About Me

Personal website: Vernon Swanepoel


In Brief

I currently live in Namibia, which is a large African country. I've been here since 1998 and I've worked in tourism in some way since I've been here.

Due in part to the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as some other family matters, I'm in the process of planning a move to the UK.

I'm planning to change careers totally and hopefully work as a programmer.

In general, I'm a family man, passionate about nature and programming and staying healthy, and very much of a nerd.

Childhood

I was born in South Africa in 1972. We moved a few times and I just got started with school.

In 1980 we moved to Kenya, where my parents started work as missionaries in a very remote area in Northern Kenya. It was in many ways an incredible place to grow up.

In terms of schooling, we started out doing home schooling which never worked out very well for our education, though we learned a great deal about life at the time.

By the time I was 11, I started boarding school, which I did until I completed school.

Studying

When I left high school I moved down to South Africa to study. It was a strange time, because I thought initially that I was going to do military training. But, as it turned out, I didn't go due to all the changes going on in South Africa at the time. Looking back, I'm extremely happy I didn't go - not because of the military aspect, but because I've come to regard the old government of South Africa as something I would not have wanted to support.

I ended up starting out at university, where I did sports science for a year before dropping out and moving on to nature conservation. I ended up studying nature conservation for a few years. I'm still short of getting a diploma, but that has mattered very little in my life ever since then.

Tour Guiding

After I completed my studies, I was actually planning to spend a few years traveling the world. My plan was to try to find jobs in various countries. I managed to land a tour guiding job in Namibia and moved here, thinking I might be here for a year or two, and then move on.

But two things happened. Firstly, I really enjoyed my job and saw growth opportunities in the company I was with. And secondly, I met the woman who would later become my wife.

Lodge Life

In December 2000 we moved to Andbeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (though it had a different name when we first moved there), and I've ended up having a long association with the place. It is one of the top lodges in Namibia. I became the head guide and worked in management.

One big thing happened towards the end of my time there - I got a computer and started to work on an old passion of mine - programming. I'd last done basic back in school. We had an HTML book in the house - I think it was my wife's. And so at night, after long days of work I would come home and start teaching myself to create websites.

During our time at the lodge we got married and my two boys were born. Very special times.

Leaving the lodge

We finally left the lodge in 2008. I wanted to start my own tour company, but mainly kept myself going with freelance guiding work. At the same time I wanted to create my own website for my upcoming company. As I learned more HTML and CSS, I started to realize that I need to learn JavaScript. That was so fun - it was a real programming language.

At the same time my computer started to die on me. I saw a book about Linux, with a disk containing Ubuntu, and so I decided to give it a try. After installing it alongside my windows OS in a duel boot my windows install just didn't boot at all. Soon I was deep into a rabbit hole of learning about Linux and open source software. This was 2008, and I wasn't getting a lot of work due to the worldwide financial crisis (one of the reasons my company didn't end up getting off the ground). So I started getting into more and more programming.

Windhoek

When we left the lodge we were living in Swakopmund, but soon my wife got a job in Windhoek with family and so we moved here in July 2009. Windhoek is the capital city of Namibia. I got hold of a book called Dive Into Python. It was a fantastic book and I spent a period of time where I did nothing but just dive into the book.

Soon I was getting more freelance work again, and programming started to take a back seat, but when I had time I created my own website (an old version of this one, sandcurves.com).

In 2011 or there about I started to work in tourism again, this time with an office job. Each evening I'd get home and code. At that time I started to get into more low level languages, especially C. I had no plan to work in programming, and so I was just learning for fun.

In 2013 I finally started my own tour company, Frantic Naturalist Tours and Safaris. The early years went well, just by luck really. But I never got a good set of agents to support me and by 2015 I pulled the plug on it.

During that time the Python Programming Society was born in Namibia, and I've been a member of the executive team ever since. I put C aside and started getting into Python more seriously.

I tried to start a web dev company somewhere in early 2016, but never earned enough money through that. We had to much financial stress for me to carry on with it. I was getting some freelance work, but I was feeling frustrated being away from home on each trip I did and by September I decided to get a job again.

This time I started to work for an amazing company, Ultimate Safaris. At first I was working in sales, but I was actually really bad at it, and started to have some issues with depression for the first time in my life.

Touring Again

At Ultimate Safaris I was very fortunate that they decided to create a position for me training guides. I'd always loved training, but guides and, on the odd occasion, teaching programming to beginners, and so I loved getting back into it. I still didn't like being away from home, but gradually we got used to it. My boys were also growing up and so they took a lot of the stress I felt off, making it easier to be away from home.

I moved from being just the guide trainer and involved in operations to a more full time guiding job. That took me to October last year.

Lodge Life Again

Andbeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge had done a big rebuild and they asked me to come back and work at the lodge, managing the guiding team and doing guide training. It is a very intense job, as we were running with very high occupancies, as undoubtedly the top lodge in Namibia. I've been there, but with the outbreak of the Coronavirus, we closed and had to go into lockdown.

The lockdown gave me a chance to get back into my old passion again - programming.

So, that brings me up to today. With the desire to be home more, I'm currently planning to start working as a programmer. I'm British through my parents, and so plan to move to the UK in the coming months after this virus slows down, and I'm hoping to finally actually work as a programmer. Watch this space and we'll see if I can make that happen.