“Oh my god, I did it!” That was how I broke the news to Robert that I’d just signed up for an epic African expedition. As part of a small group of hardcore travelers and adventurers, I’ll be circumnavigating the continent on a back of a truck, visiting almost 30 countries (link to map here) over a period of 9 months. Our journey will begin in the northern end of the continent: first traveling westward, crossing the vast Sahara Desert, reaching West Africa; then towards the inlands, trekking the dense jungles of Central Africa; then southward towards South Africa, exploring the coastline and complex river systems of the southern plain; then eastward, driving through the endless plains and ancient valleys of the east; and then northwards, finally ending our journey in Egypt. When I’d first mentioned it to Robert a couple of days before, I’d told him that this was the kind of trip that would shake off my funk, or at least, that is my hope. As always, he was extremely supportive and encouraged me to look into it, but I don’t think that he expected me to sign up almost immediately.
There are a number of reasons why I want to do this trip. The first is that Africa’s rawness and its primordial state has always appealed to me. When we visited Tanzania in 2006, we got to hang out with one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer tribes in the world, and it made me feel truly in touch with my humanity. Deprived of my material comforts and the structures of the Western world, I felt liberated. For me, Africa is one of the few places in the world that reminds me of who I am at my very core.
The second reason is that I want to do things that take me out of my comfort zone and that stretch me beyond my normal limits. By being open to new experiences and by pushing myself to do things that I normally wouldn’t think of doing, I feel that I’ll learn new things about myself: about my strengths and limitations and the things that make me happy, as well as those that make me sad. Borrowing Michael Crichton’s words, I have this need for new and deeper experiences to keep shaking myself up. I don’t know why this should be true for me.
The third reason is that this journey plays to my passion of being a traveler at heart. I have always been intrigued by how other people live their lives in different parts of the world. As a child, I used to like to read old copies of National Geographic, and I’ve always wanted to see and experience all of those beautiful and mysterious places for myself. I’ve made it my mission to visit every country in the world, to interact with people of all races and ethnicities and to share their perspectives, insights, and wisdom.
Lastly, the final reason is to find some silence. The journey will be quite lonely, as I’ll be traveling with strangers and I will miss my husband, my family and friends back home. I’ll be living-off-the-grid and surviving on my own wits, so to speak. There will be plenty of silent moments. It is that silence that I seek, to give myself a chance to explore my inner thoughts and feelings that have been drowned by the hustle and bustle of everyday life in America. The silence that will provide space for introspection, allowing me to take this journey into my inner self and gain clarity as to what things really matter to me. Ultimately, my hope is to emerge revitalized, with a new sense of purpose and direction in life, and to rid myself of this dreadful funk.