Today is the the 90th day of my African expedition, and I’m now in Benin City, Nigeria. At this point, I’m a third of the way through my 9-month circumnavigation of Africa, having traveled westward from the north (Ceuta & Morocco), Western Sahara and Mauritania through West Africa (Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin).
Thanks to the immediacy of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Bloglovin’), I’ve been able to share almost in real-time what I’ve seen and experienced along the way; the captivating landscapes, the friendly locals, the fascinating wildlife and the varied food and drinks that I’ve been able to sample. I’ve also been able to provide a window into our everyday life on the truck, as we’ve driven through dirt roads and villages, and camped in the remote wilderness.
By now, I’ve picked up the rhythm of my new life. I’ve adjusted to a life lived primarily outdoors and on (and off) the road, as our faithful overland truck covers hundreds of miles each day. I’ve fully embraced the patterns and intricacies of my new life, just as I’ve detached myself from the world and the people that I left behind. Disconnected from the everyday comforts of modern life, I’m living as our ancestors once did. I’m washing my own clothes by hand. I’m urinating and defecating in the bushes. I’ve learned to go without showers for days on end, when we’re bush camping in the wilderness. As we make camp in quarries, in fields, in forests and in the desert, I accept that I’ll be sleeping on hard ground. I’ve weaned myself away from our ‘always on’ 24×7 world, and have learned to live without electricity, phone service and the Internet. I eat on a budget, living on inexpensive local street foods, switching to canned staples when it gets tough to find a balanced meal. I’ve learned to not squirm at the dusty and downright dirty. I’ve learned to live on the bare essentials, well outside the comforts of my life in America.
Along the way, I’ve gained many friends, and have found myself readily able to connect with the local people that I’ve met along the way. I’ve had to learn to live with (and at times, to survive) my fellow travelers with their varied backgrounds, maturities, characters and idiosyncrasies. I’ve bonded with and developed special friendships with some of them, acknowledging that for now, they’re my family. Everyday, there’s plenty of time and opportunities for conversation, as we travel across the ever changing landscape, or when we stop to camp for the night. Those latter conversations will take place around a blazing campfire, and thanks to the liberal amounts of alcohol that gets consumed, can make for interesting discussions.
I’m living a life where, ultimately, I have little control over what constitutes my day. I often don’t know where I’m going to sleep, what I might see or do, or even what I will eat. In this part of the world, I have little control over events and the means of accomplishing things. I’ve had to learn to be patient, and to let myself revel in the unfamiliar and unexpected.
Everyday I’m surrounded by adventure. I’ve learned to let myself go on the stream of the unknown, and to accept whatever comes my way. There is so much to take in, that I’ve no choice but to lose myself in my surroundings, and I find that I’ve bonded with the wilderness. Three months in, I’m more in touch with the natural world and with myself than ever before. I’m a new person in this distant place, where I’ve had new experiences, and new things and people to care about. I have a heightened sense of being alive.
At midlife, we seem to fall into patterns and habits that eventually constrict our lives, but which we have difficulty breaking. Three months in, I can say with certainty that I have successfully broken away from mine. However, as I reflect on where I am and what I’ve gained, I also have to acknowledge that my quest for changes in my life and personal development hasn’t come without challenges. Immersing myself in my new life and in my new family, I now see that in disconnecting from the old me, I also disconnected from the loved ones I’ve left behind which has caused some frustrations and conflict. Managing my life simultaneously in Africa and America, in these two separate worlds, has been by far the most testing aspect of my journey.