Daniël’s travel journal:
From September 2017 until May 2018 I traversed Africa at the age of eighteen. The goal was to travel overland from Amsterdam to Cape Town using only public transport. Why do such a journey? Well, why not.
There are many countries that you might not have heard of. I knew these places from of a world map hanging above my bed at home. There were dozens of small, strangely named countries. Places like Nauru or Djibouti. I was curious why no one ever spoke of them. To me, they are the forgotten corners of our world.
I wondered what caused these countries to become lesser-known. It compelled me to enter them. I wondered what those countries were like. Who lives in them? Why is it that I seldom hear of their existence? This journey was about that.
I suspect countries are under-visited because we fear them. We associate distant places with exoticness, crime, and danger. My young eighteen-year-old mind disagreed. I believed such countries – like Guinea of Congo – would be full of nice people. I left home to meet them.
I trained from Amsterdam to the southern tip of Spain. I hand-railed the Saharan coastline through Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania. Once in West Africa, I traversed beautiful countries like Senegal, Benin and Cameroon. I dipped down into Central Africa, through the Republic of Congo. After six month I arrived in Southern Africa having journeyed 23,000 kilometer through 26 countries. I only traveled with a single 20kg rucksack, and a camera.
Gradually I uncovered the forgotten corners of Africa. The regions I traveled through were beautiful. I saw deserts, beaches, forests, and more. The vistas and sceneries were striking. People were exceptionally kind to me. It ruffled me to think that few tourists ever came to where I was.
I began wishing for better futures for these countries. Many struggled with poverty. But poverty does not mean crime. It should not discourage tourists. I began photographing the countries more aesthetically. I hoped to uplift the reputations of these countries.
Whenever I asked locals why their country was under-visited by tourists, they seldom knew. This bothered me. At that young age, I had enjoyed a breathtaking journey through many lovely places. I did not associate crime or danger with those countries anymore. To me they were just people – friendly people. Why could others not see the same?
One man gave a beautiful answer.
He was an old Sierra Leonean war-victim. We sat next to each other on a sidewalk. He insisted to spend the little money he owned to buy me a banana.
Why should he spend his money on me? I asked him. I hope his answer will inspire you to leave home and head out to these beautiful, forgotten corner.
This is what he said:
“In places where people live difficult lives, areas where futures are dim and where poverty is a curse, people look for happiness. The places they are from are at the bottom of the world’s food chain and frankly they get ignored by many of the great Western powers far, far away. So then to see a white man, but not one coming to help or aid, but just to come to enjoy, that is something most people in Africa rarely see. If feels like being poor African in a Western eye is to be a lesser person. White people want to help, teach, assist and support, but like this an African feels subordinate. He or she may feel like a mistake that the world reluctantly tries to fix. So for an impoverished person to see a tourist, someone who does not come to fix them but to admire them, it brings them a huge sense of pride. It shows that their country has made it onto the Western radar. That they are not the undervalued. This is why I buy you lunch, sir. With all my heart I hope you will accept my gift and tell your friends at home of my kindness. For then they can come and see my country for themselves.”
I hope so as well.