Mukhatshelwa Nzama has a new mission. She wants to travel across 24 west African countries in six months. She plans to do this alone.
But when Nzama decided some two years ago that she would wonder solo through the African continent from Cape to Cairo, the response she received from those around her was mostly disbelief.
After she returned, the perspectives shifted. More and more people that had been watching her journeying through the continent, living simply but walking away with expensive memories realised it could be done. But, for 28-year-old Katchie, as she is popularly known, she is only just beginning.
Nzama now has a new mission, to travel through the western part of Africa, beginning with Tunisia and ending off in South Africa. A journey that she has calculated will take her 168 days, and just under 17 000 kms. Katchie will spend a week in each country. Her journey begins in the first week of June.
To travel through the West, Nzama has needed 15 visas. Most of these visas, are free or very affordable. But, are in place. Part of her journey will be to address this.
“Why must it be so difficult for me as an African child to travel the continent but a European can easily access the continent? “
She has aptly named her journey Breaking Borders, which is a mission to break through the physical and sometimes psychological barriers to traveling through the continent. According to Nzama, she picked the West African route precisely because most of the countries there require a traveller to possess a visa.
More personally, the fascination she has with travelling through the continent is her own multicultural background.
“I am a multicultural South African child. A Venda mother, a Zulu dad, and I have been fighting to find myself. Between the Zulu and the Venda it’s all just a big mess,” she says.
That, her love for travel, and the continued sense of feeling unappreciated in her corporate marketing and events job are the things that inspired her to stand up, and decide to, in her words, “Do something crazy”.
“I wanted to be a travel blogger. I need to do something that I absolutely love, and that’s going to pay my bills. We’ll pick it up from there. I did Cape to Cairo, I came back, and I continued doing free projects for two years, I told myself that I wanted to build this brand as The Solo Wandera. And that’s all I did for two years.”
With a 6 month trip from Cape to Cairo under her belt, with a now established brand, Katchie is the first to admit that it hasn’t been easy, contrary to popular belief.
“And now people sit and think how is she so successful? I’m like: No honey. I sat down for two years and just focused. And built this brand. And I now have clients who pay me to travel their countries,” Nzama said.
Her core focus is now as a travel blogger, a content creator. But her passion is encouraging other Africans to go explore the continent to expose themselves to various cultures and communities-something that ultimately lead to the idea of decolonising travel.
“My travels are all about Africa for Africans. So I’m trying to encourage more Africans to travel Africa and I focus mainly on culture and heritage. So much as I’m (for example) trying to get you to travel Kenya, I want you to also understand the Massai people. I need you to understand the different cultures, so it becomes about educating Africans.”
In her travels, research and experiences she’s come to realise that Africans don’t know of their similarities, and her aim, is to show that.
‘So you cannot sit and say we have xenophobia. What is that? The first time I went to Kenya I had read a lot on the Massai people. I went and I lived in a Massai village with the Massai people. I realised there’s nothing odd about these people. But everything looked odd because I had a white person go experience it and come tell it to me. I was like no. If we are going to educate Africans about Africa, it’s going to be from an African perspective,”
Her travels through the continent the first time round were completed she says because of the kindness of the Africans she met along the way. When she speaks of the Sudanese bus driver who cared for her and ensured she was fed and safe even though they couldn’t share two sentences between them, or the excitement of the Nigerian travel twitter community when they hear she is coming to the country, or her relationship with Kenyans that has been built because of her fascination with the country, the love and inherent sense of community that was always said to be about Africans, come through. And it leaves you wondering to yourself, “Why am I not traveling through the continent?” At which point if The Solo Wandera was privy to your thoughts she’d exclaim: “Why not?”
Katchie will do Breaking Borders with the support of Simeka Capital Holdings and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.