South Africa | How our honeymoon changed us

We know it’s cliche to say that a trip to Africa changed our perspective on everything but, it did. Not just because it was our first time or because it was our honeymoon but because South Africa is where the idea for rich & REGULAR was born. Yes, while enjoying a glass of South African wine, sitting on a patio with Table Mountain just over the horizon the big idea popped in our minds and that night, we began talking about what life would be like if we did this…forever.

What would happen if we shared deeply personal thoughts about money, reflections on feminism, masculinity, the modern day workplace, race, class and this whole FIRE movement thing from our perspective. At that moment, we felt our worlds bending as old beliefs of what our lives could be like made room for new ones.

But even outside of the context of this blog, we reflect on our time in South Africa often. First, it was the longest time either of us had ever been on a truly unplugged vacation. Secondly, at this point in our lives, it was the most money we’d ever spent on anything together. Lastly, and most importantly, it was truly the embodiment of a dream come true. We’d planned this trip down to every last detail so when we actually got there, it was surreal.

Since then, we’ve shared our itinerary with a few people and some have actually taken some of our recommendations. So to save us a step, we’ll also share some links and recommendations below. Squeezing it all into one long blog post would make your head explode so we’ll focus mostly on the highlights below.

WARNING: The following content is filled with drip, luxury and the polar opposite of frugal living. Sorry not sorry.

Johannesberg- (Day 1 through 6)

We flew Delta’s longest direct flight (17 hours) from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport to O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg [aka Joburg]. For the record, we didn’t fly first or biz class either. Instead, we chose to fly in the first row of coach where there was a wall in front of us giving us plenty of space to stretch our legs. It was a fraction of the cost and one of the best decisions ever because it gave us the wiggle room to splurge on everything else. That’s pretty much where our financial responsibility stopped.

When we arrived, the very first thing we wanted to do was hydrate, relax and get to our hotel. After coming through customs, we were greeted by our driver who graciously had our names printed on his sign and escorted us to a Mercedes-Benz van where refreshments and a signed letter from the staff awaited us.

We chose to stay at The Residence, a boutique hotel in the Hougton neighborhood, well known for streets adorned with jacaranda trees and home to the icon, President Nelson Mandela. In fact, on the ride in, our driver made a point to show us exactly where Mandela lived since it was only a few blocks away from the property.

This hotel was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. The grounds were not your typical luxury hotel because the property isn’t one giant building. Rather, the hotel is a series of inter-connected buildings all spread out like a country club so guests have their privacy when needed and can enjoy different experiences as they explore the grounds. Since we were splurging, we opted for their best room, the Madiba Suite, which was named after the man himself [Nelson Mandela].

To say our room was plush is an understatement. We had a living room, a private elevator/wine cellar, beautiful marble floor bathrooms and an entire outdoor area with a bed/gazebo, jacuzzi and outdoor covered dining area. The decor was beautifully curated to strike a balance between Old World and modern design as well as paying homage to Madiba with a giant custom oil painting in his honor. Just…gorgeous.

As you might expect, after such a long flight, we spent the first few days onsite recuperating, relaxing, reading, adjusting to the altitude, getting spa treatments and soaking up what was hands down the most luxurious experience we’d ever had. Since we knew we’d have a wine cellar in our suite, we coordinated the delivery of a case of South African wine ahead of our stay so we always had bottles ready to go. Of course, the service experience was everything you might expect with servers and butlers at every turn. It was also really nice to not have to carry cash since they added everything to your final bill upon checkout.

When we did leave the property, we used the hotel driver to take us into the city where we ate at more amazing restaurants, visited the Maboneng Art District and tried to just vibe with Joburg. As foodies, we were really impressed with the diversity of options available in Johannesburg at all levels. Honestly our favorite meal, is a three-way-tie between our pricey 10 course meal at Cube (now closed), a bistro style meal cooked in an open kitchen by an all black female team [Eatery JHB] and our cheap BBQ [brai] meal at Chaf Pozi, just steps away from the iconic Orlando Towers in Soweto.

As much as we’ve tried, we can’t say there was one highlight above all while we were in Johannesburg. Every time we try to nail it down, we get sucked into a re-enactment moments, big and small, that all left a permanent imprint on us.

So after Joburg, we hopped a flight to Cape Town for the second leg of our honeymoon. At the time, we thought we were being frugal by opting to stay at a mid-priced hotel for the first few days so we could finish with a bang at a dope hotel on the coastline. Little did we know that even our affordable hotel would be super-luxe at the One & Only, Cape Town.

Cape Town (Day 7 – 13)

We’d never heard of the hotel brand before and booked it on Expedia primarily because there was an offer for a free night and because the pictures looked “good enough”. As soon as we got there, we realized the pictures did not do the hotel justice. The lobby is gorgeous with a sunken bar in front of a giant glass wall offering panoramic views of Table Mountain.

The rooms are a balance between straight-forward and fu**ing dopalicious with high-tech controls, elegant decor, a game-changing waterfall shower, giant tubs and even more views of Table Mountain from our private balcony. The fitness center is like a scene out of the Jetsons meets some luxurious hotel overlooking Bangkok with some of the fanciest state-of-the-art equipment we’ve ever seen and manned by world-class personal trainers ready to work out kinks you didn’t even know you had.

Of course, the spa was dope AF too and was the closest we ever felt to being in one of those thick and heavy modern beauty magazines. We stumbled into a world class pedicure using the acclaimed Bastien Gonzalez technique, enjoyed a multi course meal at Nobu, sipped afternoon tea and more than our fair share of Amarula liqueur.

We left the hotel every day since there was so much to do on the V & A waterfront, steps from the front entrance. Outside of the waterfront though, our most memorable moment had to be enjoying a late lunch and coffee at Truth Coffee. Truth Coffee was like being in a movie  that merges modern African beauty, fashion and steampunk. You don’t realize there are levels to being cool until you see some peak cool space age $hit like this. It’s no surprise it’s been voted the best coffee shop in the world.

After enjoying Cape Town central we ventured to Camps Bay to stay at Pod, an ultra sleek and modern hotel on the coastline, about a thirty minute drive away. This was supposed to be the pinnacle of our entire honeymoon so we were really excited to see how much better things could possibly get…and then we got there.

The hotel is a few blocks away from the beach and up the hill walking towards the mountains. It was here that we understood specifically why Cape Town is listed as one of the world’s most beautiful places. On one side, you have the beautiful Atlantic ocean, white sand beach, sunsets and the sound of crashing waves. On the other, you have Table Mountain staring down on you with clouds melting over the top like ice cream on a warm chocolate brownie. It’s unreal how beautiful it is to be there.

On top of that, we’d never experienced such bold, modern and expressive design before. Outdoor private pools, concrete, glass walls, glass ceilings, raw wood, mood lighting you name it. We knew God had our back when they informed us at check in that we would be upgraded to their best suite. It was beautiful and we’ve been trying to replicate elements of our time there in our home ever since.

Our stay at Pod was one of the primary reasons we decided to buy the home we’re in now. That experience helped us appreciate how great it is to have loads of natural light and the ability to have an outdoor experience, at home.

In between all of these amazing destinations, we took advantage of as much of the local culture we could. We visited Spice Route, a beautiful destination in Stellenbosch with wineries, a chocolate factory, restaurants, shopping and brewery onsite. We stumbled into bookstores, museums, strolled through Bo Kaap, took a Safari daytrip, and visited the top of Table Mountain. Even still, there were a handful of things we weren’t able to do but we’ve committed to going back in 2020 so we can check all of those boxes in the future. Time will tell.

So how exactly did this trip change EVERYTHING?

Well, we paid for this trip completely in cash.

We don’t know the exact number but all in, it probably cost us a cool $15 – $20K. Coming back from a trip like this, putting it all on a card and, paying it off in full was a game-changer for us. Particularly since our very first trip we ever took was the polar opposite of this experience. If you’ve not heard the story, then we recommend listening to a few of our first podcast interview.

South Africa also helped us realize we didn’t need much to be happy. As much as we loved it all, there was no way we could eat seafood towers, rabbit pot pie, lamb flatbreads, fresh hand squeezed juices and fresh baked croissants every single day. Having done it for about two weeks, we were definitely experiencing luxury fatigue and longed for the simpler things in life. Trust us…it’s a thing.

But one moment in particular really stuck out to us.

While we were in Joburg, after a few days of being pampered by a specific set of gentlemen, we decided to tip them cash while we were there as a way to thank them for spoiling us.

We decided to tip them the equivalent of about $20-$25 USD which was about $300 South African Rand at the time. The looks on their faces were priceless.

From that moment on, as word got out that the Black American couple was giving out big tips in cash, the service went from great to incredible which we didn’t think was possible. But more than anything, these moments shaped our perspective on what it meant to be rich, to have more than others, to help others and the privilege of being an American. We tipped on the master bill on top of the cash tips we’d already given out and even then, we were blown away by how inexpensive it all was relative to what we paid.

So, in the end, it wasn’t the meals, the hotels, the views, the cars or the service in South Africa that made us realize how “rich” we already were. It was our experience with the people there that served as the most humble and powerful reminder of just how much we already had. South Africa reminded us that from a global perspective, we were already ultra rich and helped us put a number on how much was enough. That realization sparked our hearts in a way no other experience has since and was the wake up call we desperately needed.


  1. Just came across your website via other FIRE content. This post is awesome. My family has lived in South Africa the last two years, and similarly to your story, being here has birthed a dream that we’ll pursue for the rest of our lives, FI being one of the first steps. Looking forward to reading more of your blog. Thanks!!

  2. This is awesome! I’m in Cape Town and I was so thrilled when I heard on your FIREstarter interview that you’d felt like you fit in here in South Africa and could just mentally relax that way.

    You guys are coming back in 2020? Hook up with the FI community down here. We’re small but we’re feisty and we’d love to meet you!

    • Thank you so much for the comment. While we were there, we promised ourselves that we would be back in 2020! As of today, we haven’t made plans yet but when we do, we’ll be sure to connect with the local FI community there.

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