As my reign as Miss World 2014 came to an end in December 2015, the journey towards my golden future was about to commence.

Looking back, 2015 has been filled with various times; Good and bad, easy and difficult, learning and teaching, and so it goes on. I can truly say that I am grateful for each of these times as they were sculpting me into the woman I still strive to be.

Traveling the world and seeing places a usual tourist wouldn’t necessarily get to see, opened up my eyes to so many wonderful (and sometimes sad) things. I realised that us as humans are all part of one integral picture, we all long for similar things and most importantly, we can all make a difference.

My travels to India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Mexico have touched my heart dearly. I had the opportunity to be involved with various charity projects in these countries and saw how grateful individuals and communities are for the smallest of things. My heart slowed down when a little orphan girl in Oaxaca, Mexico asked me to take her home with me. How could you even answer such a desperate little girl? Sometimes you wish you could do more. The premature children in the hospital of Shirpur, India, made me rethink life and its purpose. How could a small child suffer without any reason? I have learnt that some questions we just don’t have the answers to, all we can do is use the opportunities we receive to give back.

Apart from some tear jerking moments, I have loved the times where I could really be present, smile and appreciate little moments; To drive in a taxi, open the window and smell unfamiliar smells while watching unfamiliar people in unfamiliar countries. It made my heart beat fast with excitement as well as longing for the familiar paradise I am proud to call home; South Africa. I treasure the time where Carina Tyrrell, Miss UK 2014, and I went into a tribal home, sat on the ground and made spices with the tribal people in Shirpur, India. I will always remember the time where Elizabeth Safrit, Miss America’s 2014, and I took part in raising $ 3 805 100 for Variety – The Children’s Charity at the telethon in Des Moines, USA. I long after my visit to the beautiful, tropical Jamaica; I had such a good time with Laurie-Ann Chin, Miss Jamaica 2014, that I actually missed my flight back home with one whole day! The way I could message Megan, Miss World 2013, whenever, wherever about whatever and receive the best advice I could ask for inspires me to become a mentor, friend and companion for our next Miss World.

The year 2015 has surpassed all my expectations, I will be ever grateful for the wonderful memories, lifelong friends I have made and opportunities I have received. It has been an absolute honour to represent South Africa throughout the world, to tell our story to those I meet and to experience the positive influence our story has had in various countries. I am grateful to have represented South African beauty and purpose. Our wonderful and generous designers have made representing South African style as easy as can be.

The biggest lesson I have learnt during my year as Miss World is that it doesn’t matter what we do or where we are, we are busy designing history. This makes me rethink everything I do; why am I doing this, how will it influence those around me and what change will it bring?

My future lies ahead of me like the sun from the back of the horizon. I am now as ready as can be for the next chapter of my life.

A chapter where my dream to influence women’s health in South Africa and the world, will be one step closer as I commence my medical studies as a 4th year medical student at the University of the Free State in January 2016. My love story will continue with excitement as I marry the love of my life, D’Niel Strauss, in February 2016. I will continue my quest to give back and make a measurable, sustainable difference in South African’s education and health by launching the Strauss Foundation with both my and D’Niel’s families. This coming year will also be exciting focussing on my studies, but remaining relevant and involved in a variety of campaigns and good causes and representing brands that I admire and respect.

Thank you South Africa for being an integral part of my journey, the one that was and the one that is yet to come.