Group travel is in at the moment and X-Plaw Travel is one group-based travel company aimed at taking young South Africans outside their borders. Sandra Lopez is the Founder and Managing Director of the Pretoria-based company,
A firm believer in the power of “Africa by Africans”, through X-Plaw Sandra focuses on African destinations first for tourism and travel. Although it took a while to discover her passion, when she found it Sandra would work 9 hours after her day job building X-Plaw.
As Sandra grew up in an organisation for orphaned and abandoned children, she’s also passionate about giving back through her travel initiatives. Read on to find out how Sandra’s grooming a generation of travel-hungry South Africans.
How do you think X-Plaw Travel will disrupt the African travel industry?
By bringing great affordable quality valued tours and experiences to our customers. This is and has always been our mandate.
I believe that value is something which extends far beyond the monetary. It includes but is not limited to the type of service you give to your customers, how much you engage with them, how much you allow them to feel part of what you are building and how much you allow them to connect with the people they meet on these journeys.
Education is also a key factor for us, most of our travellers have not travelled outside of their home towns or outside of South Africa. For them to experience going out of the country for the first time with us, is an experience that even we get to appreciate with them.
In most instances, they return from these tours richer in knowledge having learnt something totally new about a different country and its people.
Why do you think young people should explore Africa more?
I am a firm believer of “Africa by Africans”, we are the only ones who have the power to change how our continent is perceived by the outside world. We are the only ones who can tell our stories better.
I feel that in many ways, Africa is being misrepresented by the global media. Half the time, this forces people to forget the beauty that surrounds us, sometimes even by ourselves.
Travelling thus gives us an opportunity to understand ourselves better as a people, our roots, our cultures, our heritage. It also paints a picture which allows us to understand vividly that we are all connected as Africans and as a human race in some way or the other.
Only when we are fully comfortable and confident with who we are, will it become much easier for us to invite other young people from other countries to experience this diversity with us.
How have you combined giving back initiatives with your travel company?
Giving back has always been at the fore of what we do as a company. It is actually something that is very personal to me. All our tours have give back initiatives tied to them.
On a 5-6 day tour for example, one day is dedicated to enriching the lives of the less fortunate. In countries where we are not able to actively engage in these initiatives due to certain constraints, we pledge the funds to local projects in South Africa.
We have also just launched the “One Traveller, One Child” initiative. Where for every traveller who tours with us, we will send a disadvantaged kid on a weekend camp educating them about nature, travelling and most importantly about themselves.
Hopefully in a few years, we would be able to look back and realise that we have groomed a generation rich with an appetite for travelling.
What did you have in place before you quit your engineering job to focus on X-Plaw?
A lot of things actually. An idea, passion, a sketchy plan and a few Bible verses, but mostly I had will power & determination. Nothing beats the will to want to succeed and see something grow from an idea into something tangible.
Every day after my 9-5 job, I would get home to read, research and work on X-Plaw for an additional 9 hours. This went on for a full year until I decided that I was ready to let go of one.
In what ways has your childhood shaped your passion today?
As a kid I was an all-rounder and an overachiever, which meant that with most academic subjects or activities I participated in, I excelled. This actually made it quite hard for me to discover what I truly was passionate about.
I grew up in an organisation called the S.O.S Children’s in Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg. It’s an organisation for orphaned and abandoned children. As ironic as it sounds, we were raised to believe in ourselves and to always extend a helping hand to others less fortunate.
We were extremely fortunate growing up at the village. After school we were kept busy with sports and extra mural activities. During school holiday we were fortunate enough to travel or go out camping.
This, in many ways is how my love for travelling started. However, I only truly discovered my passion for it much later in life.
In your opinion, what is needed to successfully travel in a group?
An open and curious mind. Travelling with an open mind gives you perspective, you see the world through different eyes, you appreciate things more. In some instances, you get to understand how little others have.
You also learn to be patient, as time almost no longer defines your schedules. You get to slow down and enjoy the moments.
Stay curious, by doing so you learn to expect the unexpected. And most of all, you learn something new every day.
Hey South African #MotherlandMoguls, the SheHive will be in Johannesburg from November 3-6. Find out more here.