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  • DEC 13, 2019
  • WRITTEN BY: Evie Stacey

It wasn't long ago that the term 'influencer' had little meaning. As I type this the word is underlined in red, showing that even word processing software is yet to acknowledge its existence. However, according to Business Insider, the 'influencer marketing' industry is currently worth around $8 million!

With the development of internet technology comes opportunities to work from anywhere in the world with a decent (ish) internet connection, and thus the age of bloggers, social media influencers, and digital nomads began. Influencing can appear in any industry, but as an experience gift platform, we're mostly interested in the impact of travel writers and photographers - those who seek out incredible experiences in every corner of the globe.

We've contacted several of South Africa's most prominent travel influencers to get their take on things, and for exclusive content that will have you researching your next trip with renewed vigour!

Dawn Jorgensen

Blog: The Incidental Tourist

Instagram: @dawnjorgensen

Dawn Jorgensen is the brains behind The Incidental Tourist, an award-winning travel blog that focuses on realistic recommendations for destinations around the world. With 42 countries under her belt and counting, Dawn is a leading authority on all things travel, so read on for an exclusive interview!

Hi Dawn, thanks for agreeing to chat with us. Where did your passion for travel stem from?

I appear to have been born with a desire to explore and experience as much as I can of this world. A deeply ingrained wanderlust that I hope never leaves me. The need to move, meet new people, become embodied in different cultures and to see and taste new things. Having grown up in the Free State where distance couldn’t factor into plans, my childhood is filled with travel memories. Whether driving to Golden Gate, spending a day on the river or making our annual pilgrimage to the coast. Whatever the destination, my parents gave it a sense of adventure, with a pile of eggie sandwiches and a flask of sweet coffee to match. I remember those times with much gratitude.

What inspired you to start The Incidental Tourist?

After more than a decade of running my own tour operating company organising bespoke dream holidays for high end clients, I sold it and took the brave decision to pursue a career as a travel writer, starting my blog in 2010. I needed to write, to share stories, to encourage travel, and the leap of faith to follow that dream, coupled with endless hard work has gifted me incredible opportunities over the past years.

Do you have any exciting trips in the future you can tell us about?

I have just returned from a trip to Singapore and Vietnam. It was my third time in Ho Chi Minh City, which I absolutely love and feel a deep connection with. Looking to the new year I plan to focus on writing in the first few months of 2020 as I have a couple of exciting projects on the go, but know for a fact that Lisbon beckons a return, and I have at least that plan in the making.

How has social media enabled you to develop your brand?

Without social media my profession would not exist. It is the backbone of what we do, where we share our journey and how we build the community that makes our vocation possible. 

If you could visit anywhere on Earth, where would you go?

Greenland, not least of all for the polar bears.

And finally, what would be your ideal experience to receive as a gift?

A day out with my Mom and Daughter, either being spoilt at a Spa or enjoying a High Tea. Both maybe, as there's nothing like a bit of pampering while I enjoy quality time with my two favourite women.

Justin Gous

Blog: Justin Uncorked

Instagram: @justin_uncorked

With a particular focus on the renowned South African wine industry, Justin Uncorked is a stylish blog that takes readers on a gastronomic journey round the country. We caught up with Justin Gous to talk all things wine, travel, and future goals.

Hi Justin, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! What was the inspiration behind Justin Uncorked?

My passion for the wine & spirits industry started back in 2009 when I was afforded the opportunity to work at different, well-renowned wine estates and producers in the Wine Valleys of the Western Cape in South Africa. This has motivated me to start something where I can freely express my love for wines & spirits as well as my experiences with the world. About 2 years ago I started an Instagram Page called Uncork & Talk, but I did not feel a personal connection to the name (I also did not want to hide behind a blog I was so anxiously trying to create & grow). Fast forward to the beginning of 2019 when Justin Uncorked found a voice, a new world and a blog. My motto has always been “Aspire to Inspire” and Justin Uncorked was the perfect name to live out my passion and inspire others without having to shy away from who I really am.

What do you love most about what do you?

The beauty of wine is that it connects people – and this is what I absolutely love. I get to meet so many people, all with different backgrounds and create beautiful memories. The liquor industry is forever changing and evolving – you learn something new & exciting every day. Amid blogging, I am also a full-time Supply Chain Analyst for a wine & spirits producer in South Africa.

Do you have any exciting plans for 2020 you can tell us about?

3 Things:

1 – Finish my Honours Degree 

2 – Travel to South East Asia and see Vietnam

3 – Grow within my professional career and expand my blog and website to a wider audience.  

If you could visit anywhere on Earth, where would you go?

Perhaps explore Milan in Italy – one of the ‘Big Four” fashion capitals (one day when I saved up enough)

Lastly, something we're asking everyone. What would be your ideal experience to receive as a gift?

The gift of travelling.

Hitekani Mbatsana

Blog: Blacks Do Swim 

Instagram: @blacksdoswim

Blacks Do Swim is a fantastic blog by Hitekani Mbatsana that smashes stereotypes and challenges the current narrative on casual racism. With work published in Women's Health and Sky News Magazine amongst others, Hitekani is an established writer who loves to travel and share her stories. Read on for our fabulous and informative interview!

Hi Hitekani, great to e-meet you! Where did your passion for travel stem from?

I have many fond memories of going on road trips as a family when I was a young girl, whether it was visiting family members across the country, going to the wild coast or exploring wild life reserves. We were always discovering places and stopping for snacks at view points. So I guess, I was always loved discovery.  I still love travel because it lets me leap outside my comfort zone and simply enjoy the ride.

What inspired you to start Blacks Do Swim?

When I started traveling out the country and participating in various adventure activities, people would say “do black people do that? “Oh, it’s not everyday you see black people....” Which of course is fallacious. So I started documenting my stories from my perspective to add colour to a location and dispel stereotypes. My blog “Blacks Do Swim” is a space to highlight various travel opportunities by sharing cultural and adventurous experiences in a fun, light hearted yet informative manner. 

That's incredible. Do you have any exciting trips in the future you can tell us about?

My next trip the beautiful Otter Trail, a popular 4 night hike along the Garden Route. I have heard plenty of great things about the experience and am lookout forward to ticking it off my list (even though it means I’ll have to rough it for a few nights). 

Finally, If you could visit anywhere on Earth, where would you go?

I’m fascinated by exploring wonders of nature and would love to visit places with volcanoes. Perhaps Iceland or Hawaii or Japan.

Leslie Caswell

Instagram: @lesliecaswell

With family in South Africa and the UK, Leslie splits his time amongst both countries capturing impactful images of the starkly contrasting land and cityscapes. With a catalogue of travel destinations including San Francisco, Jamaica, Cyprus, Barcelona and more, Leslie has photographed some of the most beautiful places on Earth - we caught up to chat about the travel photography industry and plans for the future!

Hi Leslie, thanks for talking with us! Where did your passion for photography stem from?

I was amazed at travel photos on Instagram and felt they inspired me to want to travel more. I started by doing a series called Cyclegram - I commuted around London on a bike and would take photos of London on the way. In time, I bought my first camera and the passion grew!

Do you have plans to go full-time or is travel photography a hobby?

Travel photography is a passion - I would definitely say it is a side-hustle. Love being able to do projects for brands and publications but don't want to feel compelled to take photos out of my style. 

Do you have any exciting trips in the future you can tell us about?

Visiting the Mother City this month but hoping to do a few more snow trips and Norway this year. Norway fjords is a priority of mine!

The fjords are pretty amazing! What are your personal opinions on social media travel influencing?

When it is the same shot over and over again I find it boring (Brooklyn bridge from Dumbo). You do have really interesting shots coming from the Apple Instagram Stories account and publications like Suitcase Mag. All about a new place, spot and story.

Opinions on the influencing industry are divided, but we think visiting new places and learning about cultures, countries, and people is one of the most humbling experiences possible. As more people choose memories over material items, it's now easier than ever to give a special someone an experience they'll remember for a lifetime. Thank you for reading!


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