“You’re moving to Africa!?” they said, “but is it safe!?”

This was one of the most common responses I got when I told people I was moving to Senegal (after asking where Senegal is). I also got it before traveling to both Ghana and Tanzania for shorter periods of time, so I expected it. One of the reasons I’m writing this blog, though, is to “debunk” some myths people believe about this continent (not country), and also just reflect on my experiences with an open mind. If I’ve learned anything from my past travels, it’s that you can’t really know a place unless you go there, and that there’s a hell of a lot we Westerners can learn from Africa.

When I refer to Africa as a whole, I don’t mean to group all the diverse countries together. However, there is a certain culture throughout the continent that many of its inhabitants take pride in, sometimes referring to their home as Africa rather than their specific country. And it’s this culture that I’m choosing to focus on, because it’s the stereotypes of this culture that lead people to instinctively ask questions like, “but is it safe!?”

Now I’m no expert on Africa, and I know that stereotypes stem from generalizations that stem from real life. I acknowledge that people sometimes have reason to be concerned, but I’ve also realized that more often than not, their concerns disappear as soon as they 1. Become informed, or 2. Experience it themselves. I encourage the latter 😉

Have you ever asked someone how a trip was, and they said “eh it was okay, but I wouldn’t go back”? You probably don’t get this response often, because traveling gets you to see and experience things for the first time, which is what brings back that sense of awe into your life that you might not have experienced since you were a child. That’s probably why children are so freaking happy and amused easily. And we can be too!

Usually when I ask people how a trip was, they get stars in their eyes and can’t even think of the words to describe it, because words won’t do it justice. They might even be already planning another trip to go back.

What I’ve noticed is that many people who travel to Africa find a way to go back. And I think that says something! The feel of the culture is truly indescribable, especially because it’s so different from the Western world. I remember after my first trip to Africa, I talked to a professor who had lived there about my nostalgia and desire to go back, and with complete empathy he said, “it gets in your blood.” I spoke with a friend the other day about people traveling to Africa and rarely going just once, and she said “it’s like an addiction.”

So I hope this blog gives you good insight into what “Africa” is really like, and I hope you keep an open mind with me as I document my thoughts throughout this journey.