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.
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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.
- The gift of school: Money for education was cause for joy in Fongo-Ndeng, Cameroon.
- Making much from mud: Exploring Djenne, Mali, where all buildings are made of mud.
- A very long layover: Unwilling to pay a bribe? Unable to leave the Cameroonian airport.
- 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.
- Desert by camel: Experiencing a sandstorm in Timbuktu.