A post by Keala Milles.
Let me be frank. I want to go to Africa. I don’t have delusions of grand safaris nor have I imagined some fantastical encounter with near-extinct aborigines (although I’m sure one day with any tribe will be thoroughly inspiring). It doesn’t have anything to do with human interests—like the fact that half of the 900 million people who live there survive on less than a dollar a day all without access to safe drinking water—although it probably should, especially when you consider that 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25. This is cloying math— and I love a good puzzle— but it’s still not the reason I want to go to Africa.
My desire to visit this, the second-largest continent, is rooted in a fervent desire to rediscover myself. Self-discovery is a life-long quest and there is probably no better place to test the limits of my North American mentality than on a continent that is three times the size of the United States.
Ironically, there are roughly as many countries in Africa as there are states in America (47 landlocked but as many as 53 if you count all of the offshore islands, including Madagascar), which means that there is a lot of land to explore.
Exploration, in my opinion, is the best way to learn. Memories rooted in experience will always trump knowledge that you gain from reading a book. I can tell you that the oven is on but some people won’t truly understand how hot it us until they burn their hand. Yes, it’s a painful way to learn sometimes, but it’s also the only way that you’ll discover some of the greatest food in the world or the one person who will turn your whole world upside down.
The greater risk, the greater the reward.
I want to go to Africa because there is no other place in the world that offers so much variety in one place. You’ll have to work to see it all in one visit, but that’s what will make every visit to this vast continent such a unique adventure. From the exotic Mediterranean cuisine of Morocco to the Pyramids of Egypt, there is an abundance of culture and history to extract. From the meager coastal country of Somalia to the culturally diverse Republic of South Africa you can expose yourself to the dramatic range of poverty and affluence that categorizes the struggle of many African communities. Of course, you need not reach too far into recent history to find examples of African struggle (ie: Somalia’s civil war of only two decades ago, the current dispute between Libya and Egypt).
With all of this diversity it is still somewhat shocking to learn that throughout all of the 320,000-some-odd kilometers of the African continent, most of the world is only aware of the regions I mentioned here. I read Michael Crichton’s Congo and I watched Hotel Rwanda and while these pieces of American popular culture can communicate to me some of the complications of life in Africa I can hardly imagine what it must be like to live it. I want to go to Africa to be reminded that my humanity is precious and that my life is fleeting.