Free travel journals

Wilderness, SA Watching shark week on the Discovery Channel has ruined the ocean for me. I can no longer go in the water without the thought of a shark taking off with my thigh. However, more specifically shark week has given me a fear of the South African coast because this is where all the stories of great whites come from.  With that being said, when David first offered to go surfing on free travel with me, I said no. As time went on, I decided this was my time to be brave. So we called the surf shop in Mossel Bay and rented some boards and wet suits.

We arrived at the beach nervous but excited, and when I say we were nervous, I mean I was nervous. The scariest thing was the fact that Seal Island (a hot spot for great whites) was within eye sight. We then suited up and got in the water. Luckily the water was so cold it took my mind off my fear of the sharks. The waves were big and constant. For an experienced surfer this might mean catching some great waves. However, for me it meant struggling to keep my board attached without hitting myself in the face with it. Over the whole time we saw no sign of sharks but did have a close call with a seal. In the end I learned two things about myself, I cannot swim well and my balance is terrible. I had lots of fun, and hope to do it again sometime.

-Aaron Brydge


Over the past week, we have been traveling to different backpacker lodges every couple days along the Garden Route.  It was very interesting seeing the different cities and towns.  Laci, Sarah Grace, Rebekah and I went to three different lodges in five days. Out of the three places we went, I really enjoyed Mossel Bay.

We stayed at a nice place called Little Brak Beach House. It was 10 minutes away from the city of Mossel Bay. I loved being away from the city and just relaxing.  Thankfully, we had a wonderful day at the beach while we were there.  In Wilderness, Laci and I were laying out and we got “waved on”. The lodge reminded me of home, which was so relaxing.  We had pizza one night and stir-fry the last night.  It was a lot of fun getting to know the girls more. Now I am looking forward to the next month in Cape Town.

-Jessica Blanks


Over the course of the past week, our group split into smaller groups and spent “Fall Break” touring the Garden Route.  The Garden Route is the path one travels along the Eastern Coast of South Africa that offers many convenient excursions and amenities geared towards tourists. My group, consisting of Heidi Bauman, Laura Hershey, Anna Weaver and Kiera Stenson, started in Plettenberg Bay followed by Mossel Bay and ended in Stellenbosh. The week was mostly spent basking in the hot African sun on the white sandy beaches of the beautiful, blue Indian Ocean. By far, the best fall break in college! One of the excursions I ventured on was deep sea fishing in Mossel Bay with Justin King. It was a joke of sorts in that since we had celebrated our birthdays on the same day, it was our gift to each other.  We set sail into the wide, blue yonder on “Sharky” the name of our motorboat. Once we got past the swells and intense waves the ocean was peaceful.

The famous hymn “It is well” by Horatio Spafford immediately consumed my thoughts. Spafford had written the hymn in remembrance of his four daughters, over the spot where the boat had capsized. Through unimaginable tragedy, Spafford penned the hymn, inspiring hope and peace through good and bad times in life.  Justin and I engaged in conversation, one in particular, about the powers of water and its versatility, more specifically the vastness of the ocean.  During our silence, I then made a parallel to God.  Isn’t God the same way? He has exposed himself to me in so many different ways throughout the past two months in South Africa, through trials and tribulations and blessings, both obvious and in disguise.  His presence is as big as the Indian Ocean and as small as the smile on Lindiwe’s face, my five year old host brother in Lesotho.

God is omnipotent and versatile.  Although God is constant, I am constantly growing and changing as a result of His vastness.  I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to engage in relationships with Africans and even more so, with each member on this cross-cultural.  The beauty of it all is that the journey is far from over.

-Sarah Leland