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Africa: The Pitfalls – and Privileges – of Travelling While Black

Joe Shmoe may be able to backpack across Lomé with nothing more than the clothes on his back; you probably can’t.

When I first started backpacking, I had a long list of requirements that needed to be met before I could even consider going somewhere. Today I more or less have three – and even that is more than most people on the move can afford to allow themselves.

Today, I only ask for a clean and safe hotel. An easy visa process. And a means to get there and back. This list has been whittled down over years of travel in almost seventy countries, after finding myself in situations that I would never previously have contemplated. Sleeping on an airport floor in Madrid when your hotel locks you out. Running for the Ghanaian border when your Togolese employer turns out to be abusive. Running out of money in Burkina Faso and having to depend on the kindness of strangers. Battling altitude sickness on the slopes of Mount Everest.

Once you’ve found yourself in a situation where you had to depend on a foreign society’s hospitality to survive, your list of non-negotiables changes very quickly.

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