Brendan van Son writes: Sometimes you don't even need to have travelled somewhere for it to hold a special place in your heart. West Africa is that place to me. In the New Year, I will finally have the chance to visit this place that I have longed for. Finally making my move from South America to Africa, I will begin my trip in Morocco and work my way down along the western side of Africa.
These are the things I'm most looking forward to seeing and experiencing:
Exploring ancient Mali
Mali doesn't often conjure up grand longing travel desires, nor does it strike most people as exotic. However, this landlocked country may be one of the richest historical nations on the planet. Home to the once great city of Timbuktu, Mali is often referred to as the ancient heart of Muslim culture. Beyond Timbuktu, Dogon County might be one of the most interesting places on the continent.
Understanding Ghanaian culture
Ghana was one of my main subjects while studying in university. I learned about the rich culture, the powerful kingdoms, and the beautiful expressions of the traditions. However, I learned all these things through the pages of text books and documentary films. Now I'm ready to experience these things in person.
I have wanted to visit Cameroon since I was 7 years old and they were my team on a Nintendo soccer game. I didn't know anything about the country back then, beyond the fact that their soccer jerseys were yellow. Today, I know a little bit more about the country. I know that it may be one of the most under-rated wilderness destinations in Africa. Richly vegetated landscapes and an ever present wildlife population makes Cameroon one of the countries in West Africa with the most tourism potential.
Of course there is some danger in West Africa, and after years of chaos and civil conflicts in many of the countries there will certainly be some negative connotations drawn to the region's safety record. However, I hope to dispel some of the myths that surround the region and perhaps offer the rest of the world a true glimpse into what one can really expect in the region. West Africa will certainly pose its fair share of risk, but I imagine the reward will be far greater.
Getting off the trail and discovering
As West Africa is still one of the more under-explored regions on the continent, I am looking forward to the opportunity of discovery. I'm looking forward to finding amazing places that the rest of the world has not yet seen. I am looking forward to getting into the local culture, meeting new people, and trying to tie myself into the West African fabric of life as I did in South America. West Africa provides both a challenge and a reward, and I hope to reap the benefits of both as I explore region extensively in 2012. Stay tuned.