“Living in a caravan for months in a country that has everything to offer has made me realize that wealth accumulation does not bring happiness, in fact, it does the opposite.” These are the words that grabbed my attention when I started reading Blacks DO Caravan, a book by Fikile Hlatshwayo, released earlier in 2016. What she wrote resonated with me on so many levels as this is exactly what I felt when we started camping.
Fikile and her family had the same life as many of we do; go to work in the morning, work late, kids busy at school, almost as if you’re living past each other. She was diagnosed with depression and burnout which led to her husband and kids coming up with the idea of taking an extended camping trip. Being a black woman, she was very hesitant because camping holidays is just not what black folks do, right? Turns out, she was very wrong. They bought a caravan and the rest of the camping gear and set off on a caravanning holiday of a lifetime. They traveled over 25 000 kilometers and they visited more than 60 caravan parks and resorts, and their travels took them across all nine provinces of South Africa as well as an expedition into Swaziland. Their itinerary read like most campers’ bucket list, they’ve literally camped everywhere. From the Kruger National Park to the Tankwa National Park and everywhere in between and I was turning every shade of green whilst I was reading about their adventures.
I really enjoyed her writing style, she has the ability to take you right into their adventures. I laughed out loud when Fikile wrote about how she went flying through the air over the handles of a mountain bike whilst riding on one of the trails at the Merry Pebbles Resort in Mpumalanga and I cringed with shame when she spoke about how the white campers mistook her for the help at some of the resorts, especially the more affluent ones. I connected with her inner struggles about being the best mom you could possibly be and I felt triumphant when she realized that their new lifestyle has taken away her struggles with depression.
“The wonders and impact this journey had on us a family cannot easily be described. In these three months we grew so much as a family and bonded so deeply; our love for one another is very special.”
She also goes to great lengths to tell us more about the different resorts and national parks they stayed at. It’s one of the reasons why I started writing about camping, I struggled to find honest reviews about camping resorts. Yes we do have several magazines that do write-ups about resorts and parks but I like to hear from “normal” people like me what they thought of the various camping resorts, and this is exactly what Fikile writes about. She tells us more about the roads getting to the camping resorts, what it was like to check in and that first impression when you arrive at your camp site. She also tells us about the different activities that’s available at the resorts and I found the pictures in the book only serves to elaborate on her stories. The book is dotted throughout with “DID YOU KNOW?” fact boxes and in the end it did not only feel like the story of Fikile’s family and their healing process but it ends up being a proper travel guide.
The overarching theme is one of reconciliation and healing, not only of her family but of South Africa as a whole. When you look at newspaper headlines you see a South Africa that’s so deeply divided that you can’t help but wonder how we are going to get past all of it and come together as one. Fikile has found at least one way of doing just that – camping and nature. True, we don’t see a lot of black families at the camping resorts and there are many reasons for it but just as Fikile and her family discovered, if they take the first step to see what all the fuss is about, they’ll uncover a world where people are enjoying our country and nature at its purest. In our hearts we’re all South Africans and we’ve got a lot to be proud of but it’s going to take some work to get to the place of healing where we would like to be, and camping is one of the ways to do it.
Thank you for writing this book, Fikile. It’s widened my horizons and opened my eyes to struggles that I never knew was there. And I think you are a great mom and wife, even if the kids found your home schooling boring at first….
Find Fikile and Blacks DO Caravan on social media….
Twitter at @
Instagram at blacksdocaravan
Facebook at Blacks DO Caravan