[Admin Note: For a long time, I felt like I was a traveler in Africa with one of the only blogs dedicated to backpacking the continent. But then I thankfully stumbled across Miguel at Viviendo en Chanclas. His blog is a Spanish version of everything I try and promote here. (Except he has way better photos!!) And thanks to Google Translate you can read his helpful (and very entertaining) blogs & guides to get your trip started! Miguel also used my Backpacking Africa for Beginners Ebook to begin his trip. So keep reading to learn how a non-native English speaker from South America traveled the continent solo.]
Q 1 : Why Did You Decide to Become a Traveler in Africa?
I always enjoyed the idea of traveling off beaten paths. Add the fact that Africa is a cheap continent, the fact that I had always felt a desire to travel through it, and that as a Colombian, I can jump from one country to the next without the necessity of applying for a visa (just visa on arrival) ….these were the factors that convinced me that Africa was the destination calling me the most.
Q 2: Tell Me More About Your Trip? Where Did You Go? How Did You Get Around?
Initially, the plan was to go through East Africa in a year and a half. I spent 3 months in Uganda, where I mixed working as a volunteer, backpacking and partying. Afterwards, I spent the same amount of time in Kenya. But just before leaving for Tanzania, I met a local woman and my plans changed. We traveled together to Tanzania and Malawi, and we are still hoping to explore the rest of East Africa!
Q 3: You’re from Colombia. Most people I know would rather explore South America than Africa. What reasons would you give to persuade them otherwise?
South America is no doubt an excellent destination, and I would even suggest traveling through it before Africa. That is, of course, not a necessity, nonetheless moving through South America is easier. The backpacking routes are better marked, touristic attractions and infrastructure is also better organized.
Africa is a continent which you will have to discover step by step. Rarely you will know for a fact how your path will go. You don’t know what kind of transportation you will end up using, nor what you will do or where you will stay.
Q 4: What was it like traveling Africa as a Colombian? Since English isn’t your native language, did you ever struggle?
This one is tough, since I have been speaking English for a long time and I am very used to it. If that wasn’t the case, it could had been difficult, because few Africans speak Spanish. However, I have met many Spanish citizens who don’t speak English and have had great experiences in the continent.
Q 5: Along the way, you met a Kenyan girl…. Tell me more about how that happened. And do you think finding love while you travel is common?
I was working as a volunteer helping to build a ship, but sometimes I would get bored during the nights, since they would rarely go to town. I wanted to drink a cold one! It was because of this, that I asked a friend to introduce me to a local. A few days later, she got me in touch with Jacquie, and we clicked immediately. We have been living together on the Kenyan coast for close to a year now!
I think it’s important to be open minded when traveling, to not just focus in filling the passport pages. In my case this relaxed attitude lead me into meeting my awesome woman :).
Q 6: Besides possible romance, what are other things that surprised you while traveling Africa?
There is probably no place in the world with a reputation as bad as Africa. Being here and noticing how 99% of its image is a massive lie is a beautiful experience, the warmth of the people is just the cherry on top.
Q 7: What’s your best money saving tips for staying on a frugal budget?
For a traveler in Africa, I would suggest to not be obsessed with safaris or very famous/touristy places. Travelling the continent is cheap, but conventional tourism can be quite pricey.
Q 8:What would you tell someone who is a little freaked out about traveling Africa because they think it’s too dangerous? Compared to South America, which seems more dangerous?
Africa is a friendly place, as simple as that. Most of its people are kind with white citizens, willing to help them in any way they can, and in sharing their culture. I recommend arriving in the country or destination that inspires the most confidence. Once there, to start exploring the real Africa, it will only be a few days before those fears surrounding Africa are dispelled.
I would say Africa is actually safer than South America, since South America is too popular and there are already too many people interested in stealing or hurting the millions of tourist coming every year.
Q 9: What’s your best tip for a new traveler in Africa?
As a traveler in Africa, do not not rush it. Don’t aim to go through 20 countries in 20 days. That, and starting to explore the world of traveling from outside your comfort zone. After a short while that comfort zone will widen without you even realizing it!
Q 10: Tell me more about your website. What do you write about? What are your future plans for it?
My blog initially aims at sharing my experiences and goofs traveling the forgotten continent. On top of that I publish some travel guides, and additional guides/tips for volunteering in Africa. This last part is the one I’m focusing on the most, since it is the area where people get interested in the most. However, I want to teach that coming just for a short volunteer work is a very incomplete experience, and that you shouldn’t limit your trip to this only.
My future plans are to become a referent when it comes to traveling around Africa (especially East Africa), with an aim on the volunteering world, and sharing travel experiences.
Want to know more about what it’s like to be a traveler in Africa? Head to Viviendo en Chanclas now! Seriously, he’s rocking it over there!