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My Travelling Life

‘Jozi’s like a drunk aunt at Christmas’ — musical star Jonathan Roxmouth

The singer and producer, on stage now with 'Back in Lights', shares some quirky insights about his hometown, country and travel hits

15 July 2022 - 08:30 By Elizabeth Sleith
Jonathan Roxmouth in Paris.
Jonathan Roxmouth in Paris.
Image: Alexandre Pruvost

The last two years, with all the travel restrictions, have probably resulted in the most growth for me so far. In terms of work I was fortunate enough to perform in The Phantom of the Opera in South Korea and Taiwan without a delay. Last year I was doubly lucky to be able to perform in restricted theatres in SA as well as on cruise ships through Seabourn. The time in between, along with quarantine, resulted in a lot of forced self-analysis and internal work. I have come out of it a better version of myself. 

My memories of childhood holidays are always a drive to the coast and I would invariably pop up and ask: “Are we there yet?” My mother and grandmother’s patience was infinite. 

The first time I went abroad, I’d won a trip to Australia thanks to a public speaking competition. Aside from experiencing jet lag for the first time I was shocked to see people pumping their own petrol. The trip was split between 10 host families all over New South Wales. I thought the sheep were just tall tales. Nope. There they were. 

I toured China with the recent production of Chicago. The difference in culture was a big wake-up call that we have to respect and adapt to other cultures when we travel as we are merely guests. After three weeks of trying to fight it, I made peace with the differences and slotted in. I ended up having the best trip. 

I was recently in Venice and didn’t realise how difficult navigating all the cobblestones and little bridges would be when trundling two suitcases behind me. I got lost twice and got a more intense workout than when I’m at CrossFit. 

I was performing in Manila once, and the producers took the cast to the volcano outside the city. You get onto the backs of donkeys and ride up to the top, where you knock golf balls into the crater. I was one of the last to arrive and realised that the donkeys were smaller than usual. Both the donkey and the donkey’s owner did triple takes when they saw me because of my height compared to the average local. We made it to the top but I do think I saw the donkey do a few decades on some rosary beads. 

A view of Taal volcano, near Manila in the Philippines.
A view of Taal volcano, near Manila in the Philippines.
Image: Spectral / 123rf.com

My best piece of travel advice is to always weigh your bag ahead of check-in and write the weight on the bag. There are some scales that are rigged. 

I am an adventurous eater when I travel. The weirdest thing I’ve tried was a pig’s head at Yakitori House in Tokyo. Quite delicious. 

The one thing I always make sure I do on holiday is buy a fridge magnet. I’m obsessed. I also love collecting masks. I have 16 different kinds at the moment and plenty of room for more. Besides that, I’m a sucker for cultures and experiences that I cannot find anywhere else. 

Taiwan has the friendliest locals — such utterly mind-blowing hospitality, generosity and willingness to help you discover their country. Im happy to say I havent found anywhere particularly tricky. I try to learn a little of the language wherever I go and that always seems to help. 

I just did Rome, Florence and Venice on my own. I love walking tours when I’m solo but I prefer travelling companions. I was in Paris in February for my birthday and my travel companions made it the trip of my life so far. 

Greece is high on my bucket list. I want the people, the food, the history, the coastline and all the lamb I can stuff my face with.

My favourite international city will always be New York City. On an ideal day there, I'd wake up and have a pastrami omelette at Junior’s in Times Square. Then it’s a coffee and a stroll around Central Park. I always take the longest route possible to see as many horses as I can. Then it’s probably a matinee of a Broadway show. A walk on the high line down to Chelsea and a drink in Greenwich Village during sunset will do quite nicely. 

An ideal day in New York City includes a stroll in Central Park.
An ideal day in New York City includes a stroll in Central Park.
Image: 123rf.com / sborisov

My favourite SA city is Joburg. She is like that drunk aunt at Christmas lunch: loud, a little trashy and will dominate you if you don’t set boundaries. The great thing about her, however, is that she will make you stand up for yourself and end up having a laugh. 

I’m based in Sandhurst, Johannesburg. If I had to show a visitor around my hometown, I'd start with a trip to the Rosebank Sunday Market, followed by lunch in the Maboneng district and then sundowners at La Boqueria in Parktown North. I really love the bohemian energy there.  

If a foreigner asked me to recommend the place in SA they cannot miss, I'd say a hike through the mountains at Cradle Moon in the Cradle of Humankind. My “hidden gem” would be the Ngwenya Glass Village near Lanseria.

The best lesson travelling has taught me is that SA has many benefits and reasons to stay. 

Producer, performer and writer Jonathan Roxmouth is starring in Back in Lights: A Musical Return at the Pieter Toerien Montecasino Theatre until July 24.   


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