INSPIRATION

Boipelo Tladinyane-Hludi'd's Adventure Backpacking All African Countries

A South African Woman's Adventure Backpacking All African Countries

Journey with Boipelo as she shares the story of how she backpacked across all African countries. Delve into her inspiration, unconventional planning, and the liberating experience of solo travel.

What inspired your decision to start backpacking?

Growing up in the village of Ganyesa in the North West Province of South Africa, my exposure to diversity was limited. However, encounters with teachers and other students, particularly in high school brought a broader cultural exchange, introducing me to traditions from Ghana, Eswatini, and Swaziland. This longing to discover what lay beyond South Africa intensified after watching the TV show "Precious Africa," which showed various countries. Inspired by the desire to experience different cultures firsthand, I began saving for this adventure immediately after my first job. The pivotal moment occurred when I read a book by Sihle Khumalo detailing his overland travels from Cape Town to Cairo through fewer than 10 countries. This revelation simplified and validated my dream of backpacking across Africa on a limited budget. Within two years, I went on my first journey, exploring 8 African countries.

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Was there a plan to your travels? Or did you take more of a "let's see where the wind takes me" approach?

I secured a two-month break from work, combining one month of paid leave with an additional unpaid month. Considering that typical curated tours last about seven days, I allocated a week for each country, aiming to delve into local cultures, savour indigenous cuisines, grasp a few local phrases, enjoy music, make a local purchase, and explore attractions. Uncertain about the execution, my priority was securing visas for access to various countries. With approved visas, I set off from Cape Agulhas, using public transport where fellow passengers often served as my guides. This pattern continued until I reached Alexandria, Egypt, sparking a determination to explore the rest of Africa. Returning to my corporate job, I resumed saving for my ongoing journey before eventually resigning to focus solely on continuous travel. The decision aimed to minimize costs associated with frequent returns to South Africa and expedite reaching my travel goals. By the onset of the COVID lockdown, I had already traversed 54 African countries, prompting me to document my experiences in a book titled "A Safari Back to Self–Backpacking 54 Countries in Africa." My journey continued with a visit to Libya, marking the 55th African country on my exploration list.

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Did you ever have doubts about being a woman and travelling solo?

I’ve always been pretty confident in my abilities. While Sihle Khumalo's journey, being a man, initially set me on my journey, I later discovered the experiences of another South African woman, Katchie Nzama, and this further reassured me. Surprisingly, solo travel as a woman turned out to be a safe and enriching experience. Far from vulnerability, it attracted a lot of assistance and care from people who recognized my solo journey in unfamiliar territories. Travelling solo also allowed me the luxury of flexibility in terms of my schedule or decision to change plans, as well as where and with whom I chose to spend my time.

 

How did you manage your budget while travelling? 

Utilizing local insights, I opted for budget-friendly transport like public buses, minibuses, tuk-tuks, shared taxis, motorbikes, and even bicycles or donkey carts for short distances. Accommodation choices were driven by affordability, often learned from fellow budget-conscious travellers. Staying at such places led to discoveries of low-cost restaurants serving daily homemade dishes, providing an authentic taste of indigenous cuisine. I carried Euros and Dollars, exchanging them as needed, prioritizing the safety of my cash during the journey.

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What is your biggest takeaway from this entire experience?

While a lot has changed globally, the constant in my travels is the enduring warmth of African hospitality. Africans’ enduring welcome is evident in various gestures, from inviting you to share meals to extending invitations to their homes or showing you around the surroundings. While such warmth might be less prevalent in developed or developing cities, it remains the force that draws me to African countries for my holiday destinations. Connecting with locals exposes you to their way of life, and the leisurely pace allows a refreshing disconnection from the fast-paced global rhythm, leading to a connection with oneself.  I'm also pleased to see that African gastronomy is taking its place in the world. This coupled with our breathtaking natural attractions, makes Africa a truly treasured destination.

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