Katchie Nzama did what everyone wishes they could dare to do – go out on a limb and follow a passion instead of a career. Without much of a plan, Nzama set out to create something that combined her passion for travel and discovering hidden gems, and doing it all on a budget. She started Travel with Katchie, a blog that focused on travelling on a budget while small towns across Africa. Her blog chronicles her epic treks from the sand dunes in Askham, Northern Cape, to the black beaches of Sao Tome and Principe just off the coast of West Africa, to floating on the wave-less Mediterranean sea in Sousse, Tunisia.
Then the Covid-19 virus reached pandemic levels in 2020, and drastically impacted South Africa’s tourism industry, among many others. And, of course, it grounded the Solo Wandera, Nzama. “COVID really killed my Adventure Traveler career,” she said. “I often joke that the pandemic forced me to live in 1 place for 2 years. I haven’t lived in one place for so long since 2005 when I finished high school.” Nzama has always been a nomad, preferring foreign horizons to the rooted stability of home. The lockdown that forced everyone inside away from people gave Nzama a clear perspective on how she wants to live. “After this pandemic, I know now more than ever I don’t want a life that does not revolve around travel,” she said.
Pinned to South Africa longer than she’s used to, Nzama had to find a way to bring travel back into her life and to chant on in her beer and culture journaling. Instead of mourning a lost career she imagined another way out. “You know how people say that when one door closes another opens,” she mused, “I figure that’s the case with Come Again.”
Come Again is SABC 1’s travelogue hosted by Nzama. It focuses on community tourism – a theme that’s perfectly suited for her. Not only did Nzama receive a nomination for best TV presenter at the 15th annual SAFTA Awards, the show won a SAFTA for best lifestyle show. “Honestly, I feel like this was my craziest achievement,” she said of the SAFTA nods, “but also such a privilege that showcased my work ethic, knowledge, and understanding of tourism marketing to travellers that require affordable travel which is a market of the industry often neglected.”
Nzama believes this neglected market will play a role in reviving South Africa’s devastated industry and the tourism sector needs to appeal to them if it wants to stage its come back. “As an industry, we have to get out of our comfort zone in marketing and communicating destinations to local travellers.”
While she’s at home, Nzama keeps herself sane and busy by pursuing a new hobby every year. “I have come to learn that exercise is the best form of antidepressant, so in my bid to avoid taking medication for mental health reasons, I take up new hobbies every year.” In 2021 she got a swimming coach to help her perfect her stroke which will come in hand when she becomes an open water swimmer and scuba diver. This year she took up a childhood hobby she never mastered – roller skating. “I bought myself a pair of roller skates for Christmas and joined the local roller derby – The Golden City Rollers,” she said. Having never played team sports, she’s finding the experience of learning to manoeuvre life on eight wheels fun. “I love having hobbies. They keep me busy and always excited to look forward to a tomorrow, especially now when there is no travel and the economy is in a slump.”
Reflecting on what she has already achieved, Nzama recognises her influence on the travel scene (and rightly so). “I have laid the foundation for African travel bloggers and influencers to thrive in their respective ways,” she said. “But,” she admits, “I find myself in a position where I have laid the foundation for African travel bloggers and influencers to thrive in their respective ways. But there’s a lot more to be done.”
Not one to let a less than perfect situation get the better of her, Nzama has mapped a route for her adventure traveller future. She’s planning on reviving her adventure travel career soon and also venturing into some new territories. “Right now, at the top of my list, [are] African travel documentaries that I will research, present and produce.” In 2024, she’ll be marking the decade anniversary of her Cape to Cairo trip with another one. She also plans on opening a museum that celebrates all things African beer, something she is remarkably passionate about returning to its pre-colonial roots.