To avoid making the same packing  mistakes on my next backpacking trip, I made a (warm-weather) list. I’m posting it here so you can benefit from it, too.

My Packing List



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Planning a long-term trip? Here are a handful of resources that helped me make logistical decisions, as well as a few that offered inspiration.

The Practical Nomad: How to travel around the world, by Edward Hasbrouck — Of all the how-to guides for around-the-world travel that I got my hands on, this book was by far the best. Advice for independent travelers ranges from how to buy your airfare to figuring out your budget. (The author also posts advice on his Web site.)

A Journey of One’s Own: Uncommon advice for the independent woman traveler, by Thalia Zepatos  —The book offers advice, tips and ideas for female travelers.

Gutsy Women: More travel tips and wisdom for the Road, by MaryBeth Bond — Part of the travelers’ tales series, this book is a combo of advice and inspiration for the woman traveler.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert — The New York Times bestseller is a memoir about how a woman recovers from a divorce through travel.

Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at large in the world, by Rita Golden Gelman — Another travel memoir, an inspiring one about a woman who follows her whims.

Coming soon: online resources.

Sunday, Jan. 25
Back in the States

It’s game time.

Time to write. Time to create. Time to turn all the blog entries from the last six months into one cohesive story, a travel tale that will appeal to the masses. I’m writing a book!

And I need your help. You’ve read this blog for months, and no doubt made judgements on which stories you liked and which you hated. Now I want you to share them with me.

Which blog entries made you laugh? Cry? Stop reading after the first sentence? Or come back to my site first thing the next morning, hoping for another story? Which tales stuck with you? Which did you tell your friends about? Which made you give this blog link to your co-worker in the cube next door?

Comment below, or e-mail me at alexiskgrant(AT)yahoo.com. I’ll put together a list of your favorites and post them here. We’ll create a “Best of Inkslinging,” so I can create a best-selling book.

Merci, merci!

Friday, Jan. 16
Back in the States

50,000 hits!

In just six months, the blog has gained 50,000 hits, thanks to all of you readers!

Wednesday, Jan. 14
Back in the States

When I travel, I walk. A lot. It’s the best way to explore new places.

But when I explored by foot in Africa during these last six months, my knee hurt, although I wasn’t sure why. It pained me enough that I gave up running for the duration of my trip, hoping rest would help me recover.

I skipped out on climbing Mount Cameroon, which I had considered one of the highlights of my trip.  And I popped pain pills even for light hikes.

So one of the first things I did when I got home was see a knee doctor. (Looking back, I should have visited the doctor before leaving for Africa, since even then I was suffering from knee pain. I had hoped it was temporary.)

Two visits and an MRI later, I know why I’ve been in such pain: I have a torn meniscus and a cyst. That meniscus, or cartiledge on the inner knee that allows for movement, is pretty necessary for an active 20-something like me.

To fix it, I need minor surgery. I’ve scheduled it for the end of the month.

Of course the idea of surgery is less than thrilling. But to be honest, I feel relieved to find out what’s been ailing me all these months, ever since I ran a series of trail races in Houston in April. If this surgery will help me get back into running again, I’m up for it.

In fact, I even feel lucky. Not lucky to have an injury, but lucky to have the means to fix it. Africa has a way of doing that — making me feel lucky for everything.

Imagine if Africa was my home instead of a place to visit, if I was a villager in any one of the countries I just explored. I’d be in the same pain, probably working out in the fields every day, cultivating crops to feed my family. Yet I’d likely never have the chance to visit a knee doctor or undergo surgery to fix the injury. I’d be forced to live with the pain.

But I’m an American! I’ve got access to a doctor, a surgery and health insurance to pay for most of it. (Thanks to Dad, who forced me to buy health insurance before I left.)

So I’ll gratefully go under the knife. Two months later I should be able to run again.

Monday, Jan. 12
Back in the States

Now that I’m home with a fast WiFi connection, I’m uploading hundreds of photos and videos I took during my trip. Thought you might want to see a few of my favorites that didn’t make it onto the blog already. Turn on your sound!

A video of the sandstorm my travel companions and I hit in Timbuktu:

Here, my Cameroonian village family celebrates after I delivered more than $1,000, contributed by readers of this blog, to pay school fees. Those moving lights are glow-in-the-dark bracelets worn by people who are dancing. The sounds? Singing and cheering.

This Malagasy man showed me the process of creating silk, which later is used to weave scarves, from silkworms’ coocons. Here, he hangs the coocons out to dry.

Drying coocons is part of the silk-production process.

Drying coocons is part of the silk-production process.

Kumasi’s open-air market is, I believe, the biggest one in West Africa. I walked around it for hours just watching the scene and the people.

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Tuesday, Jan. 6
At home — Albany, NY

I hate saying goodbye and dread writing conclusions.

That’s the real reason why I haven’t ended the blog. I wanted to do it before Christmas, but I allowed myself to get distracted by everything that makes returning to the States wonderful: lovely company, tasty food and quality hygiene.

I’ve written half a dozen “last post” drafts, but none of them satisfied me. How do I sum up so much I’ve gained during the last six months?

Today, though, a reprieve arrived in my inbox: a note from Benoit Ndi Wamba, the son in my Cameroonian village family who helped me use money raised by readers of this blog to pay school fees for all the school-age children in his poor family.

Did I mention he was serious about school? Those who donated money can know it went to good use with Benoit at the wheel, that he’s keeping close tabs on his studying siblings: he sent grades earned by each child during the first three months of this year. A report card for the Ndi Wamba family!

The grades itself mean nothing since I don’t understand the system well (in general, higher is better). But that’s not what matters.

What matters is that because of this gift of school tuition and books — more than $1,000 donated — the Ndi Wamba kids not only get to go to school, they’re also being encouraged to do well. Their marks count for something. They’re being pushed to succeed.

So I’m not going to end the blog today. Instead, I’m sending along the Ndi Wamba report card, so you know what a difference you’ve made. Thank you.

This comes directly from Benoit!

Resultats: first trimestre
*Moyenne = average

1. Mbeuguia tsekeng, Jean. Classe: première. *Moyenne: 11,16.

2. Mbeuguia fofack, Sylvain. Classe: première. Moyenne: 10,92.

3. Mbeuguia dadem, Janvier. Classe: 6eme. Moyenne: 10,24.

4. Mbouadia kenfack, Regine. Classe: seconde. Moyenne: 08,63.

5. Mbouadia, Nathalie Alice. Classe: 5eme. Moyenne: 09,87.

6. Mbouadia djoumessi, Duplex. Classe: 4eme. Moyenne: 11,00.

7. Mbeuguia nguefack, Lydie. Classe: 6eme. Moyenne: 10,47 .

8. Mbouadia zonfack, Stéphane. Classe: élementaire first year. Moyenne: 11.02.

9. Temgoua mbeuguia, Maurice. Classe: premiere. Moyenne: 07,52.

10. Folefack, Jean Racel. Classe: terminal. Moyenne: 09,00.

11. Djoufack kenfack, Mirabelle. Classe: seconde. Moyenne: 09,00.

12. Alomo, Stéphanie Blanche. Classe: 4eme. Moyenne: 08,79.

13. Sonfack, Christelle Cédiane. Classe: 5eme. Moyenne: 08,00.

14. Soufac ngossa, Franklin. Classe: 6eme. Moyenne: 10,00.

15. Mbassibi wamba, Boniface. Classe: 6eme. Moyenne: 10,00.

16. Soufack tchoufack wamba, Canis. Classe: 3eme. Moyenne: 08,21.

17. For mine, we begin in February (Benoit).