People asked me why I was going to Africa. When they found out I wasn’t going “on safari”, the change in facial expression indicated they either did not share my enthusiasm, or they really had a genuine interest in the “where, how and why”.
A year ago (August ’06) I did alot of staring at world maps. I was going somewhere special. I just didn’t know where. I had all the necessary ingredients to go; new-found freedom, unsettled wanderlust, and most importantly, discretionary income.
I thought about some really exotic, remote destinations. Sri Lanka? Bee-you-tee-full country. Incredible hills of green tea. Some of the best beaches in the world. A chance to find Sumitra (more on that in the future). But in the end I had to consider the ongoing match-up between the Tamil Tigers and the GoSL (Government of Sri Lanka). Unfortunately, that’s NOT a spirited cricket match. It’s a tinder box of civil war-like conditions and it forced me to back-burner this destination.
Besides, as a neophyte world traveler I had to be realistic. I’m also a single dad; 24 x 7 x 365. It’s a little easier to globe trot when you don’t have to arrange parental proxies or prepare for what happens if God forbid, you don’t come back.
So I decided on Africa. But I still had to narrow it down. I eliminated North Africa simply because I preferred to go sub-Saharan for my first trip. But I’d definitely consider it for later trips. Central Africa, while being incredibly attractive to my adventurous side, was likely something I was not ready for. South Africa seemed either too polarized, too cosmopolitan, too strip-mined, too something. But like the rest of Africa, it remains high on my must-see list. East Africa certainly had a lot to offer. Wildlife and Kenyan cultures, Tanzania with Kilimanjaro, etc. It was high on the list too. I could see that I’d need to take alot of trips to Africa in the short time I have left.
But then there was West Africa. It seemed to have a little bit of everything. I love the music that comes from West Africa. I was familiar with legendary performers from Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone. Then there was the profound evidence of the slave trade, found up and down the Gulf of Guinea coast.
But I don’t speak a lick of French. And I’d prefer a mostly direct flight from JFK, considering my time was limited and I didn’t want to spend it on layovers.
My research and Delta Airline’s flight schedule led me to Ghana. I was excited to learn that this West African nation was going to celebrate its 50th independence day on March 6th, 2007. Besides that, English is their official language and they’ve enjoyed a long stretch of peaceful governance. It became the obvious choice.
By September I had booked a $1300.00 flight with Delta and there was no turning back (without some kind of refund penalty).
This self-funded, solo, photo-op, humanitarian, trip was a go.
Next: Be Prepared