Johannesburg event focuses on S. Africa's people, culture


InsightLearning and celebrating local culture and connecting with the local community are among the main goals of a pioneering new initiative that will see some 40 U.S. travelers exposed to an exclusive and intimate travel experience in Johannesburg this October.

San Francisco-based media company Afar Experiences is launching a four-day event in Johannesburg to connect travelers with the South African city's politics, arts, architecture, food, design, business and anthropology, among other characteristics.

This initiative is a firm example of "meaningful travel," which is about experiencing a destination through the eyes of locals, according to Afar co-founder Greg Sullivan. Meaningful travel relates to travel that will make a lasting impact on one's life; an opportunity to think about the experiences ahead as opposed to what can be brought back in one's suitcase.

"We want to give travelers the opportunity to really see Johannesburg and to truly engage with and talk to people they might not otherwise have met."

This is the second such initiative run by Afar, the first having been in Cairo at the height of the Arab spring protests. "In addition to experiencing the revolution firsthand, we also saw the need to help the people of Egypt through tourism. When most travelers were avoiding the destination because of the revolution, we wanted to support Egypt, creating an event that would bring travelers together in Cairo to see that city through the eyes of a local."

In the case of Johannesburg, said Sullivan, travelers will have an opportunity to learn about the city's 18 years of democracy. Highlights will include a private dinner at Lilliesleaf farm, former headquarters of the African National Congress (the country's governing political party) and safe house to Nelson Mandela; an exclusive visit to the Apartheid Museum with activist John Kani; and an intimate look inside the studio and collections of award-winning South African fashion designer David Tlale.

Mark Read will host an intimate discussion about South African artists in his stunning gallery, while Mark Valentine, owner of the Amatuil emporium, will guide travelers through the rich collection of African art he's personally sourced from the African continent.

"Afar has really been a pioneer in creating this kind of event for curious travelers," Sullivan said. "We feel so deeply that travel is a chance for discovery, personal growth and celebration of different places and perspective. It's fantastic to see where travel can take you, and we believe this event will really offer guests a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

The South Africa experience takes place Oct. 8 to 11; Sullivan confirms that additional such experiences will be rolled out worldwide, notjust in Africa, where the initiative first launched.

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