I want to see a heck of a lot of the African continent; but so far, not so good. Right now, I’m finally headed to Southern Africa for starters and I’m beyond excited!
Where in Africa?
Let me clarify that Africa is a continent with 54 sovereign states. 54!!! No two of these 54 states are the same. That’s a lot to see, a lot to learn, absorb, and share. The continent is up there as far as number of countries; yet we only typically hear about a handful when it comes to vacation destinations.
Tourism in Africa: Past and Present
Growing up, I never travelled outside Nigeria because…$$$ and frankly very few in my circle did! Those that did went to the UK, or the US. Travelling anywhere wasn’t a priority for many, not to talk of within the continent. Was it simply because it wasn’t cool? Or because most of the continent was still reeling from the after-effects of colonialism, that we just were not ready to welcome the world again? Or because people were focused on other priorities… such as getting an education.
Most of the tourists that travelled to different parts of Africa to my knowledge largely came from the western world and it was mostly for the Safaris in southern and eastern Africa, the all-inclusives in the likes of Seychelles, Zanzibar, or maybe a visit to the Pyramids in Egypt.
Hey, ain’t nothing wrong with a little safari action, or with sipping on a Mai Tai with uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean, but I believe that everyone was missing out on something.
First, as ‘locals’, we’re missing out on exploring our extended backyard. Beyond that, there’s so much more to Africa than the amazing Safaris or all-inclusives, but no one was really showing that for a while, so the rest of the world stayed focused on what was known.
Love or hate social media, it has literally brought the world to our fingertips. These days, my feed is popping with more images and stories about travelling within the continent than ever before and the possibilities make me giddy. These stories make it seem more within my reach. It’s in my face, and I cannot but pay attention. Hopefully, the rest of the world is also awakening to what lies untouched.
Where The Beauty Lies
Our beauty is in our diversity, our resilience, and our sense of community. It is in the warm, but in-your-face hospitality, and in our choice to be happy/hopeful regardless of our circumstances. It is also in the way we look out for each other home and abroad. The unspoken ‘I gat you/I see you/I’m rooting for you.’ It’s the way people truly support each other even through the worst of circumstances. It’s the feeling that it truly takes a village, large or small and that village always comes through. I’ve seen it time and time again, and I wonder where/how those seeds were planted. It is humanity at its finest.
I want to capture that. I want to experience it all over the continent, and I want to tell these stories. I also want to inspire you to do the same (whether you’re from one of these 54 countries or not).
A Personal Decision
I’m Nigerian, and I haven’t seen much of the continent, yet! Everything I know is based on what I learned in school, my personal interest in the region, and fuelled by relationships built with other Africans in the diaspora, since leaving Nigeria.
I worked at my first on-campus job cleaning the dorms with Njoki, a Kenyan – now one of my best friends. Through her and others, I fell in love with Mandazis, and Ketepa tea. I learned of Mombasa and Lake Naivasha, of Matatus (their version of Molue) and the concept of Harambe (raising funds to support friends in need). We danced to Nameless and laughed at the antics of the aptly named Kenyan comedic group Redykyulass. As we cleaned the dorms and laid the foundation of a life long friendship in the summer of 2004, we also made a promise to explore our countries, together.
Life’s happened and a decade has passed but the lessons and the dreams stay fresh. It’s time to see the continent so I’ve made a personal commitment to visit at least one new African country each year. It isn’t much, but it is something for now. Long term, I have bigger aspirations.
From Djibouti to Gambia, from Zambia to Egypt, and Seychelles to Rwanda, why the heck not? There’s so much beauty to be uncovered, potholes to take one by surprise, Jollof rice to fight over, Braais to crash, mountains to conquer, history to be schooled on, fashion trends to behold (because we SLAY), Dibi to feast on in Senegal, impromptu dance parties to participate in (no alcohol needed), traffic jams to be stuck in, hustlers to admire, songs to sing, markets to bargain in, pyramids to gawk at, rivers to cross, wild animals to see, bureaucracy to unfold, corruption to stand up to, and a beach to lay one’s head at the end of all that. The list is endless.
Let’s all just agree that travelling to/through the motherland is not as ‘smooth’ as travelling within the western world and it is often quite expensive too. There are a number of countries where I need a connecting flight in Europe to reach them from West Africa…Cape Verde, I’m looking at you! So excuse me as I adjust my mindset to ‘TIA’, which means This Is Africa’ or ‘go with the flow, don’t expect everything to to run on schedule as one is accustomed and enjoy the ride while you’re at it. It also means (to me) to expect and accept the kindness of strangers, dance for the heck of it, to support local businesses, and just feel at home because perhaps home has missed me.
Right now, I’m hitting the road. First stop…Cape Town!!
Whether you’re Swedish or Sudanese, the following people have travelled or are travelling the African continent. I follow them for inspiration/education/plain old travel envy. Check ‘em out!
Spirited Pursuit – Lee Litumbe is Cameroonian heritage. She recently quit her job in finance in the US to move back, starting with Senegal. Lee is in the business of rebranding the continent through her stories, images, and guides. Her images cannot but draw you in and she will do amazing things. Yellow, blue and white look great on her. She makes me want to get out there right now! She’s always dishing that black girl magic! Instagram handle is @spiritedpursuit
Camps Bay Girl
Cape Town based travel lover, photographer, and blogger, Carlinn. Her images are just beautiful. Check her out on the ‘gram at @campsbaygirl. Her partner @thelawry is equally amazing.
Nigerian Based Traveller exploring Nigeria and the rest of the Continent (+ the world too). She’s great at sharing practical recommendations for the budget traveller. Instagram handle is @travelwithapen
The Incidental Tourist
Dawn Jorgenson is a conscious traveller with a deep love for the Continent and a lot of experience exploring it. She leads the Cape Town chapter of travel massive. I found her blog while researching Cape Town. Her Instagram handle is @dawnjorgensen
Foreigners That Have Travelled the Continent
Audraverse – This Caribbean born, Brooklyn Raised, Hong Kong Based traveller recently spent months exploring the continent. She shared images that are…goals and stories that warmed my heart with so much pride. She’s on instagram at @audraverse. I’ve only recently begun to stalk follow her.
Oneika spent just over two weeks in Southern Africa, my favourite travel blogger/influencer. This Canadian of Jamaican heritage has lived all over the world and has been to over 100 countries. I love that Oneika comes off as down to earth and has been consistent over the years. She wrote about her trip to Southern Africa here and is on instagram at @oneikatraveller
This is another Canadian that I found through Oneika. Brenna has the juiciest travel stories and she won me over with her way with words. Brenna spent six weeks in Eastern Africa. From Rwanda to Uganda, and Zanzibar to Masaai Mara, her insta-stories gave me LIFE, and ideas! She’s on instagram at @thisbatteredsuitcase.
The Blog Abroad
Born to Nigerian parents, raised in the US, Gloria is also a recent discovery. She’s honest, in your face and she’s unapologetic about it. Gloria recently spent 3 months exploring 7 countries across the continent. Instagram handle is @glographics
I hope you find inspiration through some of these travellers.
Meanwhile, do you know more Nigerians/Africans that travelled within the continent in the 90s and 2000s? Please share! If you agree that travel was not top of mind, why do you think this was the case? If you have other suggestions for inspiration, please share in the comments!