My name is Andrea, and I’m 24 years old. I’m a journalist and entrepreneur from Cameroon currently based in England.
What interests you most about traveling?
The growth process; I believe traveling is the best education one can have. When you travel, you step out of your comfort zone and discover new cultures, meet new people, learn new languages, try new food and realize that, at the end of the day, we are all the same no matter where we come from. Travel is also an antidote to fear. It makes you see the world from a new perspective, do things you never thought you could, and embrace differences. The most important things traveling has taught me are compassion, gratitude and self-awareness. By discovering the world, I have discovered myself.
What took you to Dakar?
I was invited to be a participant and panelist at a Women's Empowerment Summit organized by Give 1 Project, a local organization which aims to empower young men and women through leadership and educational programs within Senegal and worldwide. During the summit I shared my experiences and entrepreneurial journey with young women from Senegal, and also spoke during a panel about the importance of women in leadership and the place of women in African culture.
The Give 1 Project organization has also recently launched the "Akon Lighting Africa" tour in partnership with Akon which is striving to bring electricity to 1 million households in Africa by the end of 2014.
Did you have any expectations going into the experience? Did you travel by yourself?
I traveled by myself and didn’t really know anyone in Dakar, apart from a few people I knew virtually. I also didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t want to. Sometimes having expectations can ruin your whole experience. I wanted to experience things with the heart of a child. And somehow, I knew deep inside that this trip would be life-changing. So I just followed my intuition. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had this year because Senegalese people are so welcoming! I met such amazing people there and made some great work connections.
What was your experience like in Dakar?
Since I was in Dakar for a summit, most of my activities were related to it. However, I was able to visit several places like Ngor Island, which is absolutely beautiful! Goree Island was inevitably on my list, as it was once one of the major ports for slave trade; it was an extremely emotional experience.
I also had the opportunity to visit the Women’s Prison of Dakar, and was able to speak with some of the women, make a donation, and hear about their lives in prison. I hesitate to write about this because it's quite a sensitive topic, but the main reason women are imprisoned in Senegal is because of abortions or infanticides. Senegal is a very traditional country where religion influences almost every aspect of life, including women's rights. Senegal's abortion law is very strict: a woman found guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to 10 years. Even with overpopulation, some women have to give birth in rough conditions and live there with their children. What struck me the most about my time with them is how warm these women remain despite their circumstances. I didn't see prisoners that day; I saw mothers, wives, and family. I saw love.
There were also some very fun experiences, as Dakar is full of these! I spent my spare time exploring the city with new friends, having drinks, eating delicious meals and meeting awesome people. Dakar is a very cosmopolitan city and at the same very traditional with an extremely diverse and fantastic art and culture scene. I had the opportunity to attend a live performance by Souleymane Faye, one of Senegal’s most renowned artists. I also met several other creatives, artists and entrepreneurs. Oh and another thing, Senegalese women have an incredible sense of style!
What recommendations do you have for future travelers going to Dakar?
Well… let me start with the most important – food! Senegalese cuisine is amazing! Thieb bou dien (Senegal’s national dish) and Yassa were my favorites. As for the drinks, I had Bissap juice every day, and also tried Baobab juice and loved it! My favorite of all though was Senegalese tea, Attaya, which is the best mint tea I have ever had.
A few places I would recommend to visit:
- Sea Plaza, a beautiful mall located near the Blu Radisson in Dakar with a breathtaking view on the beach
- Sokhamon Hotel Bar to have drinks and watch the sunset
- Terrou Bi is another beautiful hotel with an amazing restaurant
- Kermel market for unique jewelry, accessories and handcrafted goods
- La pointe des Almadies for the beach and amazing sea food
- Senegal National Art Gallery for art lovers
- Barramundi Lounge Bar and Vogue Club for the night life were my favorites
What advice do you have for individuals that want to start traveling internationally, but don’t know how to start?
The advice I would give to anyone that wants to travel internationally is to always do some research to make sure you find the best flight and accommodation deals. I usually spend a great amount of time on the internet looking for the cheapest flights, and doing research on the places I want to visit. Reading blogs, reviews, and learning from other people’s experiences can also be very useful. I usually find the best deals on Tripadvisor.com, SkyScanner.net, Momondo.com and HolidayPirates.com.
Please share the story behind your favorite image captured during your trip.
I met this woman [see featured story image] at Ngor Island, who was selling all kinds of items: jewelry, key chains and...wait for it… beaded G-strings. She kept insisting that I buy one and when I asked her why, she smiled and said: "You should wear it for your husband so that he will love you more and won't look for a second wife." Pretty hilarious! Senegalese things I guess.
What is your favorite memory from your time in Dakar?
Sharing meals in the traditional African way, as we sat in a circle on the floor and ate from the same big bowl. To me, this is best embodied the spirit of Teranga, which means hospitality in Wolof (a Senegalese language). I felt so much warmth and hospitality in Dakar, it was as if I was reunited with family I had never met. Senegalese people make you feel at home no matter where you’re from. I’m grateful to have been able to experience that and create bonds that last until today.
The entire experience taught me a lot about myself. Not only was I able to connect with inspiring women from Africa & other parts of the world, I was also able to touch hearts by sharing my story. Being completely honest about my successes and failures and seeing the impact it had on young girls was simply a reminder to follow my inner calling. When you learn, teach. That's how powerful this experience was. I found my path, I connected the dots of my life, and I'm going confidently in the direction of my purpose.
What’s next for you?
I’m thinking South East Asia. Wish me luck! :)
Visit www.myafricanchronicles.com to read more about Andrea's travels and future projects.
Images Courtesy of Andrea Bomo