I had the privilege of joining The Nation’s inaugural trip to South Africa in fall 2018. It was absolutely one of my favorite programs (4-time Nation traveler Courtney C. was less equivocal and called it “the BEST Nation trip!” she has been on). It’s hard to choose the highlights. But for me, I think spending time with Judge Albie Sachs was the most memorable.

Judge Sachs is an historic figure: a freedom fighter who worked and sacrificed tirelessly to end Apartheid. He was one of the founding members of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and one of the Constitution’s (considered among the most progressive in the world) primary architects. Judge Sachs generously hosted The Nation group in his home in Cape Town and gave us a personal tour of the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. He talked to us at length, speaking eloquently about how South Africa had “negotiated a revolution that in political terms was a total victory” and of his optimism about the energy and engagement of today’s university students and young activists.

While the problems in South Africa remain daunting and the wealth inequality shocking, I couldn’t help but be moved and inspired by the progress made since Apartheid’s end just 25 years ago. And South Africa’s beauty astonished me. Cape Town is one of the most picturesque cities I’ve seen and the coastline, the mountains, and the bushveld are magnificent. Ending the trip with a safari in Kruger National Park, observing the animals in their own world and learning about conservation efforts, felt truly magical and is something I will never forget.