Coming home

The 13 months of Encircle Africa circumnavigation really only had one aim inherent in the idea of circumnavigation: to get back home. Almost four months after my return, I have managed to complete a first draft of what will hopefully become published literature. I am also still asked what it is like to be home. The truth is it feels very normal – back to business as usual – almost as if I had never left. Life in London is easy: things work, and seats have cushions. It feels no different than returning after a short holiday, though I was infinitely more tired. Within hours of unpacking I was back to resting on a sofa – a bit of a treat I must admit – and drinking cups of tea I was able to make myself, with real milk.

It is difficult to know where to begin telling people about the trip. Talking for hours about it is easy, but how do I sum it up in a single sentence answer for relatives calling from afar? How do I sum up 31 countries, 13 months of travel, something in the realms of 25,000 miles in just a few words? Perhaps that’s the point.

 Take your pick of countries, and expect the unexpected. School map, Lamu, Kenya

Africa is big. It is also the most diverse continent on earth. Anyone who has been to one of Africa’s 54 nations knows the continent defies the world of television snap-shots. Africa is not just malnourished children in conflict zones, a herd of elephant in the background. Most of Africa’s children probably haven’t seen an elephant.

There are cities that rival European capitals, countryside that rivals any of our national parks, and public transport that needs just a little bit of work. Certainly the contrasts to life are more exaggerated in Africa than in Britain. In Africa there are millionaires’ mansions next to shanty dwellings. There is no shame in being poor, and I felt no embarrassment in being ‘rich’. The people of Africa see this for what it is, down to hard work, luck and quirks of fate like the place in which someone is born. But perhaps the most startling difference between Britain and Africa is the volume. Africa is loud.

Bodging like you’ve never bodged before. It always seems to work. Pennywise Guesthouse, Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone

What made Encircle Africa a joy for me was the warmth, generosity and ingenuity of Africa’s many people. They are the best bodgers I have ever come across, just trying to make a decent living like everyone else.
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