Sonja Kruse set off on a countrywide journey with little more than a backpack, camera, phone and R100 to prove that the spirit of uBuntu in South Africa is alive.

In October 2009 she quit her job, gave her car away and left the familiar behind to embark on a yearlong journey around her country. She became known as the uBuntu girl.

It was to be a journey of discovery – discovery of the sincere hospitality offered by complete strangers and the uncovering of her own fears, apprehensions, preconceived ideas and, finally, changing perceptions.

She left without a tent, sleeping bag or bank cards. Instead she carried a deep belief that she is because of others.

The astonishing reality is that along the unplanned route, 150 families from 16 different cultures opened their homes and hearts to, in essence, a stranger. She stayed in affluent suburbs and dusty townships, in shacks and in mansions. She met pensioners, school children and students, farmers and labourers, rich businessmen, poor widows, artists, housewives, truckers and curio sellers.

What they all had in common was the spirit of uBuntu that compelled them to reach out to a lonely traveller. In doing so they filled Sonja’s journey with extraordinary stories, teaching her about humility and grace. From her first night spent in the home of a Scenery Park mother who slept on the floor so that her guest could sleep in her bed to meeting the only white induna in the history of the Zulu Royal House on her last day.

This is the story of Sonja’s journey and of the remarkable encounters she had along the way.

 “A traveller through our country would stop at a village, and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of uBuntu but uBuntu has various aspects. uBuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to improve?”

                              ~ Nelson Mandela