Travel type4girl Zarif Speaks


“You’ve got to travel. SA is an amazing place but you gotta leave! You can come back. Apply for the research, make a plan, even if it’s a year from now. Because the world is happening, and we can only live through social media so far, go see for yourself.” – Jowhari Trahan

In my early twenties I used to travel for work alot, as an artistic director I worked with many music artists and record labels. I was on a flight once and across from me were two teenage girls traveling alone, connecting in New York to a flight to Germany. Me being nosey and concerned for these young girls, I watched them closely – how comfortable they were on the flight and how familiar they were with traveling. We chatted a bit. They were going to Germany to shop for school clothes. The two of them! ALONE! I was jealous and intrigued. Those girls have always been in my mind, their maturity and responsibility has always reminded me of what is possible, not privileged but possible.

I’ve been to many countries, I would sometimes fly from California to Johannesburg just for a meeting or for 4 days or so. Even with those travel experiences (I’m grateful) but I haven’t experienced sending my baby school shopping abroad yet, I don’t think I’ve experienced sending him shopping locally yet without phoning him every 45 minutes casually asking where he is and reminding him of the spending limit.

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I’m sharing this story because it is and was my reality. I’ve been this person, I am this person now!

Vacations are meant to be R & R, NOT WORK

I always looked at vacations as an adulting, high energy consuming thing. I would take the children on a trip somewhere fun, somewhere where the energy was high and everything was expensive and we’d take pictures, buy souvenirs, ride rides or see animals and en route home, be it via airplane or car ride, my mind and body would be screaming for ANOTHER vacation from the vacation we’d just taken!

I as a parent needed to find a way to vacation and create experiences for the US that weren’t so exhausting I’d need another vacation from the vacation I’ve just returned from!

I started to incorporate my getaway trip ideas with my son’s birthday celebrations, he’s the youngest of 3, the other two played on elite sport teams, they had parties that left me exhausted, cleaning up and financially strained with a slowly brewing attitude. 

This new way of celebrating started with a weekend getaway to the amusement park for his 9th birthday. The weather didn’t allow us to partake in the event we flew 3 hours for, so I had to improvise. Creative Parenting 101.

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 We walked around and did the budget tourist sightseeing thing, ate local foods at the restaurants we didn’t have at home, had conversations with locals and took in their activities, found out what’s poppin’ on Friday nights and we showed up! We researched a little bit of history, shopped at the malls, the fancy malls, the ghetto malls and came home! I get infatuated with how people live life in different places. See I’m from California, and life in Cali is… well, you’ll find out when you visit, HAHA!

I had planned a weekend at the amusement park, so we had quite a bit of money to spend. We s-h-o-p-p-e-d! We purchased things that were not available where we were from, t-shirts from a quaint independently owned boutique that after 5pm turns into a cocktail lounge. How can you imagine such things? You have to see it to believe it. 

 We got haircuts from a barber shop on the other side of town that was the first black shop in the area, owned by Mr. White. The original Mr. White was his great grandfather. My son had just turned 9, I wondered if he really was having a good time and what he was actually getting from this situation, because ideally we were going to the amusement park and staying the weekend at the Hilton. Now we’re riding in Ubers and the bus through neighbourhoods and cities with situations we are unfamiliar with. I thought I had failed drastically! Who wants him to remember how messed up his birthday was. I was so nervous not to disappoint him.

Now when watch IG reels & movies, we can say WE’VE BEEN THERE!

On the flight home he said ‘next year for my birthday I want to go to New York!’ I’ve been to NY many times so I was ecstatic!

I explained that, going to NY will be the birthday party, there won’t be both a party and travel.This also allowed me a whole year to plan the next event. The next year on the eve of his birthday we took a late night flight from San Francisco to New York. We landed in NY on the morning of his birthday and hit the pavement moving! I think everyone’s birthday should be a national holiday so I will always organise cake and ice cream (I know people all over the world, someone will show up to celebrate).

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We did everything on a budget, rode the subway train, walked through Central Park, went to Wall Street, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Harlem and Brooklyn and many other places that are cheap to access or for free. We also attended a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, we sat so far from the field the players looked like toy figurines, BUT WE WERE THERE! It’s the experience!

Life is a learning experience, we have to constantly find something educational or informative that will contribute to our well being and general knowledge.  

Now when we watch IG reels, or music videos and movies we can actually say we’ve been there and it really means something!

Travelling isn’t about how far or where you go, IT’S ABOUT GOING & EXPERIENCING THINGS

Annually since he was 9 on the eve of his birthday we are leaving for or arriving somewhere different. Local or far away, it’s about the journey life’s journeys of experiences!

As a parent I feel good when I show up for my children! With God’s grace I will continue to do so.

I’m not negating parties and family gatherings by far, I had birthday parties every year that I still have fond memories of and I hope these experiences contribute to fond memories of his childhood.

These are the experiences that mold children into well rounded adults. I don’t want my son to be overly fascinated by his girlfriend that talks about her excursions or family vacations and he lacks the ability to converse.

He won’t fall in the category of my boyfriend has never flown before or has never been outside of California or South Africa or anywhere else. He won’t have woes about what happens at the hotel check in because he’s had that experience, and a host of other experiences that all contribute to the fabrics of a man!   

The list of places he has experienced has been amazing, he can tell you that H&M in Times Square stays open until 2 a.m and Cape Town trees all lean a certain way because of the wind. He can tell you we’ve walked across the Brooklyn bridge from the Manhattan side and the list goes on and on. Economically in some cases I would have spent less money on an excursion than I would have spent planning a party at the arcade, paying per child to attend, buying pizzas and cool drinks, gift bags for the attendees, tokens for games, birthday cake, gifts, invitations and decorations, we are all familiar with how expensive these events can be. For that same amount of money (or less), he has experienced places and things in the world that others dream of.

Next year he will be 16, I’m considering sending him somewhere local with his homeboys and cousins. He will have to plan and make reservations for everything independently.

Let’s see how this works out! This will be the birthday of him learning how to plan and me watching his plans come into fruition.

Life is a journey and as parents we can create experiences that last a lifetime for our children and ourselves, we can learn and celebrate together! 

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Journey on! See y’all at the airport!

About Author

Jowhari Trahan is an artistic movement on two feet. She is an internationally recognized art curator, artistic director, writer and motivational speaker.

Her commentary column ZARIF SPEAKS focuses on women and offers fab insights on business, empowerment, family, dating, resilience and more!

📌 You can follow her on Instagram where she blogs from the account @zarifsoulye.