Ditch the guidebook and get packing for that African adventure already!

By Waithera Mbuthia

Ditch the guidebook and get packing for that African adventure already!

Have you wanted to take a trip and shied off because of what you have read in guide books? Well, you are not alone. This happens to the best of us as Nanjala Nyabola shares. The Kenyan writer spoke to The Guardian after her adventurous trip to Burkina Faso. Prior to her trip, Nanjala read countless guide books to arm herself with necessary tips.

As you would have it, many of the books she read spelt caution during trips across Africa. Warnings of insecurities, mugging and even kidnapping kept the Kenya born writer unsure of taking her solo trip. However, she was determined to experience the western African culture, having studied there a while back. Unsure of what the future held, Nanjala set out to Burkina Faso after a short stint in Togo working for a non-profit course.

Travelling alone is daring enough, if guidebooks are anything to go by, doing it on a tight budget is unheard of. However, as she moved from the historical Ouagadougou and Gorom-Gorom, she discovered how easy it was for her to blend in. All her fears of being mugged, conned or even kidnapped gradually disappeared as no one paid her attention.  

Clearly written for a different tourist, all the guidebooks Nanjala read in preparation for her travel misled her to fear her fellow race. Had she given in to this fear, she would have missed the full experience of the friendly people of Sahel and the astonishing caravans filing to the weekly market among other spectacles.

Happy to have overcome her fears, Nanjala says, “Fear is a powerful and paralyzing impulse. In healthy doses, it can protect us from being a danger to ourselves and to others. In unhealthy doses, it can be the difference between living a rich, fulfilling life or ending your life as an anecdote in one of those ‘regrets of the dying’ articles”.

About planning, you probably have heard seasoned travelers insist on adequate preparation. But as Nanjala discovered, sometimes you only need the passion to see places. Working with a short time and with no assurance she would ever visit the Western Africa country again, she picked a place on her map and got moving. As she further discloses, she didn’t make prior bookings for accommodation or transport. She kept hopping on the next bus and booking into any favorable space she found.

In her book, Travelling While Black: Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move, you will find more details of Nanjala’s adventure. The most important lessons from her narrative is to travel whenever you can. Do not let fears meant for a different audience cripple your dream of seeing the beauty of our continent. Grab your backpack and take the bus to the destination you have always had in mind.


To Note: This story was first published by The Guardian.

Thumbnail: Nanjala's Twitter Handle