15 Questions with backpacker Afrika Mdolomba

Afrika Mdolomba has backpacked to more than 20 countries since 2016. The 28-year-old from Johannesburg shared some backpacking secrets with Clinton Moodley. 

When did your love for travel start? It all started in 2016 when some schoolmates I met while studying in China went on a backpacking trip to Cambodia and Vietnam. The trip introduced me to the world of backpacking. I got to meet some extraordinary people, and that is where my love for travel began. My life has never been the same since that trip.

Backpacking sounds cool. Can you share your 5 tips for a successful backpacking trip? 

  • Choose your destination wisely as not all countries have a lively backpacking community.
  • Plan adventurous activities. 
  • Have an open mind. Backpacking introduces you to like-minded and amazing people. You’ll also be guaranteed to have priceless experiences.
  • Be respectful of local people and their way of life. 
  • Try everything, especially things that scare you and those you’ve never done. These are the experiences you’ll treasure for life.

Backpacking does not have the best of reputations. What are the misconceptions about backpacking that you hope to debunk?  People usually think backpackers hostels are unhygienic, with grungy dorm rooms, worn mattresses and rundown buildings. That couldn’t be further from the truth: these days some backpackers hostels offer a better experience than many hotels.

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At Deadvlei in Namibia. Picture: Supplied.

For those who are not sceptics and want to start backpacking. What is your advice to them? Just do it. All you need to do is research more about the place you are going to visit, pack your bag and go. Many people are afraid to go alone, but you will meet interesting people along the way. 

Travel costs money. How do you save to make your dream of travel possible? My passion for travel means I have to make serious lifestyle sacrifices to save up for my trips. I rarely eat out at restaurants and save a significant chunk of my income. I set a financial goal at the start of the year and save towards this every year to make my travels possible.

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At Nusa Penida Island in Indonesia. Picture: Supplied.

How do you plan your itinerary? Do you have any secrets? I plan very little before I travel. On my last international trip, I boarded a plane less than 10 hours I booked the flight. I had no accommodation booked at my destination, but everything worked out perfectly. I’m starting to like spontaneous trips like this. For people who are starting out in backpacking, I’d recommend reading blogs by adventure travellers, visiting travel agency websites for ideas and booking flights during strategic sales like Black Friday. 

What is your must-have item to take on a trip? My smartphone. I can book flights, accommodation and make any necessary arrangements on my smartphone. When I travel internationally, I always take my South African flag along.

What are the best locations in South Africa to plan a budget travel trip? South Africa is such a beautiful country that offers many budget-friendly options. I love the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal, the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga and the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape.

Can you tell us about your favourite travel destinations, and why?  South Africa is one my all time favourite places, followed the Philippines. With 7 thousand islands to choose from, amazing scenery and some of the friendliest people, this country should be on everyone’s bucket list. Nusa Penida island in Indonesia is my favourite island. There is so much to do and see on the island. You could easily spend a whole month exploring this island.

Do you have a travel companion or do you prefer solo travel?  Most of my backpacking trips have been solo. I prefer to travel alone because it allows me to be spontaneous with my plans, meet a lot of interesting people, and I learn more about myself.

What has been the best meal you have eaten during your travels, and where was it? Chicken adobo at Monkey Business restaurant on Siquijor island in the Philippines. The restaurant has a special sauce that they refuse to share. 

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At Nana Backpackers Hostel, Vang Vieng, Laos. Picture: Supplied.

Best accommodation you have stayed at? I’ve stayed at countless amazing backpackers hostels on my travels. What makes a hostel great is the atmosphere. Nana backpackers hostel in Vang Vieng in Laos ticked all the boxes of an amazing hostel for me. They had a comfortable room, pleasant staff and a swimming pool. 

What are some of the destinations still on your bucket list? Peru, Sri Lanka and Colombia.

The motto you live by? You only live once and if you do it right, once is enough.

Where to next? I’d like to surprise myself for my next trip. 


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