Since my teen years, I had wanderlust. I voraciously studied languages in preparation for the travels of my dreams. My formal and informal self-study of languages included Spanish, French, German, Russian, and Swahili. I do not claim to be fluent in any of those, but my French, German, and Spanish receptive vocabulary and reading ability isn’t bad. The Spanish came in handy when I was in Equatorial Guinea in 2012, so I don’t consider my time wasted at all.
Dipping into my savings, I decided to get my passport at age 22. It was definitely a step in faith (to fall back on a colloquialism I’d always hear), because I was an un(der)employed recent grad looking for work. It felt silly to spend money on a passport (including the documents required- birth certificate, social security card, updated driver’s license), but ultimately it was worth it.
Since then, I have traveled to countries across 4 continents, with the majority on the continent of Africa. After our wedding, Donald and I embarked on a month-long honeymoon through East and Southern Africa, thanks to the wonderful work of Cherae Robinson at Tastemakers Africa.
Equatorial Guinea was an eye-opening look at a petro-state, its security apparatus, and its tenuous social and economic structure.
My trips to South Africa enabled me connect with dear friends I had known online for years. Cape Town reminded me so much of San Francisco- the brightly colored historical neighborhoods, the climate, and the socio-economic bifurcation across racial categories. Jo’burg astounded me with its sprawl, and again, its class divisions. I could see the vestiges of Apartheid, which belied governance and resource distribution as profoundly spatial practices. Khayamandi Township, full of warmth and effusive creativity on a winter day, stood in stark contrast with the concentrated wealth in nearby Stellenbosch.
Soweto was a treat and a respite from the anxious narrative frames around “reconcilation” and “unity” in “post”-Apartheid South Africa. Our guides asked us, “which tour do you want?” And the palpable tension in their bodies melted when we said we wanted to see their daily paths. We stopped at a local joint for their favorite lunches on the go (a delicious donut-like bread, served with sandwich meat) before they told us about the ways in which Nelson Mandela’s story has been refashioned in the interests of a nationalism that does not necessarily include Black South Africans. We passed Winnie Mandela’s house before stopping at the Apartheid Museum.
Kenya, Tanzania (Zanzibar, actually), Ethiopia, and Rwanda all stunned me with their natural beauty. Even the briefest time made an impression on me. Visiting the spice markets in Stone Town (Zanzibar) was delight to my palate, and I *still* use the spices I stockpiled there.
Never had I had such amazing coffee and tea. And the quality of the produce, meat, and eggs? Swahili cuisine? To die for!
We have a couple of trips planned for the year ahead, but they will be colder locales.
What are your dream travels? Where would you visit (again, even)?