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Immersed in West Africa

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Loved it! 😍

Fun, reflective, and educational, this narration accounts journeying through West Africa with an attitude that is insouciant yet studious.

Synopsis

Immersed in West Africa is NOT one of those cookie-cutter guide books. This is the powerful on-the-ground diary of one man’s solo journey through West Africa. For roughly 60 days, Terry Lister traveled across Senegal, Mauritania, the Gambia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. What he experienced touched both his spirit and his soul. The ups and downs of travel, the people, the transport, the weather, the food, the haggling...he welcomed it all.

From harrowing experiences with border police, to day-long travel on crowded mini-buses, Lister’s accounts of daily life shed light on the real side of Africa, and are sure to both entertain and educate you.

Travel is the best educator and Lister shows us that while Africa is still the brunt of many jokes and misconceptions, it is more than worth the visit. If you are someone who’s been a bit afraid to travel into Africa beyond the big tours, this book will inspire you to step out with courage and faith. While your experience will be your own, it is one guaranteed to inspire and motivate you to be the best version of yourself.

So let’s step into this adventure together!

Terry Lister’s Immersed in West Africa is a personal travelogue that details Terry’s travels through Senegal, Mauritania, and Gambia, traversing natural parks, heritage sites, cities, ports, and villages through various forms of transport. His adventures come from an innate wanderlust rather than a particular reason for travelling, and so he comments on several aspects of life and culture.


Terry writes with carefree demeanor of his encounters, fully free of prejudices and reserves, which is of course the ideal state of mind for a traveler. In his introduction, Terry breezily shares his motivation for travel, which sets the tone for the rest of the book. This particular travelogue is different to many in the sense that Terry has a small list of small reasons for wanting to go to West Africa, but none of them are at the forefront of his decision-making. He provides a background of school, family, friends, and culture as to how the seed of wayfaring was planted and sown. He also claims that his aim is to disavow populist and media perceptions, with a strong commentary on global interconnectivity and its consequence of loss of regional culture to some extent. With this in mind, this journal is clearly written for a Western audience, as it includes many maps of West Africa and explanations of food habits (such as eating with only the right hand).


This book is as much a personal travel journal as it is a Lonely Planet guide of sorts, as there are place, transport, and historical heritage site descriptions presented with data on tourism, opening schedules, and entry fees. What makes up the real content which provides body to the text are Terry’s reflections on history, culture, and personal involvement rather than this additional information. The text is sprinkled with brief historico-presentist accounts, which refer to the initial introductory comment on globalization and experiencing authentic culture before it’s too late (he makes reference to how Caribbean countries evolved from what it was to something akin to North America due to tourism in the 90s). The author sometimes compares some sites to famous tourist sites that the reader is more likely to have visited so a better grasp on the points that Terry is describing can be had, like for example comparing Wassu to Stonehenge in order to understand what he says about the amount of in-depth information that is given out by guides. The author’s own photographs of places and people accompany the narration.


The experiences in this book are very entertaining. Delays, misunderstandings, complications, and encounters with corruption provide ongoing hitches to the continuous journey. The colorful tangles keep the narrative amusing and compel the reader to keep turning the virtual pages. This book is well-written and well-edited, although there is an occasional lack of commas and the ending is quite abrupt. The travelogue ends on the last day of the last city of the last country is visited, and although some reflection on the balance between poverty and privilege is given, it could have been given a smoother transition into a conclusion.


Overall, Immersed in West Africa is an entertaining journey lived through a breezy and easygoing soul that is not easily affected by adverse circumstances or language barriers. Terry Lister has admittedly traveled a great deal and through several different continents, and any subsequent travelogue that is hatched is sure to be an entertaining and eye-opening read. 

Reviewed by

Freelance content writer, editor, and translator with a literature MA. I'm passionate about all kinds of literature and art. I enjoy editing, reading, and writing creative and informative content to the best of my abilities. Originality, insight, and entertainment are priorities for me. #Scifi

Synopsis

Immersed in West Africa is NOT one of those cookie-cutter guide books. This is the powerful on-the-ground diary of one man’s solo journey through West Africa. For roughly 60 days, Terry Lister traveled across Senegal, Mauritania, the Gambia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. What he experienced touched both his spirit and his soul. The ups and downs of travel, the people, the transport, the weather, the food, the haggling...he welcomed it all.

From harrowing experiences with border police, to day-long travel on crowded mini-buses, Lister’s accounts of daily life shed light on the real side of Africa, and are sure to both entertain and educate you.

Travel is the best educator and Lister shows us that while Africa is still the brunt of many jokes and misconceptions, it is more than worth the visit. If you are someone who’s been a bit afraid to travel into Africa beyond the big tours, this book will inspire you to step out with courage and faith. While your experience will be your own, it is one guaranteed to inspire and motivate you to be the best version of yourself.

So let’s step into this adventure together!

Introduction

I come from a family of travelers. Dad and Mom traveled far and wide and, most importantly, frequently. My dad’s brothers, my uncles Allan and Walter, were often “away,” as there were always places to go and people to see. This was in my blood and I happily passed it onto my children who have been to many exotic places that I still hope to get to.

I am from Bermuda, a very small island. We have an expression that basically says “He got rock fever,” which means the person in question simply had to get off the island. So, as a people, we are well traveled. I can remember being home for the summer and running into one of my school friends who had gone to work after high school. He was 20 at the time. I asked how he was doing and what he was up to. He replied, “Not much. Working and a little bit of travel.” I asked about his most recent trip and he said Hong Kong - a place I still have not been to!

When I was in primary school, we had a geography reader that was intended to expose us to the different parts of the world. Two characters from the book have stayed with me all my life. One was a little girl from South America with her llama and the other was Bombo, a little boy from Africa. Bombo has stayed in my subconscious, inspiring me to go see and learn for myself. As an eight-year-old, I was fascinated by the thought that I had descended from Africa, a place that I knew very little about.

I was a boy who loved sports and being outdoors but I was equally comfortable curled up with a book. Let me read about some foreign land and just imagine what that place was like. Oh, I wanted to go there! I remember being in the Galapagos Islands in 2016 and almost pinching myself. I read a lot about this place from boyhood but I never thought I would be there but there I was. I have had this travel bug all my life!

In my last year of high school, one of our school subjects was Geography. Although I was good with the subject, it was a bit ironic, as I live in a tiny island that limited my exposure to the world beyond its confines. That summer following graduation, I went overseas to study. Whilst flying over the Eastern Seaboard on my way to Toronto, I looked through the window of the airplane and saw lakes and winding rivers. I was excited because I had studied this and wrote about it but had never seen it in person. So the fire was stoked even more.

After my career and upon my retirement, I decided to go into a new direction. But first, to ensure that I would truly be retired, I surrendered both my licence to practice as an accountant and as a realtor. No longer can I act professionally in these areas. With that behind me, I set out to do what I had been planning for years. I took on a new vocation: that of a traveler.

To get the feel of it, to see if I would really like it or if I would find I had a silly dream which when put to the test fell apart, I started my journey in Central America. Close by, with its civil wars now history, I found beautiful people living in peace.

I had to decide what would be the right length of my trips to ensure I would get maximum enjoyment and experience. I tried six weeks, eight weeks and then twelve weeks during my time in Central America and then South America. By trial and error, I found six weeks were too short, twelve weeks were too long, but eight weeks were just right.

Having found that I really enjoyed doing this vocation and having settled on the time spans, it was time to move on. After almost three years spent between my home, Bermuda, and Central and South America, I decided my next continent would be Africa. I had so many good reasons to choose Africa but the most important for me was to feel and experience the culture and history of the different countries.

Next I had to decide where to start. Would I follow the normal tourist routes or would I strike out on my own? If I wanted to follow the normal routes I could go to Mediterranean Africa and spend my time in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. Or I could go to Southern Africa and enjoy Bots, South Africa and Namibia. Safaris and culture to enjoy here. Or I could go to East Africa and allow the adventures available in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to fill my soul. But after thinking about this I decided to go off trail and head for West Africa. Of course, Senegal and Ghana present wonderful tourism opportunities but the bulk of the other countries remain undiscovered.

So West Africa. But where in West Africa? I decided that I would experience the history and culture of Senegal first and then work my way through Mauritania, The Gambia and the two Guineas. I wanted to see how these people, largely untouched by tourism, lived their lives and celebrated both their triumphs and their failures. Today, after two years of continual travel in Africa, I know I started in the right area.

Travel is such an eye-opener. It is almost impossible to visit some other place and return without having learned something. When we do not travel we remain set in our ways believing that the way we do it is the only way to do it. Over the years, just by traveling and observing, I have seen so many things that I knew would be of benefit to my own country.

The world we live in is so interconnected that individuals should take the opportunity to see the place from which the interconnections that matter in their lives are coming from. This will lead to greater understanding. This certainly applies to the people side. As we sit in our homes watching television, we form opinions that are directed by someone else. But when we get on the plane and go, we can form opinions based on criteria that matter to us.

Many people, through sheer national pride, think they live in the most beautiful place in the world. If put to the test, they can talk about all the wonderful things to see and do in their country. While this is all good, I would like to see people traveling so they can see the many beautiful sights that exist overseas. Some people need to see Niagara Falls, the Tower of London or the Eiffel Tower. But there are many other wonders that we could not see by sitting at home. I remember some years ago going to Jordan and, as much of a traveler as I am, prior to deciding to go I had never heard of Petra. Wow! What a place! And I had never heard of it. There are so many places that travel can expose us to and make us better people as a result.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, experiencing black countries meant going to the Caribbean. By 1992, I realised that the Caribbean was changing and evolving into one that, in many ways, was like the USA mainland. With this in mind, that summer my children spent two weeks with their parents going to five islands to see the West Indies that had existed for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. I have carried this same concern regarding the African continent. I wanted to see and experience it before it changed into something else.

Africa has been called the Dark Continent since the 17th century or possibly before. The phrase has conjured up different images, depending on who said it and in what context. Many of the early European explorers used the term with a sense of wonder and mystery as they ventured out daily and saw new and marvelous things. Later, the exploiters had to paint a picture of the dark and heathen-infested place crawling with cannibals and spirit worshipers to justify the need to christen the native people. And justify they did.

These reasons, and more, have compelled me to go visit the continent.

I do not think anyone would disagree with the perception that Africa is a dangerous place. It has wars, health issues, and other dangers real or perceived. I believed the time to go was before I got too old to handle the challenge that Africa presents. In October 2017,I set out for West Africa to touch, taste, and smell for myself.

In writing this book, I want to expose my readers to what I found at the ground level. During this trip, I traveled as the locals travel, from riding in minivans that could comfortably take seven passengers, but instead were crammed with as many as fourteen people, to riding on the back of a moto with other passengers. By traveling as a solo or independent traveler, I have found it easy to become immersed in the local culture. This experience has been an eye-opener like no other. Among the benefits is gaining an insight into the daily challenges facing the average African.

My hope is that you will see, as I have seen, that while there are parts of Africa that continue to be dangerous, there are many that simply are not. Furthermore, you will see the beauty of these places and you will get a taste of their history and culture.

About the author

I am a solo traveller having retired in 2014. I have been traveling on 8 week cycles in Central America, South America and, now,Africa. This travel is the most exciting thing that l have done in my life! In real life l was a Deloitte partner(18 yrs) and a Bermuda Government Minister(10yrs). view profile

Published on August 29, 2019

Published by Niyah press books

7000 words

Genre: Travel

Reviewed by

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