A Love Affair with Africa
by Hannah Wayte
About a year and a half ago a little switch flipped in my mind and lit up the equivalent of a flashing, neon sign right in front of my eyes; ‘Travel’, it said. It was something I had thought about in passing before but hadn’t really paid much attention to. After all, travelling was something other people did, not me. Right? The moment that switch flipped, though, I could think of nothing else. And I haven’t thought of anything else since. Thankfully, I have been doing something about it and soon enough I will be packing up and heading out on the road for my first taste of solo travel.
When I first got the urge to travel I contacted a friend of a friend, whom I knew had travelled extensively, and asked for a few tips. The first thing she told me was to decide where it was that I wanted to go and then work out a budget accordingly, as opposed to only going where my current budget could afford to take me. This is sound advice and probably the first thing I would recommend to anyone else myself. Looking at a world map, I felt stuck – so many places to go but where to start? My head was telling me to go easy for the first trip; perhaps take a few months out to travel around Europe. But my heart ... well, my heart kept drawing me toward Africa.
It wasn’t until after I had settled on an actual route through Africa that I stopped to think about why that was my choice of destination. To be honest, I'm still not completely sure but I’ve come up with a few reasons that seem to make sense of it. When I was young, one of my favourite films to watch was The Lion King. Just after the film was released, they started to publish a weekly magazine related to the film, which had loads of information in it about Africa – its countries, people, animals ... I was enthralled. Every week I would rush through my chores to earn my pocket money and then run over to the local newsagent to pick up a copy of the magazine. This is my earliest memory of a love affair with Africa. As a teen my dad introduced me to Wilbur Smith, and I was hooked. His books conjured up images of a wild, untamed continent, ravaged by war and greed but standing strong and proud despite this. I have carried on to read books by travel writers based in Africa, as well as literature by some of the great African novelists like Chinua Achebe and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.
Perhaps these early, romantic ideas of Africa lay behind my initial choice of destination. What really sealed the deal, however, is that if I am going to uproot myself then it needs to be for the best of reasons. Wherever I am going needs to challenge me on a daily basis; it needs to teach me more about myself than I thought I could learn and open me up to people and places that I would never otherwise be able to encounter. No matter how many books I may read or documentaries I may watch about Africa, I cannot relate to what I read/see; this makes it the perfect spot for what I want.
I have settled on a 75-day trip from Nairobi down to Cape Town, passing through roughly nine countries along the way. The route is planned out by an overlanding company, which makes it a bit easier on me for my first solo trip and also means I will be able to meet like-minded people along the way. I am both scared and incredibly excited about the journey to come knowing full well that no matter how much research I do, I know nothing about where I am going. I hope to come away from Africa able to word my own impressions of the small part of it that I will have seen instead of relying on others’ stories to fill in the blanks.
Born in England, raised in Malta, living in Ireland and planning where to go next. I have itchy feet and my blog, Hannah and the World (hannahandtheworld.com) is all about my plans to cure that, as well as observations I make about different countries and all that comes with moving about and settling in along the way.