By: Sandy Nene
What inspired the name of your blog? I started with my Twitter account first in 2010 during the FIFA World Cup, and called it Mzansigirl. It was such an amazing time to be South African. I’ve always been African positive and worked in the tourism industry for a while, so Mzansigirl seemed quite fitting. I started tweeting about South African and African travel and everything Afro-positive, mainly sharing others content but also my own photos from my travels. I started following lots of international travel bloggers who wrote about their African travel experiences but I always felt that there was a local voice missing. A year later I met the then web editor for Getaway magazine and one of my favourite SA travel writers, Sarah Duff who suggested I blog for Getaway. I didn’t really think seriously about blogging before that, but Sarah planted the seed in my head, though it took me a year to actually start my blog.
How long have you been blogging for? I started my blog in July 2012, so its been over 4 years now.
What difficulties did you come across when you first started blogging? Honestly the hardest part was starting. It took me so long! I was very nervous about the tech aspect, which platform to use and learning about stuff like themes and plugins was all new to me. I wasn’t really confident about my writing or my photos, but I’ve definitely improved and learnt a lot along the way. At first I thought no-one read my blog and then a month or two later I started getting comments from people which was quite exciting!
What do you think new bloggers need to know about blogging that most people don’t? It takes time to build a blog, build an audience and a following. It doesn’t happen overnight. I think it takes a year before people actually take you seriously. It’s not just about putting out content, but creating valuable content. Creating a community and an audience that is passionate about your niche is also important.
What would you say has been a highlight of your blogging career thus far? Sjoe, there’s been so many… Being invited to speak at conferences like the Indaba Travel Bloggers Conference and WTM Africa. I’ve had so many amazing adventures exploring Mzansi and beyond. Amazing press trips both locally and to amazing places like Reunion Island, Mauritius, Zambia, Turkey and India. Spending a week exploring and being filmed in Catalunya, Spain as a guest for an episode of travel tv show Catalunya Experience. Spending a week with a film crew was new for me, especially since they dodn’t speak much English! I was filmed having my first ski lesson, going dog sledding and tasting local foods. It was so tiring but so much fun. Check it out here: http://www.ccma.cat/tv3/alacarta/catalunya-experience/meruschka-vall-daran-i-corbera-de-llobregat/video/5572703/
Who are your favourite bloggers? There are so many, all of them travel blogs of course! I’m a huge fan of Heather Mason (www.2summers.net), who’s the authority on all things quirky in Johannesburg. 2summers was probably the first blog I started reading and subscribed to. I love Heather’s personal writing style and great photography. For food, culture and travel , Ishay Govender-Ypma’s blog The Food and the Fabulous (http://www.foodandthefabulous.com/) inspires me. For responsible tourism and epic video content, I’m inspired by Dee Lourens of the Good Holiday (http://thegoodholiday.com/) I also love reading Kate Els of (http://indikate.net/) and Hitekani Mbatsana of Blacks Do Swim blog (https://blacksdoswim.wordpress.comhttps://blacksdoswim.wordpress.com/)
Which is the most read blog post on your blog and why do you think people like it? My most read blog post is about why we shouldn’t be petting lion cubs. I am very passionate about responsible tourism and really can’t believe that there are still so many companies offering lion cub and other predator petting. The lion cubs that have been socialised with humans, offen end up in the canned lion hunting. industry. I think that there needs to be more education of tourists in respect to lion cub petting, and boycotting of establishments offering them. Its still a controversial subject, that has come to the forefront this past year since the release of the ‘Blood Lions’ documentary, though I wrote my inital blog post 4 years ago, long before the issue of lion petting hit the mainstream media.
What else do you do besides blogging? I do freelance social media and social media strategy for travel brands, and freelance travel writing.
Where do you see your blog in the next two years? I wish I was better at making long term goals! I’d love to take my blog brand into other forms of media.
Do you look at your blog as a business, hobby or as a portfolio? It started off as a hobby but I quit my day job in tourism almost three years ago to focus on my blog. At this stage I see it as a combination of a business and a portfolio, as I do get other work in the tourism/ social media/ influencer field as a result of my blog.