12 months, 12 countries

I came to Senegal hoping I’d be lucky enough to see a bit of this country and a few others nearby. Things worked out beyond my wildest dreams, and I ended up visiting 12 new countries in 12 months, a personal record. Half the trips were for work, half for vacation, but all of them were a pleasure to see. (Though they were definitely not pleasurable at every moment, to say the least.)

I’ll share my favorite pictures from Dakar later, but first, here in one place are my travelogues from all the countries I visited from last February to this January.

Senegal: the western and northern parts, and a central / southern part

Portugal

Morocco: Marrakech and Casablanca

Liberia

Ethiopia

Tanzania: safari on the mainland and Zanzibar

South Africa: Cape Town and Johannesburg

Benin

Mauritania

Burkina Faso

The Gambia

Cape Verde: Cidade Velho, Praia, and Mindelo, and the island of Santo Antão

And with that, I’m off to the airport, America-bound…

Advertisements

South Africa part 2: Johannesburg

In Johannesburg I stayed with an acquaintance of an acquaintance. About two years ago I met up with someone I had briefly worked with on a couple of projects, and I mentioned that I was planning to move to Senegal. He put me in touch with an Irish woman (whom he had never met but with whom he had somehow conversed in an online artists community, maybe?), who also worked with non-profits, had moved to South Africa a few years before, and was perhaps a kindred spirit who might advise me on my journey. I Skyped with her from New York, she was wonderfully supportive and helpful, and before we hung up she invited me to stay with her and her partner in Johannesburg if I ever made it that way. At the time I joked, “Sure, why not travel from one end of Africa to the other? See you in a few months!” But in the end, that’s exactly what happened. Continue reading

South Africa part 1: Cape Town

I’m about to set off for four new places, and I’ve still got a bunch of catching up to do with posts about the places I’ve already been to…

So here’s a rundown of the Cape Town portion of my Ethiopia / Tanzania / South Africa tour, and I’ll attempt to follow this with Johannesburg and possibly Benin before I leave town tomorrow evening: Continue reading

the weekend is here…

world_light_map.jpg

…but I’ll be working my way through it to try to complete a video project before I go on vacation next week. I’m heading first to Ethiopia, then to Tanzania, and then flying home by way of South Africa. The southern detour was a last-minute addition, which happened after I booked the first two legs of my trip as one-way tickets using my United miles (at 17,500 miles each), only to realize right before I booked the final homebound journey that I could have worked the system much better.

This New York Times article alerted me to the fact that when you book an international round-trip ticket with United miles, you are allowed to add in one stopover of any length AND two open jaws (meaning the destination or the origin is not the same in both directions), all for the same number of miles as a standard round-trip ticket. So, had I booked my three tickets as one round-trip instead, I could have spent only 35,000 miles to go from Dakar to Addis, Addis to Kilimanjaro, and Dar es Salaam to Dakar.

I tried changing my ticket retroactively but some of the dates were no longer available. Since that meant I was looking at spending an additional 17,500 unnecessary miles to get home, I decided I better make those miles go further than 35,000 would have. After hours of plugging in a million different combinations of dates and destinations unsuccessfully, I finally found one that worked:

I changed my one-way Dakar to Addis ticket into a round-trip (I had decided to fly there one day earlier so I would have paid a change fee in any case).

I left the Addis to Kilimanjaro ticket alone as a one-way ticket.

For the return portion of the round-trip ticket, I booked an open jaw from Dar es Salaam to Dakar, with a five-day stopover in Johannesburg en route. (I first figured out where all the possible stopovers were by identifying the overlapping cities in two Google searches: “direct flights from Dar es Salaam” and “direct flights to Dakar.” Then I picked the one that was most attractive to me – albeit thousands of miles out of the way.)

Total cost: 52,500 miles, the $75 change fee, and maybe $200 in taxes – a teeny tiny price to pay for a 3-country tour across Africa.

I spelled this all out as a PSA of sorts. Before you book your next trip with miles, I would encourage you to do the due diligence I did not and make sure you are getting the absolute most out of them that you can.

That said, I’ve always wanted to visit South Africa so I have no regrets about the way this turned out. I am so, so psyched for my upcoming adventures… but have yet to plan any of the South African portion, so I have to get to work on that this weekend in between actual work.

Enjoy your weekends! Here are some relevant reads and videos that I found interesting this week:

American politicians who speak Spanish.

Can you guess what the most metal word in the English language is?

A 17th century constructed language divided everything in the universe into 40 categories.

A life is a life, wherever and whenever it is cut short.” The devastating human toll of terrorism.

How colorful is your language?

The grief that white Americans can’t share.

We need a language and a system to understand spin.

P.S. I would gratefully welcome tips on: reliable Ethiopian car hire companies; places to eat in Zanzibar; where to stay along the northern loop in Ethiopia, in Addis, and in Cape Town; and the best things to see and do if you’ve only got five days in South Africa.

[Photo: courtesy Marc Imhoff of NASA GSFC and Christopher Elvidge of NOAA NGDC. Image by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA GSFC.]