I’m about to embark on a personal journey: a six-month trip to West Africa and Madagascar.

I’m leaving my job as medical reporter at the Houston Chronicle and selling most of my belongings. A month from now, I’ll fly to Senegal, where my adventure begins.

I have always loved to travel, so I’m taking this opportunity to see some of the world, improve my French and try my hand at freelancing from abroad before life’s responsibilities get in the way.

Here’s the itinerary — for now. It’s a flexible plan that may change depending on where I feel like going and when. That’s the beauty of this trip!

West African jaunt: Travel overland through Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
July – Aug.

On the map: Senegal is at the most western part of West Africa, colored light orange. Go east and you’ll hit Mali, yellow, and Burkina Faso, brown, then Ghana, pink, to the south.

Cameroon: A trip back to the country where I studied abroad during college, including a visit to the polygamous family I stayed with there.
Sept. – Oct.

On the map: Cameroon also is on
the west coast, but further south.
It’s colored bright orange.Map of Africa

Madagascar: After a week-long detour in South Africa, I’ll fly to the fourth-largest island in the world.
Nov. – Dec.

On the map: It’s the large island off the east coast of Africa, colored bright orange.

UPDATE: This Google map, created by a friend, offers an up-close look at the countries I’ll be visiting.