My blog is finally at my own domain, alexisgrant.com!

I hope you’ll head over and subscribe to e-mail alerts — so you’ll get an e-mail when I post — or via RSS. (If you don’t know what RSS is, go for the e-mail option.)

I’m still blogging about writing my first book, travel and social media. Join us!

My other blog, formerly known as Aspiring Author, is now The Traveling Writer.

Why should you care?

Because you came here to Inkslinging in Africa for travel stories. Now you can read about travel at The Traveling Writer, which also includes my thoughts on writing. Travel AND writing rolled into one blog! What more could you ask for?

And yes, I’m still working on my travel memoir, the one based on this blog. At some point, when y’all ask what it was like to backpack solo through Africa as a woman, I’ll be able to hand you my book!

I’m taking a temporary hiatus from this blog while I write my first book, a travel memoir based on Inkslinging in Africa.

This is not the death of my travel blog. I’m hoping to take another extended trip — South America, maybe? — and when I do, you can read all about it here.

In the meantime, I’ll be blogging away over at Aspiring Author, which details my writing pursuits.

Thanks for stopping by!

Since my return to the States, dozens of people have said to me, “I wish I could do what you did.”

I usually tell them: “You can. Why don’t you?”

The answer is always the same. “I can’t leave my job” or “I don’t have the money” or “I have too many responsibilities.”

The truth is, you can skirt around nearly all of these obstacles if you really want to see the world.

Sometimes we get so sucked into the rat race that we forget who’s making decisions in our lives: we are. We take on all those responsibilities, and we can shed them if we want to.

I know what you’re thinking. “It’s not so easy. I have a mortgage payment!”

Of course it’s not easy. Dropping everything to travel requires a change of mindset, and a few sacrifices.

You’ve gotta think outside the box. Do you really need that apartment or house? You think you do, but you probably don’t. This is one of the easiest excuses to fix. Give it up or sell it, and get a new one when you come back. Maybe after you see how other people live, you’ll have a different idea of what you want anyhow.

(more…)

Saturday, Jan. 31
Albany, NY

With help from readers, I’ve put together a list of most popular blog posts. Here’s your chance to scroll through and make sure you’ve read the best stories.

Cameroon:

Homecoming: I reunite with a polygamous family in the village of Fongo-Ndeng.

Feeding and healing: A night of celebration for a grieving family.

The gift of school: Money collected from readers of this blog to pay for school was cause for joy in Fongo-Ndeng.

A very long layover: Unwilling to pay a bribe? Unable to leave the airport.

Madagascar:

Special delivery: Why I took the risk of carrying a package from a stranger on a flight.

Old, wrinked and inspiring: An unusual bunkmate had a strong impression on me.

Zen: High on travel.

Overnight debacle: An adventure I’d rather avoid:  sleeping in a not-so-safe bush taxi station.

West Africa:

Jean and Lolita: Watching a sick boy in Burkina Faso connect with a chimp.

Desert by camel: Experiencing a sandstorm in Timbuktu.

Making much from mud: Exploring Djenne, Mali, where all buildings are made of mud.

* If there’s another post you’d like to see included here, let me know and I’ll add the link.

Most independent travelers headed for developing countries know to bring a money belt, invest in a pair of durable shoes and abide by simple food rules: boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it.

Here’s some less common advice, tips I wish someone had told me before my trip to Africa.

Love your mozzie net.

If you need a mosquito net, buy one that includes poles and sets up like a tent. (I use this Skeeter Defeater from Long Road Travel Supplies.) Hangable nets are useless when there’s nowhere to hang them.

Learn to Skype.

Skype, a free service that allows you to make calls over the Internet, is the cheapest way to call home.  The drawback: for it to work well, you’ll need a solid Internet connection, which can be hard to find in some developing countries.  If you plan to Skype often, you may want to bring your own headset.

Be your own office assistant.

Create sticky labels with addresses of anyone who deserves to get a postcard. You won’t have to carry an address book, and you’ll know you sent all required postcards when the labels are gone.

Buy visas along the way.

It take s a little planning, but buying a visa in the country adjacent to where you’re going is usually cheaper than buying it from home and requires less paperwork.  Just make sure there’s an embassy for country #2 in country #1, lest you get stuck without one. Remember to ask about multi-country visas, which also can save you money.

Cipro for the sicko.

Convince your doctor to prescribe several doses of Cipro, or Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic that treats bacterial infections — pretty much anything that forces you to spend your entire day squatting over the toilet. Since travelers often suffer from stomach bugs in developing countries, it’s smart to have this drug handy. Bring Bacitracin ointment, too, and use it; even small cuts become easily infected in developing countries.

(more…)

Tuesday, Jan. 27
Albany, NY

Madagascar’s in political trouble.

I got the details from online news. But I heard first via e-mail from a Malagasy friend.

Ony, who I met during a visit to the children’s home where she works, lives in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, where the riots are taking place. She traveled with me for a few days because she’s trying to familiarize herself with various parts of her country so she can work in the tourism industry, one of the most lucrative job sectors on the poor island.

She wrote that life has been “very hectic” because of tension between the president and the opposition party, which has resulted in strikes, riots and fires in the streets of the city.

“We are very scared with this situation but hope they will find a solution soon,” Ony wrote. “No work until life is back to normal.”

Here’s a story from Reuters that ran this morning:

Madagascar’s opposition promised more anti-government protests on Tuesday and looting shook the capital overnight after the worst day of street violence for years on the Indian Ocean island.

Two people died on Monday when demonstrations against President Marc Ravalomanana’s government turned violent, according to witnesses and security sources. Crowds set fire to a state media building and ransacked shops, with a policeman and teenager killed in the chaos and crushes.

Those scenes revived memories of past political volatility on Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, and will not help the government’s efforts to present the nation as a tourist haven and sound destination for investment in mining and oil.

Political turmoil isn’t unusual in Madagascar. The country nearly suffered a coup in 2002 over an election, and it faced minor unrest around voting time in 2006.

But no one gets used to violence. As Ony wrote, it’s scary — every time.