Me at Top of Africa, the tallest building in the continent.
Of all the places in the world, why here?
As I wrote in my previous post, I am traveling abroad until the end of June. I’m spending half of my time in Johannesburg, South Africa.
After visiting last May for a few days, I knew that I wanted to return. I fell in love with the stylish and warm but about-their-business people, the vibrancy and the hustle and bustle of the city and the surrounding townships and the diverse culture. It’s not perfect. Like any city, it has its many issues. But the most important thing is that I felt at home being here. As a native of New York City, I see many parallels between my hometown and Johannesburg. Like in New York, many come from all over the continent to study, work and enjoy what this city has to offer. The great part is that it costs much much less to live here.
As a Black person, I blend in. Some people can tell that I may not be South African upon looking at me but it’s still a wonderful feeling being in a place where I am the majority of the population. Although English is one of the national languages, you still hear many of the people speaking their native tongues to each other. Many people wear clothes that would be seen as popular in the U.S. and Europe, but you will still see individuals incorporating prints, African hairstyles and jewelry into their dress. And although they do bump alot of American hip-hop and love Jamaican dancehall at parties, most of the music played at a club I went to recently, was South African house music, local hip-hop and other sounds throughout the continent which reign supreme here. I’m 7,000 miles away from home and very aware of how American I am, but I often forget that I am in a “foreign” place, because I don’t feel alienated here.
So maybe you’re thinking about doing a long-term trip but you’re concerned about money? I can’t speak for all cities, but cost of living here is a much smaller
fraction of the price that it costs to live in New York City. If I chose to live here permanently, I can lease an empty studio for $400/a month or purchase for under $40,000 (I rented a furnished spot on Airbnb for the month at $700) in the neighborhood that I am living in called Maboneng. My apartment building has a parking lot in it and there are restaurants and cafes along the bottom of the complex and on the blocks surrounding. I am also located in a central location so I am close to all happenings. Eating and going out for drinks is also not much on my pockets. I can get a takeaway meal of South African Braai (BBQ) of chicken and steak and sides for less than $5 and be more than full.
Dinner at a restaurant like Che below was $16 for half-chicken, potatoes, veggies and a maragarita. Top shelf cocktail drinks at lounges nearby me that have a cool ambiance can be purchased for anywhere between $3 to $5. Beers are about $1 and change. And that’s not even happy hour. My Uber trips are about $1 a mile and they are very very reliable. In Brooklyn, they are about $7 to $9 a mile. So with housing, food and transportation being so much cheaper, I am more than comfortable here. Also it is currently Autumn here but the weather has been in the high 80s during the day 60s-70s at night.
The only catch is that it is very costly to travel here from the states. It can run anywhere from $800-$1000 round trip on average for a flight. But by the time you arrive you won’t be spending alot on enjoying yourself at all. Back in September, I bought my ticket from NYC to Johannesburg with my ticket from Johannesburg to Madrid and spent $654 altogether. My advice is to buy early and if you have time to kill, find another city perhaps in Europe to visit that would get you a cheaper return back to the states. The truth is that it’s cheaper to spend a few thousand traveling for 2-3 months straight. It’s like going to Costco and BJs and buying in bulk because you’re consuming the items much faster as opposed to spreading the trips out over time.
Later on in my journey when I spend three weeks in London, I will be renting a flat in the outer boroughs of the city that will be under $200 a week, which is about the same price as what I’m paying now in Jozi. But I will not have my own bathroom, kitchen and basically the luxury of living in the central part of the city. This is not a surprise as London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live.
So if you’re a person interested in long-term travel, whether that be 3 weeks or 3 years, consider a place that you want to further immerse yourself and also has a cost of living that is much less than it is back home.
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