After 5 years of working her magic as the marketing manager, Open Africa's Claire Allison is saying goodbye to set off on new adventures of her own.
We asked her to share a few of her favourite memories and lessons learned before leaving. Here's what she had to say.
1. How long were you with Open Africa for and how did you first come to work here?
I began working for Open Africa in January 2012 after hearing about the organisation through a friend who had been doing some volunteer work for them. I was on the lookout for something new and she mentioned they were looking to fill a marketing position so she connected us and the rest, as they say, is history!
2. What were your highlights of working for Open Africa?
I loved travelling to places around South Africa and meeting some of the most incredible characters along the way. Whenever I returned to the office after some time in the field I was invigorated and inspired by what I'd seen.
Judah Square in Knysna stood out for me. I met a wonderful Rastafarian from Kenya named Brother Mau Mau, who absolutely captivated me with his stories and treated us to some beautiful spiced tea on a cold and rainy day.
I had some once in a lifetime experiences too, like spending the night in traditional San grass huts and tracking snakes and game through the Kalahari bush on a guided tour with a local Khomani San guide; staying in a beautiful homestay just outside Pilanesberg National Park where the golf addict owner had a shrine to Tiger Woods in the hallway; buying avocados the size of my head at Tshakhuma fruit market in Limpopo; and always ending a long day on the road with a few tasty beers.
3. Do you have a favourite Open Africa experience that you would recommend to other people? Why?
I fell in love with Limpopo. The lush beauty of the province, the warmth of the people and the vibrant colours of the traditional clothing was exquisite. Growing up in the city, one never realises how the vast majority of South Africans live until you venture into the small, off-the-beaten-track towns and villages. It's here that you truly feel that you are in Africa and it's amazing to see how enterprising people are and how they make a living with the limited resources they have. You can't go wrong visiting this province.
I also loved my time in the Northern Cape, eating all the food, tasting the wine and brandy and practicing my Afrikaans chatting to the local people (usually after the wine tasting). I enjoyed a Sunday potjie on the red dunes in a small community called Curries Camp in the Green Kalahari, met the sweetest meerkats at the Kalahari Trails Meerkat Sanctuary, and floated around the Orange River in the middle of Upington on a custom-built houseboat, sipping on sundowners while soaking up the sounds and smells of the city as it cooled down after a hot day. Yes, sometimes my job was very tough.
4. Can you describe the Open Africa way of travel in your own words? And why do you think it's important that people adopt this approach to seeing new places?
For me the Open Africa way of travel is about embracing the open road, being inquisitive and immersing yourself in a destination. It's so important to truly experience South Africa and have meaningful interactions with people. Whenever my friends heard about my adventures with Open Africa, their response was always, "I want to do that."
I think there is a huge demand for this type of travel but people don't know how to access it or are afraid of leaving their comfort zones. If Open Africa taught me one thing, it's that if you fear something you should do it. It will always change you for the better.
5. Where to next for you? Any exciting travel plans?
I'm currently biting off a little more than I can chew and giving freelance writing a bash. It's something I've always wanted to do and it felt like the right time for me to move in this direction. I don't have any travel plans yet, but who knows where my next job may take me.