July I took a long road trip through Limpopo province and had a glorious time.

Sunrise at Kings Walden
Sunrise at Kings Walden, a beautiful lodge above Tzaneen, Limpopo.

4) Plettenberg Bay and Oudtshoorn

In August I took another Western Cape trip, to Plettenberg Bay and then over a steep mountain pass to Oudtshoorn.

Robberg Nature Reserve in Plettenberg Bay
The Robberg Nature Reserve in Plettenberg Bay.

In Oudtshoorn I experienced my wildlife-viewing highlight of the year, when I watched a family of wild meerkats emerge from their burrow on a freezing-cold desert morning.

Meerkats in Oudtshoorn
Meerkats are the greatest.

5) New Mexico

I didn’t make it to any new countries in 2019 but I did make it to a new U.S. state: New Mexico. Visiting New Mexico had been a goal of mine forever and it exceeded my expectations.

Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico
The Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I hope to go back to New Mexico soon for another green chile fix.

Green chile cheeseburger
Green chile cheeseburger at the Plaza Café, Santa Fe.

2019 Joburg Highlights

Between my travels I did a lot of fun things at home. Here are my favorites.

1) Jozi Top Fives

I revived my Jozi Top Fives series in 2019 and I’m pleased with the output, which included five secret beautiful places, five cheese shops, five cocktail bars, five Jozi walks, five fish and chip shops, and five places to shop locally.

Fish hook fish and chips in Randburg
The Fish Hook, my favorite fish and chip shop in Joburg.

2) The Ponte Challenge

In March I ran 54 storeys to the top of Ponte City, the tallest residential building in Africa.

Heather and George Khosi at the top of Ponte City
Coach George Khosi and me after we ran to the top of Ponte City. We both finished in under 14 minutes.

I would totally do this again. Read my post to find out how you can do it too.

3) Walk the Talk

In July I walked 25 kilometers through Joburg for Walk the Talk. 50,000 people participate in this annual event. It was way more difficult than running up Ponte but totally worth the three days of excruciating pain I experienced afterward.

Ladies at Walk the Talk 2019
Ladies in tutus at Walk the Talk.
Walking over Nelson Mandela Bridge
Walking over Nelson Mandela Bridge.

4) Bank of Lisbon Implosion

I got to watch a skyscraper implode.

The Bank of Lisbon building implodes
The Bank of Lisbon building implodes.

5) Walking the Louis Botha S-bend

I just blogged about this a week ago and you all remember it. But I had to include it here anyway because it’s awesome.

Man sits on a bench at the Louis Botha S-bend mural
Relaxing on the S-bend.

Things I Wasn’t Grateful for in 2019

I want to end this post on a high note. So before I tell you all the things I was grateful for in 2019, I’ll tell you about the things I was not grateful for at all.

1) We lost Meruschka

Meruschka died in January. I’m not sure I’ve been less grateful about anything, ever.

Meruschka jumping in Cappadocia
I miss her. We all do.

2) Visa problems

Nearly ten years after moving to South Africa, I’m still struggling to obtain permanent residency here. In fact just staying in the country at all is a massive struggle. I cannot tell you how frustrating, agonizing, and enraging this process is and it just. never. ends.

I can’t say much more without further endangering my status. But suffice it to say I’ll be writing an epic post about South African immigration woes at some point in the future.

3) Relationship (a.k.a. Situation-ship) problems

This year I believe I set the world record for most breakups. They were all with the same person.

Eish, my love life is hilarious. Someday I’ll find a way to write about it without embarrassing myself or others but in the meantime you’ll have to use your imagination.

4) South Africa’s problems

I love this country but jeez, it has some challenges. I needn’t say more as everyone who lives here knows exactly what I’m talking about.

5) Donald Trump

I hate that man. I’m so ungrateful for him.

Things I Was Grateful for in 2019

Lastly, a gratitude list:

1) My home

In a country where so many people don’t have adequate housing, I feel sincerely grateful to have a beautiful roof over my head in Melville, Jozi’s best suburb.

Heather's house in Melville
My home.

2) My cats

My two cats, Smokey and Trixie, bring me joy every single day.

The Melville Cats
The Melville Cats.

3) My friends and family

I can’t believe how many wonderful friends I’ve made in South Africa over the years. I never feel alone here and that’s quite a remarkable thing for me.

Fiver on Louis Botha
This is my friend Fiver, who appears most often on my blog because we’re always exploring together. But I have so many more amazing friends and you know who you are. Thank you.

I’m also grateful for my dear friends and family in America, who never feel far away even though they’re geographically across the world.

My sister Susanna and nephew Jack
My sister Susanna and nephew Jack at the top of a mountain in Vermont.

4) My quirky life

Even though I spend a lot of time (waaaaay too much time) feeling anxious and uncertain about every aspect of my life, I’m also really grateful for the freedom to follow my own path. Joburg is the best place on earth to pursue the weird, bohemian life I lead.

Heather at 1Fox
Me, shot by Julia Giddy outside the Little Fox cocktail bar.

5) South Africa

Despite the many headaches this country causes, I love it so much.

I’m grateful for South Africa, which is why I’m devoting a huge part of the next year to giving this country the love it deserves. I have big plans for my #10SouthAfricanTowns project — several town visits are already in the works — and I want all of you to join me on the journey.

If you enjoy reading this blog, please become a member on my Patreon page: www.patreon.com/2Summers. If you do, you’ll have a special newsletter and other exciting members-only content coming your way in the next two weeks.

Thanks to the following rad people who have already signed up:

  • Melanie Blumentritt
  • Jim Baird
  • Penny Castle
  • Dominic Randazzo
  • David Park
  • Michael Ogawa
  • Frances Steyn
  • Laura Dall
  • Dudu Luthuli
  • Fiver Löcker
  • Jeanie Freeman
  • Michelle Stern
  • Tim Isabirye

So far I’ve raised more than R1100 per month to go toward my travel expenses and other costs for the #10SouthAfricanTowns project. My goal is to reach R2500 before the end of January. Help me get there.

I’ve got other big plans germinating for 2020 and beyond. It’s too early to tell you about them yet but please stay tuned. Happy New Year!

Sunrise in Plettenberg Bay
Sunrise in South Africa.
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19 Comments

  • Reply AutumnAshbough December 29, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    I am also supremely ungrateful for Donald Trump. But I think I’d put Mitch McConnell and Trump Voters ahead of the man himself. He’s a horrible, criminal, ignorant, racist, white supremacist, misogynist, abusive, would-be-dictator, yes. Which is bad. But not a secret. And yet they support him.

    • Reply 2summers December 29, 2019 at 7:39 pm

      I can’t disagree with you there.

  • Reply Chill A Lot December 29, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Just found your blog, so glad I did.. Just read a couple posts so far, but already feeling inspired to do more and see more in my home country

    • Reply 2summers December 29, 2019 at 7:47 pm

      Thank you so much for telling me that! I appreciate it a lot 🙂

  • Reply Catrina December 29, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    I hear you on the visa issues. We can’t even get a appointment at the consulate, we had three unsuccessful attempts so far. So now we’re going as tourists for 90 days and then we’ll try again.
    Thanks for the review! As I joined your blog late this year, many things were new to me. 😊

    • Reply 2summers December 29, 2019 at 8:51 pm

      Been there and done that. So frustrating! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reply durbanroots December 29, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    Heather – what is a doozie? !!

  • Reply Florence Ngobeni-Allen December 29, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    My friend, I’m ashamed that you are still having problems with application of your permanent residency. I wish the government knew and understood what an asset you are promoting businesses and show casing the amazing art and beauty of all South Africans as well as the beauty of SA. I for you one, I’m grateful for all your contributions and your love for our country. Thank you sisi!

    • Reply 2summers December 30, 2019 at 6:16 am

      Thanks dear friend. I know you understand! Miss you.

  • Reply thirdeyemom December 30, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Heather, I have always loved your blog throughout the years. The brutal honesty, the humility and the beauty. I love your list of things to be grateful for. Keep shining and looking forward to reading about it all in 2020.

    • Reply 2summers December 30, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Thanks Nicole! Right back atcha. Happy new year 🙂

  • Reply Lani December 31, 2019 at 5:05 am

    Sounds like you’ve had an epic year. My goodness, your idea of a low-key travel year is my version of a once-in-a-lifetime one. Hahahhaa.

    Glad you’re here, and looking forward to 2020 together, my friend.

    Happy New Year, Heather! xxoo

    • Reply 2summers December 31, 2019 at 6:29 am

      Hahaha, you’re right! I need to continually remind myself how lucky I am when it comes to my travels. I’ve had the opportunity to see so many amazing things.

      Happy New Year to you too! 💜

  • Reply eremophila January 1, 2020 at 3:06 am

    It’s been a doozie of a year for me too Heather, and yes it’s a term used down here.
    But we pick ourselves up and carry on. Love those meerkat and almost got to visit a place over here that has them, but maybe this year it will happen, providing they dont get burnt to a cinder like the country is experiencing right now.
    Here’s to a better year! 😘

    • Reply 2summers January 1, 2020 at 7:32 am

      Ah, are there meerkats in Australia too? I’ve been thinking of you when I hear the news about the fires…Here’s to a better year indeed.

  • Reply I Say Oui January 22, 2020 at 3:34 am

    The last picture of you in the street is beautiful! And that is an amazing window your home has.

    • Reply 2summers January 22, 2020 at 5:49 am

      Thank you. It is an amazing window!

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