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Under FAQs, this would be number one whenever I talk to family and friends. In all fairness, I also thought this continent was dangerous before coming here, that I couldn’t travel alone from one city to another, that I could be robbed at all times. This is maybe also one of the reasons that made me join the guys in this trip – I wouldn’t have any issues travelling by myself on any other continent. But in Africa I’d rather be with people I know or have an organization to go to, so that I wouldn’t go by myself from town to town using public transportation. And since I didn’t have any big plans after China and since they did the big mistake of asking me if I want to join them, I thought why not?
But after a week or two, my perspective changed. While the guys were visiting Serengeti, I went to explore near-by villages and mountains (Katesh is still my favourite place in Tanzania) using local buses and without having a good map. And for the past two/three weeks, after the guys headed to South Africa, things are just normal: bus from Maun to Gaborone, from Gaborone to Windhoek, the car of a friend of my couchsurfing host from Windhoek to Swakopmund, local shared taxis and many local friends…like any other part of the globe. True, Botswana is maybe the safest country in Africa and Namibia is financially well-off. Maybe I’d be scared shitless in other African countries? I don’t know, I’ll have to take them one by one to check them out. J Although, truth be told, considering what’s happening in Europe at the moment, I’m more concerned about the safety of my friends back in Berlin than I am about someone travelling around Africa.
Anyway, I came to realize that me and a lot of people I know have a lot of misconceptions related to Africa, we tend to believe:
- that it’s like in wild, wild West,
- that everyone lives in tribes in the bush,
- that people can attack you anytime for no reason,
- that the only things worth seeing are safaris and Kilimanjaro,
- that if you don’t rent a car in Africa, you’re doomed,
- that Africa is Europe’s dustbin, the poor relative that accepts everything that Europe doesn’t like.
- Exotic and dangerous.
But it’s not at all like that!
- In the first place, a lot of Namibians and people from Botswana are financially better off than many Romanians. Yes, in some places there’s poverty. As if in Romania there wouldn’t be any poverty, especially in the villages from the south!
- Secondly, locals are generally very friendly, and even more so to tourists. I met a lot of cool people, curious to know my story, eager to get to know me, willing to help.
- Thirdly, through tribes, people know their origin, they have a common language and some traditions, many of which were lost over the years. But many marry outside their tribes and even if they marry someone else from the same tribe, their life style is the same like the Romanians’ life style, the clothes are also more or less the same. In China and in other parts people call it „ethnical minorities”, in Africa they call it „tribes”. There are, indeed, some older people who keep their traditional clothes and care more about tradition (and that’s a good thing) – isn’t it exactly the same story in Romania?
- Fourthly, many people in Africa want and afford access to good quality products, not second hand, what was left after Europe chose what it liked (in Romanian we say : ”the one who splits it, is the one making his own share”).
- And last but not least, there’re so many other wonderful things in Africa apart from lions and Kilimanjaro! All you have to do is explore a little bit, get an inch off the path that was flattened by too many tourists and you’ll make great discoveries, without being in a car with the AC turned on.
So my answer to the question „Aren’t you afraid to travel by yourself in Africa?” is a strong „No!”. But because of the misconceptions that you hear all around, from parents, friends, media, if someone had asked me this question a few months ago, before getting to this part of the world, I would have probably said: „I wouldn’t go by myself to Africa. It’s too dangerous.” And I would have said bullshit, but, unfortunately, NO ONE would have contradicted me.