Monday, November 28, 2011

Final preparations

I must be feeling ambitious or crazy, or maybe I have to be both to do what I'm doing. One day I'll be impatiently excited and dreaming of proving myself on the road again, the next day I'm sad thinking about leaving Alkmaar. I came back here not knowing what to expect, and it's true I haven't really done much here to be honest. I now understand why Savannah and the parents want to stay over here. I really like Alkmaar. I'm not ready to settle, but I definitely prefer to be here right now than back in Vancouver.
It feels like a calm before the storm these days and I don't want to bore you with the details of me sitting around online all day, reading, or just visiting with the family I have here. I realize I did miss these guys, even if they are all strange. I helped Sandra with her Master's thesis, I still have some of my ex-Korean students asking me for help with their English homework, and Savannah is almost finished her first draft of the first book of the trip, so I feel like I've been reading a lot of other people's writing lately while neglecting my own.
Today I was in The Hague to get my Cameroonian visa. It'll be very interesting going back to Africa for a second time, but under completely different conditions. I think it's a bit like bungy jumping a 2nd time. I thought it was scarier because I knew what I was getting myself into. This is a bit like that. I know what to expect, and it's not so much the fear, but it's the anticipation of very harsh conditions again. Bad food, bad roads, bad beds, language barriers, and all the corruption and hassle. The hardest part of any trip is getting started, the most critical is being properly mentally prepared. So on that note I'm thinking of myself right now as trying to get all my laziness out of my system now so I can do a complete 180 and go into manic travel mode 24/7 once things get started.
Things have been far too easy the last couple of years and this will probably be an over compensation. As an example, just to get to Chad, I will leave Alkmaar Dec 11th on an evening train to Frankfurt, Germany where I will finish the night in the airport before flying to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I will spend a 2nd night in a row in an airport before meeting up with James for our final flight to Chad together, finally arriving after 36+ hours in motion. His trip in from Texas won't be any easier so at least we'll start off equally messed up. Maybe that's why nobody goes to Chad on holiday, it's torture just to get there! We'll get to know James more as the trip progresses, but it's probably best to let him tell it himself. He's in love with Chad and is the creator and driving force behind ChadNow, his own nonprofit organization specializing in Chad. If you're interested in Chad pics, news, travel, etc I recommend you go to his website and check it out. You won't find a better one on Chad in the English language.
(This is also permanently linked on the side of the blog for ready access in the future.)

Some of the unique challenges to this trip:
1. I'll be alone for most of it. As I said before, I'll be with James for the first month in Chad and I'm thankful for the company to start. The whole family was together through most of Africa last time so to be mostly on my own this time will definitely be a challenge.
2. If all my ambitions are realized then I should get into 7 countries on this trip, most of which are new to me and only 2 of which have reliable ATMs. Safely having enough money on hand is going to be tricky... (I won't admit yet where I intend to go, to keep it slightly more exciting, to spare you the effort of trying to talk me out of it, and in the event that I completely fail, you won't know :p)
3. I am also going down there without any guidebooks. The idea being mostly to wing it and truly test myself. I suspect I'll run into a few people here and there and be able to use theirs.
4. My French is somewhere between non-existent and horrifyingly terrible.

I will attempt to couchsurf as much as possible this time around as well which should be a very valuable resource. I am also hoping to go with an even lighter bag than normal as well. I'll still have my backpack but ideally I'll have it nearly empty (pretty much clothes only) so I can feel even more mobile and free. I wish I could go with just a tiny bag. I really admire and respect travellers that can go with nothing more than a small daypack.
As an interesting related aside. I just read a Yahoo news article saying that the Mercer report that ranks world cities put N'Djamena, Chad as 3rd to last (just before Bangui, and Baghdad). Chad as a country has also been ranked the 2nd-most failed state in the world for the last 2 years (behind only Somalia) in the Annual Failed States Index as well.
I can't get the link to work but go to:
Not that I particularly believe it, but maybe that does tell us something....


At 10:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

reading this gave me a mini heart atttack. now i understand why you asked me that question. just be safe, ok?


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