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Africa RouteI have this particular hangup about travelling – namely that I find it exhilarating to do it as often as possible, work and life permitting.  The one major luxury that I try to make an allowance for is the chance to travel overseas (not necessarily over a sea, per se, but at least out of South Africa) during the course of each year.  It is something that I had decided was important to my overall growth and trying to get into the heads of what people are like and how they think. In this spirit then, I would like to unveil the (rough) idea of where I would like to go this year – in the hopes of soliciting helpful suggestions or, even better, a motley crew with which to enjoy what promises to be an epic, if not luxurious, expedition.

After Malaysia, and extended backpack travel in the company of some excellent friends, I resolved that this was something that I wanted to spend a great deal of my time and energy doing. The fantastic journey through Southeast Asia in 2007/8, again in the company of best friends, has only reinforced this commitment. I am sold on this hippie notion, you see, of wanting to understand people, wanting to understand their lives and how they ask and answer the big questions about themselves and the world. Travel is such a rich and rewarding means of seeing and experiencing wildly different ways of living life and seeing that the world I occupy in my mind is only one tiny and relative thread in the massive fabric of all human experience. And so I am hooked on it, and have not stopped wondering where to go next – the when part largely dictated by the fact that the only time the world is quiet enough to actually  get away and do this sort of thing is the December holidays, when corporate South Africa, big and small, tends to slow down and the company can function on a skeleton staff.

Precisely where to go, however, has been a slightly trickier affair. I had originally wanted to see South America, but Andrew has insisted that I put this off for a year or so and then he will come along with me. Which seemed a fair trade, given how much easier and more enjoyable it is to have a travelling buddy that you can exchange thoughts with, as well as getting them to guard stuff while you go to the loo and haggle with taxi drivers when you are too sunburned to function correctly. It happens, I swear. I also think that it is time that I gave the far east a miss, in favour of something different. Not that I don’t love it there – I truly, absolutely dig that part of the world to the last little noodle in my Pad Thai – but if the idea of travelling is to learn and grow, then I should spread the experience a bit wider. North America and Europe are expensive to get to (relatively), as are the more interesting places like Abkhazia. I have also never (such shame) been into any other African nations – not even to Lesotho or Swaziland. Which seemed like a blight on my travel record that I should really look at filling in. Africa is also considerably cheaper that European or North American destinations in many parts, and certainly offers a wildly different travel experience.

And so the plan is this. I intend to travel broadly between 23 December 2008 and 13 Jan 2009 in an overland backpack from South African to Ethiopia, covering Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya on the way, and possibly any other country whose border lies nearby and whose visa stamps will add colour to my passport. Once in Ethiopia, I intend to catch a one-way return flight to Johannesburg and end the trip with a hot bath and a frosty beverage.

I am writing all of this up here because, if you are not one of my debater friends going to Ireland, I want to extend an open invitation to come and join in for as much of the trip as you can. By the end of Christmas, I would probably only be as far as northern Mozambique, or southern Tanzania and would welcome you to come and join me for the trip from that point onwards. Having committed to the idea of doing this, I can already feel that particular tinge of excitement that eventually blossomed into mania before I departed to Thailand. Due in a large part that I can almost feel that sense of being a stranger stepping off a bus in a strange land, feel those days and nights filled with strange smells, good company and stories that would be impossible to have anywhere else in the world.

It is going to be amazing. Come and have some amazing too.