Since I announced my departure, I’ve been asked the same questions again and again. Here’s my attempt to answer them.

Q: Why Africa?

A: Because it’s different than my home. I like pushing myself outside my comfort zone; it’s those experiences that make the best stories. I also want to improve my French, and what more exciting place to do it than West Africa?

Q: Still… Africa! Are you crazy?

A: Maybe a little. But I’m also adventurous. I spent some time in West Africa several years ago, four months in Cameroon, so I understand the countries I plan to visit suffer from poverty, crime and disease. They also have fabulous culture!

Q: Are you going alone?

A: Yes. And yes, I’m going alone by choice.

Traveling on my own means I get to go where I want when I want. It makes me more open to meeting people because otherwise I’ll have no one to talk to. And although I’ll start out alone, I’m hoping to meet up with other backpackers, journalists, friends of friends, and of course, people who live in the countries I’m visiting.

Q: Have you traveled alone before?

A: A bit, but nothing this extensive. I’ve been on my own for weeks in Cameroon and New Zealand, and for days in France and Germany.

Q: Do you speak French?

A: Yes, but not fluently. It’s been a while since I’ve visited a Francophone country, so I’ve been brushing up on my language skills for the past year at Rice University.

Q: What about your job? And your apartment?

A: I’m sadly leaving behind my job as a medical reporter at the Houston Chronicle. My lease is up, I’ve sold most of my belongings, and I’m storing my car and wardrobe at my parents’ house in Albany, NY.

Q: How are you paying for this?

A: With savings I’ve put away over the last three years, plus any money I can make freelancing. I’ll be living on a tight budget, staying in cheap hostels, skipping the expensive tourist sites, eating at markets instead of pricey restaurants.

Q: What will you do?

A: Learn about the places I visit and the people who live there. See the sights. Experience a new lifestyle. And write a few stories.

Q: Where will you stay?

A: I’ll figure it out as I go. Hostels, hotels, with missionaries and new friends, possibly my tent. Since I’ve been to Cameroon before, I have friends there who will give me a place to sleep.

Q: What are you bringing?

A: A backpack stuffed with everything that will fit, including a small laptop, digital camera and my running sneakers. I have, indeed, gotten my immunizations and packed my money belt and water filter.

Q: What do your parents think?

A: They’re used to me by now. Mom and Dad always support my life choices, but I imagine they’re feeling a bit of anxiety about this next step. Like you, they’ll be reading along on this blog.

Q: Did you make this decision on a whim?

A: No. I wanted to travel after college but put that dream aside to pursue journalism. I got my master’s degree, then a job. My goal was to learn the trade, build a respectable resume and save some money before taking off to see some of the world. Now that time is finally here!

Q: Are you scared?

A: Of course. But if I never did anything that scared me, I’d still be living with my parents.

~ What else are you wondering about? Post your questions and I’ll answer.