While trips to tropical islands or tourist-studded hot spots have their appeal, some travelers opt to go the non-traditional route to quench their travel thirsts. For one Boston resident, a trip to South Africa was a goal she had for years. In hopes of getting a glimpse of the unique culture, meeting the native people, and taking in the surrounding sites, Kaitlin Kirwin packed her bags with friend, Laurel Fulham for a 10-day adventure in Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. A large part of the trip was spent with friends who volunteered to teach in South Africa for a year, giving Kaitlin the kind of exposure to South African culture she had hoped for.
Spending time in the classrooms and churches with the local people enabled her to experience a realistic representation of what it meant to be South African. Rather than jump from one tourist-attraction to another, Kaitlin mingled with local South Africans who recommended beautiful sights to see and highly regarded activities for her and Laurel to do. Unmoved by stereotypical comments from others prior to her trip departure about safety issues and poverty in South Africa, Kaitlin was still determined to experience the environment first hand. Being surrounded by friends and amicable South African locals permitted Kaitlin a taste of cultural immersion and an eye-opening experience to the sites and lifestyles of another part of the world.
inTravel: Where did you stay and what kind of accommodations did you have?
Kaitlin: On our way over our flight was delayed in Senegal and we missed our connecting flight to Durban. We were given nice accommodations in Cape Town for the night and then first thing in the morning we flew to Durban. We stayed there for four days with friends who were teaching at a school nearby (teaching oral English and computer skills). My friend, Laurel went to Villanova with three of the volunteers so that’s how we had the connection and a place to stay. All three lived together in one house with one other volunteer. We went to Cape Town for the remainder of the trip and stayed at a hotel.
inTravel: What was the purpose of your trip?
Kaitlin: Just to vacation; we figured we may as well go when we knew people and had a place to stay. I also knew a few people who had been to Cape Town before and had great experiences and mentioned the great beaches and mountains. The view of the Ortega Mountains was probably the nicest view I’ve ever seen on any trip or destination. Overall, Cape Town was pretty easy to get around and the people were really friendly; it’s just a very diverse city in a diverse country.
inTravel: Describe the difference between the two places you visited:
Kaitlin: Cape Town was much more developed. It’s a go-to place because it has the beaches and the mountains, and it has a thriving city. You can find someone there from every walk of life from everywhere; not just Africa, but all over the world. Durban just didn’t seem like it had the pull of having a thriving night life. Durban is not by any means a tourist destination. We went to school with our friends who were teaching, we went to the beach, and swam in the Indian Ocean, which was beautiful. At Cape Point on the Cape Town peninsula, you can actually see the different colors of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meeting, which is pretty incredible.
inTravel: Can you describe your surroundings?
Kaitlin: The people in South Africa had a sort of mild disposition; they were very accommodating and they were very excited to talk to us about their lifestyles and were happy to explain anything that we found confusing. A lot of people were very interested in talking about the political climate in America. They were especially excited about Obama like the rest of the continent. It was very easy to have informative conversations with the people there. In Durban the volunteers had sort of become part of the community they were living in so they had friends from every background and knew a lot of people through teaching and through their local church.