During a trip to South Africa, I finally found the feeling of being at home

Sawubona, a greeting used by the Zulu people of South Africa to say hello. But the term is much more than just a warm welcome. It is also often understood and used to say “I see you”, a sign of respect while acknowledging the presence of others.

On a recent trip to the country – my first since reopening, but second visit overall – I certainly felt seen. From the moment I stepped off the plane and onto the rich soils of Johannesburg, I felt at home. Admittedly, I don’t know if my ancestors lived in South Africa, but I know that whatever country they come from, Africa is my homeland.

Walking through the bustling streets of Johannesburg, I felt an instant sense of pride seeing men and women moving through their day. The joy that radiated from their faces as they traveled to their respective destinations, whether it was work, school, or dining out to catch up with friends, also immediately brought me joy. As a black American woman, I always want to connect with my brothers and sisters on the continent, and like many of us, the global pandemic has prevented me from doing so for the past few years. Then, in February 2021, my mother passed away after a two-year battle with endometrial cancer – and as an only child, I found myself searching for communities and people who make me feel so “sight” it. It was a moment of reconnection with my ancestral land and its people. This visit was special.

Over the next 12 days I traveled through Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town – and in each city I received heartbreaking greetings of ‘hello sister’ or ‘welcome home’ from locals. . It may seem small, but to me those simple acknowledgments were Sawubona personified. It was my ancestors’ way of letting me know I was home and okay.

I arrived in Durban – my first visit to the coastal city – for the region’s Africa Travel Indaba, a multi-day conference that attracts travel and tourism professionals from across the continent and beyond. After just a few minutes of walking through the Durban International Convention Centre, I could see the global impact of the tourism sector in Africa.

Often, Africa tends to be lumped together into one massive country, compared to its 54 individual and unique nations. During the Indaba, a Zulu word for “business meeting”, my eyes were opened not only to the dozens of African nations represented, but also to the hundreds of tour operators, hoteliers and others working to share the beauty of the continent with the rest of the world. world. As I walked to each table to meet the representatives, hearing the way they spoke proudly about their respective business or destination reinforced my love and appreciation for each nation that made up the continent. Whether being introduced to the latest offerings from a small boutique hotel in South Africa or learning how diverse Mozambique is as a country, I swelled with pride.

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