Wendy Watta is living what many would consider the dream – travelling the world, meeting new people, trying new cuisines, and exploring different cultures. This 24 year old recently took the plunge and left her nine-to-five job to run her blog full time whilst providing consultancy and content for various local and international publications, as well as digital marketing services within the tourism industry. Ayiba’s Sanet Oberholzer recently had a chat with her to find out the challenges of the job, travel advice, planned adventures, and what Africa means to her.
How did you end up becoming a lifestyle journalist?
I’ve always been very passionate about writing, photography, and media as a whole. My first feature got published in a national Ugandan newspaper when I was 13 and that solidified journalism as my chosen field. Fresh out of high school I started this magazine for teenagers but didn’t really understand the business side so we did two issues and folded. I went off to university for Communications to better equip myself for the industry.
I’ve worked for various publications in this region but more recently worked as editor of Yummy Magazine by EatOut Kenya. Aspects of that were very fun, like constantly checking out bars and restaurants in the city, going to wine tastings, networking with other industry insiders and creating such a beautiful and significant magazine for foodies in the city. You could say my passion for new media was honed during my time there. I’m now focusing on creating my dream job for myself.
Did you find it a difficult field to break into?
Not really, because I was a master at networking and had a large body of published work. In fact, during my university days, I probably concentrated more on getting published, shadowing photographers and editors, and researching what was going on in the industry. I was always late for classes because I was always working, but I had a decent full time job at Drum and True Love Magazines as well as freelancing gigs by the time I was graduating so I guess it paid off [laughs].
Your life as a lifestyle journalist seems to be the perfect career for those of us cursed with the wanderlust bug. It is easy to imagine the countless pros of this life but what are the cons that one doesn’t see in the pictures and read about in the blogs posts filled with glamour and adventure?
Traveling is so much fun but since I’m also working, sometimes I get so caught up in taking pictures of people, food, and more because a large part of the job is sharing the experience – I want my audience to discover what’s out there and go explore it for themselves. Anyway, in so doing, sometimes I think I don’t fully immerse myself in the environment as I ought to.
Do you sometimes get home and think to yourself, “this job is making me tired?”
I think you would only make such proclamations if you’ve gotten to the point where your job doesn’t fulfil or bring you joy any more, and that is something we all probably experience at some point in our lives. Despite being miserable, some continue in that drudgery for the stability or paycheck at the end of the month. Some yet take risks and make moves to pursue things that make their worlds colourful, and that’s the state I’m currently in. I might feel exhausted after a day’s work, but because I’m absolutely in love with what I’m doing right now, it’s never anything a good night’s sleep can’t cure.
Would you want to get married and have children one day and do you think you will be able to juggle that with this type of career?
I’m 24 right now so I’m not in a rush to settle down in the traditional sense. Sometimes I find myself looking out onto the most magical view or experiencing something absolutely incredible and can’t help thinking, “man, it would be great to be in this moment with someone special”. One downside of constantly being on the road is that you have periods where you’re away quite a bit – like I’ll be away for the next 4 weeks – and that might put a strain on a relationship. You also meet amazing people while travelling and end up only being lifelong virtual friends because your paths are so far apart it seems unlikely they will ever collide any time soon. But, I’m bound to connect with someone at some point in my life, and all you can do is let the chips fall where they may.
Away from that, it’s just a great time to be a young African girl in the digital space and to be being part of the new crop of Africans sharing their perspective of the continent with the world, away from what international media has for so long been depicting about our continent, and away from primary school history books which tell young kids that some foreigner discovered Mount Kenya like there were no people living in that community in the first place.
I enjoy curating content and it is my hope that these will inspire people to want to travel because travel is just such a beautiful thing and the growth of tourism, which is still one of the top sources of foreign exchange earnings across the continent, will boost economies and create jobs. Some still see leaving the traditional nine-to-five life to travel as just a millennial phenomenon but people are making it work, and while not everyone can take such ‘risks’, everyone should strive to see the world.
You have your passions – travel, food, meeting new people – but what is something else that you are passionate about?
I went through a whole period of living on take-out despite the fact that I could cook. I’m rediscovering my passion for it and love to whip out my mom’s old recipes and experiment in the kitchen. I now almost exclusively drink only wine – merlot and malbec to be exact – and love to collect. More like hoard, to be honest [laughs]. There’s something about taking pictures in a bathing suit at the beach that will motivate anyone to get serious about working out, and yoga and swimming are my current drugs, especially since I can practise wherever I happen to be. I also love wildlife, nature, and the outdoors. Wait, is scrolling through photos on Instagram a passion? [laughs]
You’re currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. If I was to spend one day in Nairobi, what are the spots that I definitely cannot miss? Where would you recommend I go?
I really like Brown’s Cheese Farm in Tigoni, about a half an hour’s drive from the city. You get to go on a tour to learn how cheese is made, spin fresh mozzarella, make your own pizza, and explore the beautiful garden. They also make products unique to the region, for instance a black cheese made from Maasai goat’s milk which is really interesting.
If one wants to check out a café then they should definitely go to Wasp and Sprout which is currently one of my favourites in Nairobi. The couple who own it turned their interior décor showroom into a café. Walking in, they have some incredible wall art, furniture and much more, plus you can order a coffee and some bomb waffles.
This is so cliché, but check out the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Nairobi National Park, especially if you could combine the latter with the social barbeque affair by Ole Sereni Hotel. You can go to the Giraffe Manor and sit down for breakfast and a giraffe might pop its head through the windows and join you at your table. They’re always booked though! I would recommend people watching from atop the KICC, especially during rush hour and as the sun sets over the city.
What is your best travel tip?
You don’t have to put off travel because your heart is set on the Maldives, Thailand or Paris which seem so out of reach, then get frustrated. Don’t get me wrong, these are all places on my bucket list too, but you can venture out and start with the environment around you. How many people in Nairobi have never actually been to Nairobi National Park? We have fantastic beaches in Diani, and if you can’t afford a trip to Morocco just yet, head down to Lamu for your dose of moorish architecture, rich food, and authentic indigenous culture. Africans should also travel around the continent more and I’m so excited about more of us getting the all-Africa passport. It sucks that presently, European and American passport holders have easier access to the continent while only about 13 countries offer liberal access to other Africans.
You’re blog’s caption is “always going somewhere” – where are you off to next?
This year, I’m excited to share what Africa has to offer, including places that don’t necessarily come to mind when you think about tourism. I guess you will have to follow me on Instagram for real time updates!
I saw that you went skydiving recently…
Yes! That was the number one item on my bucket list for so long! Afterwards I felt invincible, like I had lived. Like, if I die now then my mom should not be sad because I have jumped off a plane for no apparent reason hence was cooler than Jason Statham. Seriously though, it just signified that everything is ‘figureoutable’, and you can literally do anything you put your mind to.
What other big things have you got planned that are on your bucket list?
I’m all about Africa this year. I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf – which I did. I really want to bungee off the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa, which is the highest commercial bridge bungee in the world. I’ll be climbing Mount Kenya soon, which is really exciting! I’d like to take a hot air balloon ride across the Maasai Mara, see the pyramids in Egypt, eat injera and doro wot in Ethiopia, go gorilla tracking in Rwanda, check out Senegal just because, dance to lingala music in Congo, kiss someone in a South African vineyard, strut through Morocco, and so much more!
My last question – and this is my favourite question – I want to know what does Africa mean to you?
Goodness…I love Africa! The continent is beautiful. There’s so much culture and heritage and things to do and people to meet. You can cross the border into a totally different culture! I just really love this continent: African fashion, food, languages – I’m legit just so happy to be here and experience what’s going on firsthand. Like I said earlier, it’s a great time to be a young African girl in the digital space and to be part of the new crop of Africans sharing their perspective of the continent with the world.
Follow Wendy at:
Watta on the Go: http://wattaonthego.com//