Danielle: Most of what we hear about Africa from the media is about conflict, HIV/AIDS, famine, and disease. As a result most of us are aware of the problems, but feel powerless to do anything about them. We are made to feel that Africa is a lost cause, a place that will always be the way it is. Worse yet, many of us don’t travel there, worried about our safety, scared of what we might see. While some of us will travel here to see the World Cup or head on a safari, a lot of these packaged vacations are tightly controlled, bringing you a very sanitised experience. So we embarked on this journey because we wanted to see it for ourselves. We also want to write about things going right, or so called “good news,” stories about hope and success, visiting projects led by Africans working to alleviate hunger and poverty and protecting the environment. We are meeting with farmers, workers, organizations, NGOs, media and even governments wherever we go, learning as much as we can, and sharing what we see.
Is this your first time in Africa?
Bernard: Danielle has traveled to Nairobi and Northern Africa, and I’d been to South Africa before. The difference with this trip is that we are visiting rural communities, travelling to villages, and really meeting and connecting with people. Also, this time our travel is on a shoestring budget, forcing us to stay with families, take long-haul buses between countries, and public transportation. We’ve travelled to seventeen countries so far, and most was by shared-taxi or bus, so we’ve had a chance to really take in the landscape and absorb our surroundings.
Your goal is to travel to nearly every country on the continent. What similarities and differences among regions and countries are you finding as you make your way around?
Bernard: We see more similarities than differences. In all countries the people were friendly and welcoming, mostly excited to share with us their work and projects. Everywhere people seemed to share the same general hopes and dreams for themselves and their families. We’ve also almost always been able to communicate, even when language is a barrier. Dani is a vegan and I am vegetarian, and we’ve found that families, restaurants, etc, go out of their way to accommodate us. With that said, East Africa goes out of its way, making a point even in tiny corner restaurants to list at least one vegetarian meal. In Eastern Africa, we found the people a bit more reserved (still very friendly), while in Western Africa it is much easier to break the ice.
In terms of crossing borders, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa are much easier by long-haul buses, with most countries selling visas upon arrival, and established companies provided safe routes. In Western Africa most countries require visas in advance with fewer reliable international bus options.