Why do I love Africa? Where do I even begin? How do I formulate that love into words? A year ago today, I set out on my first trip to the continent that currently holds my heart, but the love affair started long before I stepped foot on African soil.
A long, long time ago, even before I can remember, Africa was the place I longed to go. For years, the top three places I would list that I wanted to visit were India, Thailand, and anywhere in Africa. Literally anywhere. Not because I was indifferent, but because I wanted to explore every crevice of the continent, learn about every culture, see everything there was to see.
But, my love was taken to an entirely new level once I actually stepped foot on the continent itself. It was then that I felt at home, in a way that was vastly different than I have ever felt anywhere else in the world. Part of me knew it was coming, the other part was still surprised.
I felt home, thousands of miles from the place I had actually been born and raised. I knew no one in Africa, I was entirely alone, and yet, I felt at peace; I was happy and content. All alone in my tent that night, in a new country, a new continent, in the great unknown, I wrote that it felt as “if my soul has been here forever,” and I meant it. I think it is still there, except now it is joined by a huge piece of my heart.
This love for Africa, I know, is not one that is just exclusive to myself. I share it with those I met on my journey. But, I also have found that I share this with each person I have met, or talked to, who has also journeyed to the continent. On my bike tour in Chile, my food tour in New York, and with my fellow travel bloggers, I have had conversations with people who have had the same experience. Their hearts too long to be back, no matter how long they’ve been away for.
To those who haven’t been there, I wish that there were words to express what Africa is really like, or how my heart aches to be back. No other place on this planet can simply compare, and it must be experienced to fully understand and appreciate all that it is.
It’s hard to believe that exactly one year ago was the day I flew out from New York to Johannesburg and then on to Victoria Falls. That adventure proved to me why Africa had held my heart for so long, and I began to finally understand my love for it even further.
So, what is it I love so much about Africa?
The Sunrises and Sunsets:
The sky lights on fire each morning and night as the sun rises and sets. I looked forward to seeing each one everyday and the beauty never ceased to amaze me.
The reason most people come to Africa is for the wildlife. While it was relatively low on my list compared to everything else, it was by far one of my favorite parts of the adventure. Seeing these animals in their true environment was a sight I wish most people could see.
I tried just about everything there was to try in Africa, and I liked it all. From kudu to warthog, I couldn’t get enough. Every meal I had in Africa was a meal I throughly enjoyed, and I even brought home a recipe or two.
Music gives me a strong connection to a place I visit and Africa was no different. Even before I arrived, I have always loved African music, so while there, I made sure to ask for a few recommendations and head to the local music store once arriving in Cape Town. I bought four cds and continually listen to them to bring me back to Africa. These are two of my favorites.
From the people I befriended on my tour to the local people I met along the way, I never had a negative encounter during my four weeks of travel. Everyone I met was kind-hearted and interested in building a connection with me.
The Ever-Changing Landscapes:
As you travel from one country to the next, the landscapes change drastically. Even just in Namibia alone the landscape just constantly changing. Still, no matter what the landscape, it was always beautiful and unlike anywhere I had ever visited.
The middle of nowhere is strangely freeing. There’s something about being able to connect to nature, the people around you, and yourself, and Africa brought out these qualities within me. Each day, with the African wind blowing through my hair I felt alive and free.
Each day, I think back to how I felt while visiting this continent and how I long to be back. Yes, there are plenty of places in the world that I still have to see, but luckily, many of them are in Africa. Hopefully, next summer, I’ll be able to head back to Africa, this time to the east, so I can finally reconnect with the part of my heart I left back there.