“You go there when you’re a grown-up”
My name is Carola. I’m a 32-year-old project manager from Germany’s amazing capital city of Berlin. This journey actually begins in my childhood. Being born in Eastern Germany there wasn’t too much thought of traveling exotic places when I was a child. Then the wall came down, and my parents would go as far as Spain or Tunisia. However, still no traveling for me: I was a teen then and they would tell us kids: “You’ll go travel all those places when you’re a grown-up.” Well, right after school I did spend an exciting year in the US. But when I came home I started working. I have been working ever since: first as croupier in a casino overlooking my home town from the 37th floor; then I became an office, web and project manager at the poverty-fighting NGO ONE; until I moved to being a project manager at a public affairs agency. Oh, and while I was working full time I got an economics degree and had my project management skills certified.
That meant I never really did what so many other young people do: take some time off after school, during or after university, see the world and get a perspective on what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
My game changer
When I left ONE end of last year that was the first time I seriously considered a time-out. And I didn’t want to go to South America (Yo no hablo español.) Neither did I seriously consider Asia or Australia. I wanted to go see Africa. I wanted to go see the Africa that I had learnt so much about at ONE – the Africa that was bursting with life, history, arts and culture, with imagination, dedication, hope and progress. I refuse to see the continent as one big black mass the size of Europe AND the US together. I do see the poverty and violence – especially these days when there’s a massive famine happening at the Horn of Africa. However, that’s just one part of the story. Still it was that part of the story that eventually kept me from making it happen then and there: I figured my 6k on the bank wouldn’t really get me anywhere far. So I went for the new job.
But I couldn’t forget about Africa (or the idea of the freedom that comes with just going somewhere without a ticket home). And eventually I realized that it’s now or never. End of June my parents got some bad and some very bad (at least by their ideas of life) news: I revealed to them that I had already given up my apartment and was about to quit my job. All of that to travel through Africa. Practically on my own. My dad delivered the line that I keep hearing all the time ever since “I wouldn’t go to Africa”.
I would and I will!
I’m taking all the money I have at the bank and try and see as much as I possibly can of the continent by train, bus, car and boat: Starting in Berlin I’ll go to Gibraltar, Spain, which is the closest from Europe to Africa. From there I’ll go through Morocco down the Western coast all the way to Cape Town. And then I’ll go back up along the center / East. At least that’s the plan now. After all this is all about being open to the possibilities that arise once I’m on the ground. I will be looking for the history and the culture, the progress and the fresh ideas.
Feel free to follow along, comment on what you think about the things I come across, and most importantly: make suggestions about where you think I should stop and who or what I should look out for!