About Me

My Story...

To put it simply, I’m just a regular dude that loves to travel. I have nothing special and there’s no angle to what I’m trying to write. I’m not a guy that’s thrown it all away and converted to full time adventure, although I totally commend the individuals that have and wish I had the cojones to do so. I’m not someone that’s trying to start his own business or make a living off this blog by showing the world how to travel and blog and travel some more and write a book and travel some more. While I am a backpacker at heart, and prefer to spend my money on experiences rather than luxury, I’m not writing about “how to travel on $50 a day” because frankly, that is a bit ridiculous in some parts of the world. I think there are too many travelers that obsess over how to spend the least amount of money possible that they spend all their thoughts on what they spent for the day and forget why they went traveling in the first place, to experience the world. Sure, if you’re 21 and broke, then it’s understandable but otherwise, traveling is a privilege, not a right, and requires a bit of money.

What I am is simply a regular guy, that lives in New York City (still the best), works full time, and just loves to experience what this beautiful world has to offer. My blog is nothing more, nothing less, than my travel experiences. I like to write in a lot of detail with plenty of pictures so hopefully the wonderful experiences I’ve had, will inspire you, the reader, to perhaps want and seek the same. Let’s face it, not all of us are keen to drop everything and travel indefinitely. It’s regular life for 99.9% of us, but that shouldn’t hold us back from getting out of our comfort zone and seeing the world.

My Time in Africa...

This blog was originally created in 2013 when I was taking a job offer to go to South Africa. I figured, I didn’t want to be a one trick pony and wanted to do more than just post to Facebook & Instagram. I wanted to really write and document my experiences living in South Africa (which there weren’t many blogs serving this purpose), and write about all the stunning places in Africa. South Africa is an incredible country, I absolutely loved it. It’s not without its own problems of course, but from an outsiders perspective, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience working and living abroad.

Kids just flock to me for some reason…

 

I have since moved back to America, but not before I visited 12 countries in Africa and then some. Whether it was gorilla trekking in Uganda, watching the migration in the Serengeti,  hitch-hiking to the most beautiful beaches in the world in Mozambiqueor trying to (unsuccessfully) climb the other-worldly giant baobab trees in Madagascar, I was lucky enough to do everything I wanted to do while in Africa.

Why Still Johnny Africa?

So why is the name of this blog “Johnny Africa” when I’m no longer in Africa? Good question, I’ve thought about changing the name to something cheesy like “Johnny Meets World”. When I was 25, I had only been to 3 countries in the world. I suppose I was never that interested, which is the American mentality sadly, and just didn’t know what was out there. After taking a trip to Thailand with my wonderful girlfriend, I was hooked. This is Thailand by the way, the most touristy country in the world. I would take the occasional trip given my vacation allotment at work but it was not until I moved to Africa that I really got bit by the travel bug.

sunset okavango delta africa

Sunset in the Okavango Delta

I traveled all throughout my time living in South Africa and working. After my stint in South Africa finished, I spent five straight months traveling the continent and while that may not seem like much compared to some of the people I’ve met (here’s looking at you my European and Aussie gap year friends), this is no small deal for someone trying to make a career in the American corporate world! I’ve now been to almost 40 countries and while I work full time, I no longer waste my time off taking “staycations” but spend it all traveling the world. I do, however, look forward to my next multiple month travel stint as that is what real traveling feels like!

Svinafellsjokull iceland

Going about as far away from South Africa as possible here at Svinafellsjokull in Iceland!

So with that in mind, I decided to keep this name because it was Africa that really sealed the deal for my love to travel. It holds a special place in my heart and there’s nowhere else I’ve traveled in the world that quite compares to the things I’ve experience on this continent. Plus, I think it sounds kind of catchy!

So with that said, enjoy my travel experiences, my time as an ex-pat in South Africa, and please leave a comment if you like what you see and/or have any questions about planning your trip!

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Showing 30 comments
  • Joe
    Reply

    Johnny,
    Great blog! Excellent writer. You educate and captivate with your travels. Helps prepare me for the places I will be visiting in a few months.
    How do you take care of laundry and staying in shape while you’re on the road?

    Keep up the great writing! Happy Lunar New Year!

    Cheers,
    Joe

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Thanks Joe! I’ve actually moved back stateside so my nomad days were short lived :(. As far as laundry goes, there are so many wash services in other countries that will wash your clothes for cheap, or I’d just wash it with some soap myself. Staying in shape . . . is not so easy. Lifting is almost always out of the question so it would just be body weight exercises here and there. However, I was either always diving, or exploring some new place so I always got plenty of cardio in!

  • Bryany
    Reply

    Your blog is so amazing!
    I am going to South Africa in 6 weeks, I was born in Durban and moved to Australia when I was 5, so a lot has changed and so have I!
    I am extremely into gym so you helped me with your nandos post aswell as the gym culture there!
    what are the best gyms for Joberg, cape town and Durban ? do they have PTs? and can you get like a week free trial or pay as you go?

    Thank you
    🙂

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Hi thanks for the kind words! I’ve met quite a few people born in SA that moved to Australia around the end of Apartheid living in America actually! There aren’t that many gym options in SA but the best options are Virgin Active and Planet Fitness. Virgin Active is probably my go to and the one in Sandton is still probably one of the nicest gyms I’ve seen around. The Virgin active in Seapoint, Cape Town is also very nice so would start there. Virgin only gives you a one time pass (maybe two if you ask for it)! Enjoy!

  • Steve
    Reply

    Amazing job on this blog! Will be heading back to SA in a few months time for a 2 year assignment. Your posts on apartment hunting, car purchase, and service providers will be a huge help to me. Thanks for all the info and shortcuts! Out of curiosity, what industry were you working in while there?

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Hi again Steve, I was working in the banking sector. Lived in Sandhurst Towers and was walking distance to work. Your first few months in SA will certainly be interesting but it will ultimately be so very rewarding and you will love it. Let me know how things go!

  • Adam
    Reply

    Oh and if I can ask, did you want to stay here longer than the 2.5 years? I’m assuming you worked 2 then traveled the 5 months. Curious what led you to move back? Gave yourself a deadline? My commitment is open-ended so I can technically stay or go whenever.

    • Johnny
      Reply

      I actually had an open ended contract too but I set a hard timeline for myself and decided it was time to move on after almost 2 years. Johannesburg is no NYC and you miss the big city life after living the tamed suburban life in Joburg.

      Plus I had traveled everywhere I wanted to travel in Africa so I wasn’t staying for that anymore. Nevertheless, my time in Africa was definitely the highlight of my life up to this point!

  • Adam
    Reply

    Thanks man! I’m in East London (about 3 hours east of PE). Those 5 months of travel must have been absolutely incredible. So cool! Fortunately I’ve done the Garden Route from EL to CT and did the bungee jump on the way. What a thrill!

    I know exactly what you mean about need. I felt the same since my first trip here in 2011. I even heard a girl one time say “I wish I was hungrier so I could eat all this food.” …………… :-\

    Glad to hear about NYC…and helps to know it wasn’t a difficult at all. Wish I was back there to watch March Madness!

  • Adam
    Reply

    Awesome blog and very helpful! I lived in NYC (UWS) for 6+ years before leaving my job at JPMorgan in June 2014 to volunteer here in South Africa. I’m here until at least December, but probably more.

    Great advice on the site! As a volunteer, I don’t have the finances to travel as much, but can live vicariously through you, ha! The new website layout looks great.

    Have you moved back to NYC? I desperately miss the city. What was the transition back like? Thanks again for all the info!

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Adam, that’s awesome you’re doing what you’re doing. Far better man than I. Where you based out of right now?

      I took about 5 months off to travel after my stint in SA before coming back to the states and I had thought about volunteering in Mozambique but never got around to it.

      Coming back to the states has been pretty straight forward. Nothing surprising. NYC hasn’t changed at all, and I find the change to be pretty easy, especially considering the slow pace of life in SA. I will say that having traveled to so many places in Africa really opens up my eyes to what good of a life we lead here, and makes you wonder how people in Africa are so happy and yet they KNOW they have so little, while we in America complain endlessly about the smallest of things. Most of our problems are not real problems. I suppose that’s one thing I’ve been realizing.

      But anyway, hope you enjoy the rest of your time in SA and hope you can see at least something besides the pictures on this blog 🙂

      • Adam

        Thanks man! I’m in East London (about 3 hours east of PE). Those 5 months of travel must have been absolutely incredible. So cool! Fortunately I’ve done the Garden Route from EL to CT and did the bungee jump on the way. What a thrill!

        I know exactly what you mean about need. I felt the same since my first trip here in 2011. I even heard a girl one time say “I wish I was hungrier so I could eat all this food.” …………… :-\

        Glad to hear about NYC…and helps to know it wasn’t a difficult at all. Wish I was back there to watch March Madness!

  • Alena
    Reply

    Hi John! I love your blog.. well done!! I remember your 48 hours European trips but written down they look even better 🙂 Seeing the pics from Africa and reading about your discoveries made me want to go and see all those places you write about. Its great to see that you made truly the best out of your stay in Africa and that you are doing so well. Keep your blog alive, share your new adventures!! Next time you set your foot in Europe, make sure to reach out.. greetings from Geneva, Alena

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Alena! So good to hear from you. It’s been awhile. I definitely made the most of my time in Africa and saw everything that I wanted to see. Glad to have inspired you to visit and when you do, you will know who to contact first :).

  • Clara
    Reply

    So where are the best schools? Only kidding! We are moving to SA with kids but we also love travelling so I will enjoy reading your posts and learning about some of the places we may (or may not – depending how child friendly they are!) be able to go. I have just been drooling over your photos of the beaches in Mozambique….

    • Johnny Chen
      Reply

      Welcome to SA Clara! You will love it! Mozambique indeed has the nicest beaches I’ve ever seen 🙂 Perhaps not the best place to take your kids as it is a bit pricey to get to the really nice beaches and not developed. Best enjoyed as a couples getaway! Don’t worry though, SA has PLENTY of great places for your kids. Enjoy your time!

  • Pamela
    Reply

    Whilst I find your view on SA interesting, I dare say the Burger King here tastes nothing like the crap burgers served in the states. I spent a year in Washington DC and the food has absolutely no taste… the Burger King here will do great, cause our meat in SA tastes awesome….
    Pamela

    • Johnny Chen
      Reply

      I’m not even going to lie about this but I have been to Burger King not one, not two, but THREE times now! Perhaps I just miss American fast food but I find it better than Steers or the McD here.

      • Pamela

        Well Johnny i assure u the food here is amazing! Yiu can actually taste the natural goodness of the fruit n veg! Enjoy ur SA expierience, i know a lot of people who have moved here from the USA and refuse to go bck! SA is first world and def not third world my friend! I am widely travelled and SA offers the best of everything! Food, housing, vehicles and our infrastructure is world class! Our financial institutions are one of the most sophisticated in the world! Trust you will keep an open mind when u commenting on our beautiful country

  • Deidre
    Reply

    My husband accidentally stumbled across this blog whilst Googling for a gym.. Its great to read about all of these experiences through the eyes of an American :). Keep on blogging and enjoy this crazy place we call home!

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Thanks Deidre! I’m glad you like the blog. So far so good with me in Joburg!

  • Abigail
    Reply

    Having experienced the same gap of electronic wisdom whilst preparing for my move to Joburg, I was very happy to find your blog! I laughed to myself about many of the things you said that I can relate to (visa, weather, suburb v city life, etc) and I’ve said the same things to friends about the Brooklyn comparisons! Nicely done, I’ll be keeping up.

    • Johnny Chen
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment! Glad you’re liking the blog!

  • Brandy
    Reply

    NO WAY!!! This is awesome Mr.Chen. I will be following along for sure.

  • Sean Hallerud
    Reply

    South Africa here we come!

  • Din Chen
    Reply

    Very Exciting, Son. Keep documenting.

  • Erica Broadwell
    Reply

    Can’t wait to come visit!

  • Robert Wang
    Reply

    Dude sweet. Being an ex-pat is so cool, kind of like a Federation officer visiting an alien planet. New culture, new life forms, new food! Try the gagh!

  • Lacey
    Reply

    This is fantastic, JChen! Can’t wait to follow along!

pingbacks / trackbacks
  • […] Fancy stalking rhinos, hanging out with lions and lunching with hippos check out more of the Mara on Johnny Africa’s second game drive, and head on down to his blog . Currently enjoying a career move from the US to sunny South Africa Johnny also has heaps more information to share on travel and living the ex-pat life in the Rainbow Nation […]

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