Sbahle Mkhize – travel diaries of a South African expat in China

Posted on 23 November 2023 By Nomvelo Masango

Travelling has the potential to fill one’s soul and to grant an unimaginable kind of growth.

For 30-year-old Sbahle Mkhize, travelling both locally and internationally has given her all this and more.

The English teacher, content creator and travel enthusiast has been staying in China full-time since early 2019.

Sbahle Mkhize - A South African expat in China

Image: Supplied

An undying love for South Africa

Before her relocation, she had travelled many parts of South Africa. This experience further fueled her love and enthusiasm for travel. Being a proud South African at heart, Mkhize believes that the country’s food scene and sense of community will always set it apart.

‘What I love about South Africa is that I will always find my people. I’ll always find a place where I can relate and connect with people. We also have the best food,’ she said.

The travel enthusiast further added that her favourite place in South Africa is Durban, simply because of all that it has to offer.

‘It is the perfect combination of the things I love. I love the beach and to be near the water watching the sunset. I also love the mountains, hiking and just good weather. So, Durban gives you a combination of that’.

Blossoming through travel

Having been an English teacher in China for almost five years, Mkhize believes that taking the leap to relocate has contributed immensely to her overall growth.

‘I’ve really evolved as a woman. I’m doing all these things that I never thought I would do. I create content. I am a primary school teacher while I started off in kindergarten.

In short, it has been the evolution of Sbahle; blossoming into someone that I didn’t think I would be when I first left South Africa’

Moreover, the travel bug has still not let go of Mkhize, even in China. She has been able to explore various parts of China including Beijing, Hefei, Liyang, Ningbo, Nanjing and Hangzhou and Sanya, which is on her list of favourites.

‘Sanya is also known as the Bali of China because it really looks like Bali. It is so beautiful and peaceful. Serene oceans and just gorgeous mountains,’ she added.

Some of her favourite attractions include The Great Wall of China which she visited when she was in Beijing.

‘It is absolutely magnificent. I highly recommend it to someone who’s coming to China for the first time.

I’ve been there twice. It was a major bucket list thing and a moment of wow’.

While on the Asian continent, Mkhize has also had the opportunity to travel to Thailand.

‘The best food I’ve had was in Thailand, if I’m being honest. I enjoy the flavours more because they have similarities to the food at home.  We are heavy on the flavours, the garlic and curry powder.’

Sbahle Mkize - a South African expat in China

Image: Supplied

She looks forward to exploring other international destinations and all which they have to offer.

No place like home

Although exploring different destinations has been nothing short of fun and exciting for Mkhize, there have been a few disadvantages and differences which she has had to adapt to.

‘Honestly, people might wonder if I’m going to speak on the racism but that hasn’t been the biggest problem when travelling.

I think one of the most frustrating things is the number of people that are in spaces, especially during holidays. The population here is so high, getting to places during holidays is a nightmare. Things such as hotels and tickets sell out really fast,’ she said.

She has also had her moments of being homesick and eagerly awaits her upcoming trip to South Africa.

‘I really miss my family. It’s so important to have people who know the core of you. People here in China (other expats) see me as a grown-up.

I miss having people that I can cry to and be a child around, instead of having to always stay strong and focused’.

As someone who loves people and feeds off their energy, the content creator and travel enthusiast added that she also misses the sense of ubuntu and just being able to connect with strangers on common ground.

Ultimately, Mkhize encourages people to travel and explore the world, even if it means doing it alone.

She also advocates for being intentional, doing research and planning ahead for everything including activities and even outfits.

‘It saves you so much time when getting ready. You want to spend less time in your hotel room and more time exploring outside.

Plus, the pictures are better’.

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