Taking stock

Taking stock


Elsa and Molly MusicwithElsa

Sometimes, we need to take a deep breath and take stock of our lives. 

After teaching happily for about 17 years at the highly esteemed private girls school, Ashley Hall, I finally retired and established a flourishing Piano Studio at my home on Daniel Island. If you live in Charleston, please feel free to refer students to me. Photo: Molly and I at the piano.

Karen and Elsa MSC cruise Mauritius

On the traveling front: yes, I was very fortunate to ring in 2023 by sailing with my friend, Karen Durand, from Venice to Cape Town on the MSC cruise line, visiting Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and three Indian Ocean islands. What an incredible experience. I did publish a few articles and blogs about that incredible cruise. Photo: #Mauritius Tourism Board welcome for Karen and me


Debby and Elsa Viking Cruise Bay of Bengal

Debby Harrison and I finally went on our two promised Viking cruises – compensation for being on the ill-fated Viking Sky that nearly ran aground on the Norwegian coast a few years ago. The Bay of Bengal certainly was a highlight: Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and India! You may enjoy reading those blogs! I was thrilled to do a podcast with Chris Bay (Amateur Traveler) about that cruise. Photo: Debby and I dressed for arrival in India

I had a wonderful time in the Netherlands with my dear friends, Lionel and Tania, exploring their world. And then, the cherry on the cake: I discovered a distant cousin and author Johannes van der Bijl,  who took me to the exact site (Castle) where my father's family got their name, van der Bijl - a fascinating story that I wrote about in a blog. Photo: Replica of what Count Wouter from Egmond's castle looked like

Elsa writing

My writers' group encourages me to keep working on my next book, From the Lowveld to the Lowcountry, a follow-up on Hippos, Hotspots, and Homelands (Elsa van der Byl.) It is a revelation to see how my life and America have changed from when I first came to the country in 2002 with only my two suitcases. And it is amusing to recall what thrilled and excited me then!

Elsa and Johan launch PP book

During the past year, TravelswithElsa has expanded, welcoming my brother, Johan van der Byl, and his wife, Lina, to the fold. They are seasoned travelers with successful guiding experiences, an intimate knowledge of South Africa and especially, safaris. Johan takes excellent wildlife photos as well. 

Wildebeest crossing Mara River Tanzania

We had some great tours to South Africa. We cooperated with HM Safaris to enjoy a fabulous migration of the wildebeest through the Mara River. We witnessed a crossing lasting about 25 minutes. 

We have some exciting tours coming up! There are some itineraries available on my website.

* Tanzania Safari during the Breeding Season  9 – 18 March, 2024 

Jeremiah, my trusted safari guide friend in Tanzania, highly recommends this tour - when it is time for the thousands of animals to drop their young!

* South African tours Available dates:  27 March to 5 April; 4 to 14 June; July/August, 2024

For South African tours, these are the available dates in the near future. There are some suggested tour itineraries - these can be combined, altered, added to - TravelswithElsa offers custom tours according to your desires, interests, budget, and so on. Contact me for more details or to set up a customized tour for you with me planning the itinerary.


My new website has seen the light, thanks to my talented friend and web-designer, Donna Powell (Charleston Webbuilder.) She has cleverly incorporated my interests in one site: piano teaching,  travels, blogs, travel writing and, books. It has been quite a learning curve and hopefully, I will learn how to navigate the site on my own. We keep on adding features, such as a mailing list and hopefully soon, selling photos and customized items.


The year is nearing its end, and Halloween is upon us, then Thanksgiving, and then the Holidays. Donna and I will be cruising to Bermuda for Thanksgiving - I want that T-shirt I survived Bermuda!

And I look forward to celebrating Christmas and New Year with my daughters, Eugenie and Georgina and their families. I was fortunate to see my other daughters, Nichola and Cassandra in June in the UK, but I surely will miss them and their families as well.




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