South African-born Mukhatshelwa “Katchie” Nzama, an avid traveller who is closing in on realising her dream of visiting each country on the continent before the age of 30, is currently on a mission to break borders and the misconceptions they create, as well as promote intra-African travel through Breaking Borders.
The dynamic Nzama, who in 2016 was one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans, shared her vision with us and why the initiative – funded by Simeka Capital Holdings – which will see her travel to 22 countries on the continent over a period of seven months, is close to her heart.
Nzama will be educating locals about travel in Africa, visiting World Heritage Sites, documenting the continent’s cultural heritage and coming up with advice to tackle the challenges of travel across Africa’s borders.
Why do you believe it is so important to promote intra-African travel and in it being the most powerful means to communicate the Breaking Borders message?
I feel it is high time that as Africans, we start documenting our culture and heritage. I have found there is no better classroom to learn about our continent than getting out of ones comfort zone and exploring the continent. Breaking Borders is about highlighting the difficulties of traveling the African continent as an African. I have found it is easier for Americans and Europeans to travel the continent than it is for me as a South African passport-holder. At some point, the visa systems have to be changed. Visa applications are difficult and unnecessary. It is important to send this message out with the hopes that it will reach our leaders. And for the message to be effective, we all have to come together and support each other in sending that message out. Even if it is through using platforms such as social media, as they are also powerful.
Having travelled on the continent before, what are you most excited and/or concerned about the most?
I am excited about the people I will get to meet, the families who will be hosting me in the different countries and the food! Most importantly, I am relishing the opportunity to learn about different cultures and countries. The adventure lies in not knowing what each country has to offer – from public transport to nightlife and everything in between.
What are the greatest misconceptions South Africans have about the rest of the continent?
The idea that we have everything in South Africa and don’t need to explore the continent is the biggest one. Then there’s the notion that travelling on the continent is expensive and African countries are scary, because we never know much about what goes on unless its violent, political or disease-related. The problem is we watch the news and think we know it all. You might has well never leave your house! We have a beautiful continent and it is affordable to travel on the continent. Don’t miss out on the amazing sunsets and cultures.
What advice would you share with women looking to explore the continent on their own?
Do it! I have never found as much freedom as I have from travelling alone. I discovered so much of myself. I learnt a lot about myself by putting myself out there and finding my own way. I am extremely independent and not much scares me anymore, as I have had to trust absolute strangers. Through such experiences, I now know the goodness people have in their hearts.
How has travel influenced your personal life and perspective on the world?
Travel completely changed my life, I could not imagine a life without travelling. Each day is different. Waking up and not knowing what the day holds and who you will meet is incredible. Through travel, I have met so many people from different parts of the world who have become my friends, while others became my family. Because of my willingness to journey solo, I have more confidence in my abilities and I know I can never fail at anything to which I put my mind.
Travel has changed my perspective of the world in that I see the good in everyone I meet. And through the way I interact with people, I receive this goodness from everyone I meet.