Welcome to my two-week series all about our recent family trip to South Africa. I’m recounting some of our favorite experiences, lessons we learned, travel tips, and some of the most memorable stories and takeaways. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.
Many people have asked us why we would spend the money to take our whole family to South Africa. It’s a very valid question — especially when I have a blog called MoneySavingMom.com. 🙂
Well, first off, when you stay with friends and they are kind enough to graciously provide your food and transportation and you get a great deal on plane tickets, it’s not at all as expensive as people would assume.
But, at the same time, it is definitely not cheap, so why would we spend the money on a trip halfway around the world? For starters, I wrote a post on three reasons we take our kids to South Africa here. Those reasons were a big driving force behind why we took our kids to South Africa a second time.
There were three other reasons, too:
1. We’ve chosen to prioritize life-changing experiences in our budget.
In January of 2015, I boarded an 18-hour flight to South Africa with my friends, Lisa-Jo and Joy. The trip itself was SO far outside my comfort zone (I had never been on a plane for more than 5 hours and had never really traveled internationally) and I had no idea what to expect.
On that trip, I fell madly in love with the people of South Africa, I discovered that I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, I found out that I’m a lot more extroverted than I realized I was, I made dear friends, I learned so much from people whose lives are very different than mine, and our family found a calling and passion to come alongside and support the amazing work that Take Action Ministry is doing.
Since that trip, South Africa has become like a second home to me. It’s why I’ve been there four times in the past four years. And it’s why every time I go, it never feels like enough.
Our heartbeat for so much of why we do what we do — why I blog, why we produce products, why we seek to be strategic with the business and wise with our personal funds — is so we can give generously to the needs in South Africa and elsewhere.
I am forever changed. Our family is forever changed. Because of what we’ve learned and experienced in South Africa.
And that’s why we prioritize making this trip as often as we can.
2. We want to be motivated to remember our “why”.
The South Africans have taught us what true giving looks like — even when you have almost nothing to give.
They have taught us what warm hospitality looks like — giving up your time and vacation days and your bedroom and sleep to host us!
They have taught us what contentment and joy looks like — even when you live without power and water in a tiny shack.
They have shown us what faith looks like — when you believe God can do big things despite having almost zero resources.
And they have given us incredible purpose. To live beneath our means so we can give generously. To be strategic and wise stewards of our time and money and opportunities in order to be able to help out as many people as possible.
Being with these people reminds us of what really matters in life. And it gives us fresh perspective and deeper empathy and a greater understanding of how to love others well.
3. We want to do more than just give money.
Our family invests a significant portion of our income every month to help fund Take Action Ministry. And while money is very important, we want the team there to know that we are with them in the work they are doing.
While we aren’t called to live in South Africa right now, traveling there regularly to be with our friends there, to celebrate their progress, hear of their struggles, see the work first-hand, and just hang out with them and spend time together is so valuable.
More than anything, people who are sacrificing so much need to know that they aren’t alone. That there are people who care deeply about the work they are doing. That they have friends who are praying and celebrating — even if they live thousands of miles away.
I think it’s easy to forget this. To think that people just need financial support. But as our friends in South Africa have taught us: relationships are so much more valuable than financial support ever could be.
Let me tell you, going to South Africa for the second time with our kids was really incredible!
Our first trip to South Africa as a family was good but still pretty overwhelming for the kids. They struggled with the time change, the jet lag, the new foods, the different schedules, the language barriers… everything was so foreign to them and it was rough on many days of the trip.
This time around, there were still the unknowns and variables and challenges that come along with international travel, but all three kids handled it like champs. Every day, we went to new places and they got to meet and hang out with new people from a variety of backgrounds.
I saw them walk into these situations with confidence and grace. Instead of sitting on the sidelines and playing it safe, they jumped in and played full out.
And it was so beautiful to witness. Once again, they demonstrated that you don’t have to speak the same language fluently to communicate love.
One of our heart’s desires is to raise kids who realize there is a big, big world out there and there is so much we can learn from everyone in it — no matter what language they speak or background they come from. Traveling outside our “American bubble” is one way we’re seeking to begin nurturing this understanding in them.
(By the way, the kids are begging that we not only go back to South Africa next year, but can we please visit another continent next year, too? Even my child who is very scared to fly commented and said, “Well, now that I got that 18-hour flight over with, I think I can fly just about anywhere. So please can we travel more??” As you can imagine, that put a great big smile on my face! ?)
I don’t know what the future holds for our kids. I don’t know if we’ll be able to reach our family’s crazy goal of traveling to all 7 continents by the time Kathrynne is 18. But I do know that the money we invested to take this trip to South Africa was every bit worth it.
In fact, I’d say that the return on our investment has been pretty near priceless!