Cape Town based wedding photographer, Monica Dart, is a seasoned traveller and have been to no fewer than 25 countries, visiting 84 major cities. She has called London, Singapore, Israel and Los Angeles home. So it’s safe to say Monica knows how to navigate her way through almost any destination. Her experiences abroad has enriched her life immensely, making her more grateful and tolerant, and quite frankly super interesting to talk to.
Monica is a warm, bubbly, free-spirited person with a smile as big as her heart. She takes the same free-spirited approach to travelling, “winging it” 9 times out of 10, preferring to discover little hidden gems off the beaten track, where she’s able to meet and spend time with the locals.
She remembers very clearly when she first became mesmerized by the idea of travelling, “I was in Std 9 and I heard a travel talk by a man called Hylton Ross, who now owns the company with the same name. I remember him speaking with such enthusiasm about Europe, he had everyone on the edge of their seats…”
Inspired by Hylton’s talk, Monica made it her life’s mission to get on a plane to explore the big wide world. Monica shares some of her very valuable travel tips and advice with us.
What is your best piece of advice for other travellers visiting a foreign country for the first time?
What is your secret to “stress-free travels”, if indeed there is such a thing?
Do you have a favourite destination?
Cuba is my ultimate destination….the place that inspires me so much because of the energy, people, colour and history. It has a sense of being set in a time warp…and one of the few places without Starbucks and McDonald’s! The mere thought of being back there makes my heart race. The first time I was there was in the summer of 2008…and I was hooked! I’m currently working on a documentary photo book on Cuba which has been on hold…. I’ll be venturing back there in a few months to finish it, so squeezing in a quick crash-course in Spanish before then.
And which countries are still on your bucket-list?
Zanzibar and Morocco have been on my mind for a while. I want to understand and explore more of Africa.
What is in your overnight bag on long haul flights?
Do you have any rituals/ a routine during a long flight?
Travelling has made me a kinder and more generous person because I’ve seen a lot of poverty, and met many people that have so little and are still smiling. It has given me an appreciation and gratitude for what I have, and as a result I really don’t ‘sweat the small stuff’ anymore. It has made me a better listener because everyone I’ve met wants to be validated, and has a ‘story’ about their life that they want to share. It has opened my mind and my life to opportunities beyond my wildest imagination, and made me realise that no dream is too big, or too far out of reach. There is magic out there…
What are your best tips for travelling on a budget?
How do you keep important documents organised ?
I photocopy documents like air tickets, passport, ID and keep a copy in my suitcase and hand luggage. A good tip is to take photos of all these documents with your phone.
What gadgets can’t you travel without?
My ipad comes in handy especially for long transfers…my iphone for music, and my kindle. I especially recommend a kindle as you can download travel books before you arrive in a new city…and it doesn’t have the weight of a book!. My brother recently gave me an iwalk Extreme portable phone charger which gives up to 5 full battery charges to iphone and ipad (due out in stores in SA in September). That’s really usually when you see your battery is on 5% and there is nowhere to charge it.