Introduction - Why West Africa?

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
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Trip End Jan 05, 2008


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Flag of United States  , New Jersey
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Now you might be wondering, of all the places in the world to go, why West Africa?  "Isn't it an especially poor and dangerous place?" you might be wondering.  "I've never heard of anything there to see," you might be thinking.  "So, you're going on a safari?" I was frequently asked.  There are probably as many reasons for choosing to travel in West Africa as there are misconceptions about it, some of which I still held before I went.  I hope blog and related pictures will help to correct some of those misconceptions. 
Well, to start off with, I've already covered many other parts of the world while large swathes of the African continent remain untrodden by my itchy traveler's feet.  As I have traveled more the remote places few other people visit have been among the most interesting and rewarding destinations.  My desire to visit some of those remote places took me on two trips across Central Asia in last two years, one of the regions that had most fascinated me for some time.  My feelings toward West Africa were similar, particularly the nearly empty regions of the Sahara Desert and its northern and southern fringes.   
We frequently hear about how globalization is making the world smaller and in many ways more homogenous as ever more people discard traditional lifestyles for modern conveniences.  West Africa is one of those places where many aspects of life have not changed and it is still possible to see people living much as their ancestors did centuries ago.  Like so many other parts of the world, though, West African countries are developing and changing, so I viewed it as best to visit it sooner than later - before it comes to look more like the rest of the world. 
Yes, West Africa is one of the world's poorest regions, but it would be inaccurate to view the lack of material wealth as miserable destitution.  Yes, some countries in region have had recent wars and civil strife which has made the evening news in western countries, but others (including many of those I passed through) are fledgling democracies and among the better governed of African countries.  Civil wars, military coups, genocide, ruthless despots, election turmoil, and famines are the images of Africa that make the news in western countries but generally take place only in small parts of massive continent at any given time.   
On other hand, I wasn't quite sure what to expect before I traveled, so I chose the ease and safety of a group trip with the "Devil I Know" - Dragoman - that I've traveled with previously on overland expeditions.  My experiences and observations, however, convinced me that independent travel is an entirely viable option in West Africa for the more intrepid traveler.
So why travel to the ends of the earth to begin with, rather than pursue a cushy job and life with a house back home?  The following quote summarizes my sentiments: 
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones that you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
This is the Dragoman Overland link to the trip I just completed:
http://www.dragoman.com/destinations/tripdetails.php?cat=UTM
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