2020 Was Supposed To Be...
This year was supposed to be the year where I traveled to 10+ African countries. After being featured in Travel Noire, Black Enterprise and numerous local, national and international media outlets, momentum was starting to build and THEN...
We all know what happened and how life came to a screeching halt for most of the world. Many of my friends in the travel industry suffered and are suffering major losses (especially in the cruise industry). Needless to say, life as we knew it drastically changed for the foreseeable future.
When the virus reared it’s ugly head, the world shut down and so did all of my Africa travel plans. Being a responsible global and local citizen, I stayed home, social distanced and did my part to stop the spread (as suggested). Most of us did not know much about the virus and I did not want to get sick or be the cause of someone else getting sick. I was devastated by this unexpected turn of events but I knew 2020 should not and would not be a bust.
How Did I Respond?
When the world went on lock down in March, I was preparing to visit Sierra Leone 🇸🇱 , Liberia 🇱🇷 , Ivory Coast 🇨🇮, Cameroon 🇨🇲 and a quick stop in Ghana 🇬🇭 in April. The tickets were purchased and I was ready to go. I also had Senegal 🇸🇳 , Angola 🇦🇴 and South Africa 🇿🇦 in the works.
Oftentimes an unexpected event opens the door to other opportunities. That is what happened in my case. Although I couldn’t visit these countries, I could still invest in them. That’s what it did. I bought a condo in Accra, Ghana so that when travel returned, I would have a place to stay in Ghana.
I realized that I could also write about my experiences while visiting the countries in Africa in an effort to change the negative narrative many of us are familiar with. Hopefully this would inspire our children to want to visit one day. Well, I did that too. While we were on lockdown, I wrote a seven book children’s series about traveling to different countries in Africa and other African Disapora destinations. Needless to say, I made the most of the time. The first two Adventures of Darren and Destiny are available on Amazon. Just search Darren and Destiny and the Ghana and the Safari books will come up.
Why did I decide to travel back to Africa now vs waiting until next year?
The pandemic has reportedly not affected most of the countries in Africa the same way the rest of the world has been affected. Many of the countries in Africa acted quickly to prevent the virus from entering their country. As a result, the virus was not able to spread the same way it did other places (according to reports). There has been some debate as to how some of these countries reported or simply didn’t report but their proactive responses appeared to have an impact in limiting the spread.
One of the main reasons why I feel more comfortable traveling to Africa now is because of the requirements to enter the respective countries. There is a level of screening that is required that could even serve as a deterrent for some who might not take this process seriously.
What Did I Do?
Planning for international travel
1. I researched the COVID 19 restrictions for each country I was interested in traveling to. I was not interested in traveling anywhere I could run the risk of a forced quarantine (at my expense).
2. I also made sure I researched the proper test that each country required for entry and the timeline prior to departure they would accept as a valid test.
3. I researched the locations and pricing of rapid PCR COVID tests. My research revealed that the timing of the test was important if I wanted to be compliant and avoid any issues.
4. After all of my research, I settled on a destination (Tanzania) for my first trip back to Africa since COVID. I made this decision for several reasons. The first reason was the fact that Tanzania had a relatively simple entry process compared to other countries. There was no risk of a quarantine and the E-Visa process was straightforward and simple.
* Again, I chose a destination that tied into my overall mission to promote travel to different countries in Africa while not being a COVID hotspot.
* I chose Tanzania because I was familiar with it due to my successful Mt. Kilimanjaro climb and safari trip in 2019.
* Once I decided to return to Tanzania, I booked my flight from Dulles to Kilimanjaro using the points I had accumulated.
* I chose an airline (Ethiopian) that offered flexible cancelation and change options in the event I needed to make any modifications.
* After securing the flight, I applied for the E-Visa and received it within days.
* I scheduled my rapid (results within 48 hours) PCR COVID-19 test. My negative test results came within 36 hours. Tanzania required a test no older than 72 hours. I had to schedule mine 68 hours before the trip because I was taking a Monday morning flight and the testing facility was not open on the weekends. #nailbiter
* I purchased my trip insurance (for roughly $200) with medical AND it had a $175,000 emergency evacuation option. Many people miss this and find themselves in a jam when traveling anywhere abroad because their domestic medical insurance typically does not transfer to international events. Some countries (like parts of Mexico and other places) will not release you from the hospital (or medical facility) if you do not pay the entire medical bill before being discharged.
Cancel 2020? No Way!
Needless to say, everything flowed smoothly and my fears and concerns did not manifest. Arriving at the airport and seeing it nearly empty was surreal. On one hand, it was good because I flew through the check in and TSA. On the other hand, it was a sober reminder of the realities we are facing. Many of the stores in this massive airport (Dulles) were closed. It was quiet and I could not help but to think of all of the people who are still out of work.
As I went to my seat, there was no rush. I walked onto this massive 787 plane by myself. No one was closely behind me or in front of me. I was able to take my time putting my carry on in the overhead compartment. I had the entire row to myself and so did the person behind me and the person behind him. There were many empty rows. Social distancing was not a problem and EVERYONE was masked up. The airline was visibly wiping everything down and they gave us a small hand sanitizer when we entered the plane.
The reason I am glad I didn’t wait until 2021 to venture out is because we all have learned more about how to navigate with the virus. COVID-19 is serious business. Many people I personally know have contracted it and fully recovered while some have died. On the flip side, many people I know have lost their businesses and jobs as a result. The impact of the virus has impacted lives on so many levels. The reality is that we are being forced to live with the virus on so many levels. I decided to be wise and travel cautiously. For some people, now is not the time but it will be eventually. My encouragement is to go at your own pace and no matter where you travel, take all necessary precautions.
I guess Darren and Destiny will have a COVID-19 travel adventure complete with the masks and hand sanitizer coming soon. Haha!
I hope this encourages someone to consider traveling again.
@jaycameronofficial on IG and FB — in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.