Africa is at the top of our list of places that we want to visit again. That comes as a surprise to many people, who find the idea of visiting Africa as the furthest thing from their mind. There are a lot of misconceptions about what it’s like to tour the continent, backed up by a lot of recent stories of Somali pirates and kidnapping of girls. But there are just as many stories of inspiration and discovery in Africa. We’ve invited guest blogger Heather Halpern of The Urban Gypsy to recount her story about a recent trip through Africa, and to tell us why, in her words, Africa stole her heart.
Africa Steals my Heart
What comes to your mind when you think about the possibility of traveling to Africa? Does the idea of seeing this part of the world seem too daunting? Do you think you will be jumped and have your purse ripped from your hands? Do you think that it is so poor that you will be staying in a bush hut? Do you think you will contract an ungodly disease? If any of these questions ring true to you then I am here to crush all your fears. Having traveled through 7 African countries I have first-hand experience to tell you that this is a part of the world that is truly amazing and yet to be discovered by more people. This massive continent is so diverse and no matter where you are interested in going, I promise you that Africa will cast a magic spell over you and you too will walk away madly in love!
Self Discovery Through Volunteering in Africa
My love affair started back in 2008 when I decided that I wanted to volunteer in Sub-Saharan Africa. I chose Tanzania because I was sponsoring a child from this country and therefore it just seemed like the right place for me to give my time. For nearly two months I stayed in a village at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro and spent my days working in the community helping young women gain skills that could help them in the workforce. During the course of this trip I took away so much more than I expected. Here I was in this developing nation ready to help those in need, but what really happened is they impacted me far more than I could ever imagine helping them. I believe that I became a better person because I was exposed to people who were truly happy even when they had so little in material possessions. In the west we have so much, but inside people are very seldom fulfilled. There is so much to learn from those who create joy from nothing.
As the years have passed by I have yearned to explore more of Africa, and this past February I was lucky enough to embark on an adventure through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia. Starting in Cape Town, South Africa, I got to spend time in such a gem of a city. Situated near the tip of the continent, this thriving city has beautiful coastal shores as well as one of the New Wonders of Nature, Table Mountain looming over the city. No matter where you go, the photo opportunities never cease to exist. The city is clean, the people are friendly and as a tourist this is one giant playground!
Views of a Lifetime
Moving north into Namibia the topography changes drastically. This desolate country is the second least populated country in the entire world, after Mongolia. There are long roads of nothingness, but the land changes from lush green vegetation, to fields of yellow flowers, to white salt flats that trick you to believing you are looking at snow, to the oldest desert in the world. Bright red sand dunes are a stark contrast to the blue sky above.
Next on the adventure was discovering the beautiful country of Botswana. With wildlife crossing the road at any time it is hard to close your eyes on long drives for fear that you will miss Africa’s majestic creatures. Elephants, giraffes, hippos, lions…the list is endless. It is like watching an episode of National Geographic…but this is the real deal! No matter how many zebra cross your path, it never gets old and it truly makes you appreciate this world we live in.
Heart Stopping Visit to Victoria Falls
And finally my last stop on this adventure was the magnificent Victoria Falls. These massive falls straddle both Zambia and Zimbabwe, and it doesn’t disappoint with its incredible views. There are endless activities that can be done around the falls like rafting, bungee jumping, helicopter rides and swimming in pools of crystal clear water. But nothing will erase the vivid memory of standing in the mist from the falls while two perfectly arched rainbows stretched across the Zambezi River.
It is hard to sum up places that leave you utterly speechless. What I want to emphasize here is that Africa is do-able for any traveler. There are clean places to stay, plenty to eat and wonderful people along the way to help. Don’t let stereotypes and preconceived ideas get in the way of experiencing a continent that is truly magical.
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About the author:
My name is Heather Halpern and I am from Edmonton, Canada. I caught the ‘travel bug’ many years ago when I was a competitive rhythmic gymnast and since then I haven’t been able to quench the thirst for seeing more of the world. Even though I live a pretty regular life with a full-time job, I try to go on at least one overseas adventure a year. This means, I skimp, save and try to live the happiest life possible throughout the year so that I can experience my one true love…travel! There are so many spectacular places in this world, and I never get tired of seeing what is out there. The friends that I have made from near and far truly have made an impact on my life, and experiencing how others live and the happiness that many have with very little also inspire me to be a better person. When I am at home I dabble in being creative by working on my art. My favorite forms of art are both mixed media and pen and ink, and I think a lot of my artistic inspiration has been influenced by what I’ve seen around this great big world of ours. In the last year, I have been asked to draw several tattoos, as well as large custom canvas pieces. My hope is that through my blog I can help bring a little piece of the world to you through both my adventures and my blunders!
You can read more about Heather’s adventures in Africa here.
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