A couple days ago I watched as Kacela slept soundly on the floor in the backseat of our rented Land Rover. We were driving away from the Sindou Peaks, well within the “no-travel zone” of 50km from the Mali border. I wondered to myself…why are we here? Why travel to West Africa?
It’s a question that people from home asked before we left, and one we were asked by a number of people along the way. We ran into a few other foreigners, but they were either Peace Corp Volunteers, or working for an NGO. We barely saw another tourist the entire trip.
So, why? It wasn’t a question I’d really taken the time to answer for myself.
Initially, a couple years ago Randy said “Why don’t we travel to West Africa, nobody goes there”. So, up for the challenge, I started to research.
I’ve told myself (and others) we chose these destinations, at this time, because they’re all French-speaking countries. Calais is in Grade One French Immersion and missing an important 6 out of 40 weeks of her school year. I figured if she at least heard French during our trip, it’s better than nothing.
However, we barely picked up any of her school books, and made a pathetic effort to force her to use her French. It might be the reason we chose Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso specifically over some of the other countries in the region, but it’s definitely not the real reason we’re here.
I think, ultimately, we wanted to travel to West Africa because if we can travel here, we can travel anywhere.
In preparation for our year-long trip around the world, in largely undeveloped, non-English speaking countries, I want to know we can do it. We can get sick and get through it. The girls will adapt to third-world life of bucket showers and squat toilets. We won’t all suffer culture shock in the first month and desperately want to go home.
After a month of travel to West Africa I can safely say, “we can do it”.
That being said, we’re ready for Europe!
We’ve travelled faster than we probably should have. We haven’t paid enough attention to schoolwork because we’ve been on the go or taking some much needed pool-time.
I’m tired of constantly being covered in a layer of dust (the girls don’t seem to mind)! Randy’s sick of the continuous haggle, barter, discussion, stop to think about things, answer, then haggle and discuss some more – before anything actually gets accomplished. Calais would like a normal toilet (she has yet to successfully master the squat toilet!). Kacela would just like a toilet that doesn’t smell. I’m starting to feel like a spoiled brat for needing air conditioning and separate beds for the girls at a guest house.
I want a good coffee, somewhere with clean seats, where my kids aren’t playing with the bottle caps in the dirt!
This trip has taught us that, although we’re adventurous, we have our limits.
We can handle being sick. We’ll survive being dirty. We can live through some pretty horrendously uncomfortable bus rides. At the end of the day, after weeks of travelling in some of the world’s most rustic places, we still need a bit of a break with some first world comforts.
The first thing Kacela noticed when we went into a bathroom the other day was the hot water tank above a shower. She truly got excited! She said “I’m getting used to cold showers but I like it better when it’s hot.”
Calais’ first question when we talk about a bus-trip is “does it have air conditioning or will it be squishy?”. She’d survive the squishy bus, but she knows she’s happier with air conditioning.
We can live without the creature comforts we’re used to, and the experience is often worth it. But… after a month of roughing-it, we welcome the first world amenities we often take for granted.
Have you ever travelled to a place where you were grateful for the experience, but ready for a break by the end?