My Book

This is the story of a journalist — me! — who backpacks solo through Africa. Yes, it’s my take on exploring a continent that’s so different from my home. But it’s also about what it’s like to travel alone as a woman, why it’s worth dropping everything to follow a dream and how I grew along the way.

Where I’m at: I’m revising my manuscript with the help of my agent, Rachelle Gardner.

* * *

You’d think shadowing a bull-riding cowboy would be enough. Or covering an execution at a Texas prison. As a newspaper journalist, I had plenty of adventure, but it wasn’t the kind I wanted. I longed to travel. Not to Europe or the Caribbean like other singles in their late-twenties. I wanted to go to Africa. And I wanted to go alone.

Africa?” My friends and family spit the word back at me as though it were a euphemism for bottomless pit. “By yourself? Why would you want to do that?”

This travel memoir — based on my travel blog (see below) — is my story of leaving my job to follow a dream, backpacking solo through an undeveloped continent. I don’t want to be the woman who talks about her dreams. I want to be the woman who lives them. And by the time readers are done with this travel memoir, they’ll want to take leaps in their lives, too.

Unlike the narrator in most women’s travel books, I’m not looking for love or running from a relationship. My journey takes me to the mountains of Cameroon, where I help a grieving polygamous family heal; to the sandstorm-plagued desert of the infamous (but boring) Timbuktu; and to a near-empty zoo in Burkina Faso, where I watch an AIDS-infected boy bond with a chimp. It’s not until I find myself alone in a dangerous Malagasy bus station after midnight that I admit that traveling alone in a place so different from home is more difficult than I expected. But this is what dreams look like up close: dirty, frustrating and uncomfortable. And facing obstacles helps me learn that leaning on others isn’t a weakness – it makes me stronger.

My travel blog, Inkslinging in Africa, is serving as a skeleton for my book. Some of readers’ favorite posts:

  • Homecoming: I reunite with a polygamous family in a rural village in Cameroon.
  • Special delivery: Carrying a risky package for a stranger on a flight in Madagascar.
  • Zen: High on travel.
  • Jean and Lolita: Watching a sick boy in Burkina Faso connect with a chimp.

7 Responses

  1. I want you to know how much I love what you are doing with your life. Stay inspired, it is people like you that keep me seeking my next adventure. Better happy than rich.

  2. Your memoir sounds fascinating, and your blog is great. I traveled solo many years ago, now, the novel I wrote that was inspired by my trip, CURRENCY, is finally coming out this spring after multitudes of revisions and dozens of rejections. I have a feeling you won’t need to wait that long, but stick to it!

  3. […] My book is about backpacking solo through French-speaking Africa — what that was like as a woman and how it ended up being more difficult than I expected. I wasn’t the traveler who started out timid and realized through my journey how much I was capable of. I was the over-confident, independent-to-a-fault woman who thought she could do everything on her own and recognized, through travel, that it was okay — and sometimes necessary — to lean on others. I like to read travel memoirs, so I thought it would be fun to write one. What I didn’t realize was how much of the book would have to be about ME and not just what I observed, that what makes a good travel memoir isn’t just good journalism but the personal journey. Coming from a reporting background, writing in the first person and revealing details about myself was not easy. But I do think it improved my writing, and I’ll carry what I’ve learned about story-telling into my next journalism job. Julie: Could you talk about your writing process? […]

  4. I definitely want to read your book when it comes out, Alexis!

  5. I love memoirs! Good luck, and I’ll watch out for it!

  6. This sounds so amazing!!

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