Akwaaba guys. Welcome to another piece of Africa with Nana Ashanti. I hope we are all being good to ourselves out there. Per my usual sniffing around, I came across an epic photo
which had been shared a few times on my timeline.
I proceeded to share it too because why not? I am talking about all the photos on this page.
The man behind the smile is DeNorris, an Atlanta, Georgia native who has so far been to 49 countries across the world. You read that right. Checkout Africa reached out to him for an exclusive interview and he was kind enough to grant the request. He has been on the road since July 2015, backpacked through Europe and he is currently in the continent of Africa.
I had, probably the best conversation of the year with DeNorris. Some of his travel experiences were wild and very interesting. So let’s live vicariously through him for now. Catch the interview below.
(For conversational purposes, Checkout Africa will be known as CA and Mr. DeNorris will be known as DN. Conversation is true but paraphrased. Questions in bold).
CA: Thanks for granting us this interview. I am pleased to share your travel stories with our readers. Our entire motivation is to rebrand Africa so thanks for talking to us.
CA: So first off, why Africa? What led you to make the decision to travel across the continent?
DN: I have, in the past, traveled to Europe and Asia for work. I really like traveling. The first country I went to in South America was Costa Rica. I also planned a trip with a friend of mine to Brazil. Somehow, I had to go a few days before he could depart, so here I was in Brazil by myself. Because of what I had heard about Brazil, I was so scared to go out. I stood in the hotel for about 3 hours convincing myself that it was safe to go out (laugh). I finally went out and it turned out to be one of the best nights of my life. So I said, maybe Africa will be the same. And to be honest, I feel safer traveling Africa than I feel in the US.
CA: Pretty interesting story. Apart from that what else drew you to the continent?
DN: I will say to get in touch with my roots and for self-learning.
CA: Also very important. What job do you do and how do you manage to travel for so long?
DN: I work in tech. And I took a leave of absence from work.
CA: One thing that bogs the mind of many wanna-be travelers in the cost involved. If I may ask, are you a trust fund baby?
DN:(LAUGHS) No, I am not a trust fund baby. Not at all. I actually saved for a long time to enable my travels. Instead of riding in a nice car and buying things, I rode around in a beat up car and saved up. I will say for about 7 years. I don’t encourage people to increase their debt. Think about buying memories instead of things.
CA: Food for thought. (laugh) How many African countries have you visited so far.
DN: A lot actually. S.A, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Egypt and so on.
CA: Out of all these countries, which one stood out most in your mind and why?
DN: I will say, South Africa and Ethiopia. Because I got to really enjoy their culture, their people and their way of life. I met some really cool people and had really deep conversations in both countries. Had the best time
CA: How did you like the weather? Some people assume is excruciatingly hot in Africa.
DN: It was a lot colder than I expected. In countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe, I had to like wear a sweater sometimes. The weather was pleasant.
CA: How about the food?
DN: Oh yeah. I really liked Ugandan and South African food. Everything was so fresh which is new for me. I am still getting used to eating chicken with so many bones in it.
CA: Ah yes. The bones. Organic chicken it is.
DN: (laughs) It was all new to me. There was an instance, we ate lamb about 10 minutes after it was killed. I’m still learning. All still very new.
CA: Did you get sick or need medication at all? People just assume the worst kind of illnesses live in Africa.
DN: Well, I didn’t need any medication and I never felt ill. I discovered probiotics in one of the places I visited and it has helped me a lot. I think I lost about 20lbs. (laughs). I feel just fine.
CA: About the photo in question, what is the story behind it. Travel Noire and a few other pages shared it. Pretty sure you were excited about how far it reached.
DN: Yeah I was happy about it. It was very difficult to get there because we had to swim a little to get to the destination and I don’t swim. At all. But the guide was very helpful and I had a great time.
CA: Did you know there was a 350ft drop behind you. Are you some sort of dare devil?
DN: I was aware but I was not alone. It’s all part of the travel experience.
CA: Will you consider moving permanently to one of these countries you visited?
DN: Yeah, I will. Absolutely. I have a few business ideas I will like to see to fruition. Being out here and looking at the news in the U.S, it seems like some crazy place(laughs). I do have family in Atlanta and I will miss them dearly. But maybe in the future, it will all be possible.
CA: Speaking of family, how different or similar was the family system in the countries you have visited so far?
DN: Umm, there wasn’t much difference only that African families are a lot more close knit. They seem to all raise each other. They seem a lot closer as a unit.
CA: What were some of the downsides of the places you visited. Was there anything that disappointed you?
DN: I was so disappointed in the lack of solely owned black businesses. I thought I will see something like the movie, “Boomerang”, where black Africans had their own corporations and were the manager, owner and employees. Instead I found out that many of the resorts and big corporation were foreign owned. That was disappointing. Foreigners seems to set up shop faster and easier than the natives. The lack of help from the government and business loans were very troubling to me.
CA: That is a valid concern. The governments seems more eager to work with foreigners than with locals.
DN: Which is disappointing. Take SA, 90% of the population is Black. However, the 10% of foreigners control 90% of the economy. Quite disheartening. Businesses did not even know how to market themselves properly. I had to give free business consulting to some of the places I came across. People had very good ideas. The problem was the execution.
CA: Very true. A lot of businesses in Africa barely have an online presence. I guess people are still trying to grasp the importance of having both a strong online and onsite presence. On the topic, did you volunteer in any centers when you went any of the countries?
DN: Yeah I volunteered in SA at a Youth center run by a guy named Bob in Soweto. He made a lasting impression on me. He had single handedly started a youth center to raise kids and I met with some of the kids he had mentored in the past. These kids came from all sorts of backgrounds and Bob did a good job essentially raising all the kids on his own. Prior to our arrival, I heard that most NBA players make it a point to visit his center when they are in SA. I also volunteered at an orphanage in Kenya and Tanzania. All I will say to fellow travelers is this. Do not pay to volunteer. Most of these orphanages have middlemen who barely know about the orphanage. Instead visit and buy supplies. Buy essentials.
CA: Well this is new to me but thanks for sharing. I had no idea some unscrupulous people were making money off charity. Quite sad. Big question though, Does Africa need charity? A lot of world agencies and individuals go on and on about aiding Africa. I see countless ads asking for aid for African countries. So in your opinion does Africa need aid or charity?
DN: Africa does not need charity. Africa needs leadership. Africa needs good leadership with good policies. Strong leadership will move the entire continent forward.
CA: Perfect answer. Well said. Did you visit any former slave trade sites or former forts/castles?
DN: Actually, this was the part of the trip I was not prepared for. I told myself that I will not visit any slave site. Someway somehow I found my self in a Zanzibar former slave site.
CA: East African slave site? That’s new.
DN: Apparently not. This slave trade was run by the Arabs and Europeans alike. I was ushered to this tiny room where my guide told me 75 women and children were placed in before being shipped overseas. We were just two in the room and we barely fit so imagine 75 people in that space. No bathroom, no space and one window. It was very disheartening that, people had to pray that the sea tides were high enough to clear the human waste in the room.
CA: Did you feel any spiritual connection to the place as an African American?
DN: I will not spiritual but I felt the pain. It was very real. There is a difference between being told about something than actually experiencing it. I was like wow. This is wicked.
CA: Yeah. I stay away from visiting too but I think in order for us to move on us as a people, we need to understand what happened, how it’s affecting us currently and look into the future. Where are you currently and where is your next big destination?
DN: I am currently in Egypt. I am planning on going to Sudan and then head home for a bit.
CA: Ah. Sounds nice. Let me know if any of the Pharaohs were African or Black (laughs).
DN: *laughs* Yes I am discovering a lot and yes a lot of them were Nubian.
CA: Any parting words for our readers?
DN: Black people need to travel. Black people need to dialogue. Black people need to travel to Africa and spend their money where it matters to boost the economies of these young nations. Most importantly, “It is only failure if you never tried”.
CA: Thanks a lot and thanks for your insight and sharing your wonderful stories with us.
DN: Yeah. You’re welcome.
****Thanks for reading and sharing this article. Footage of all his travels will be edited and uploaded to his upcoming YouTube channel and instagram @travelandtruth. If you have any questions, feel free to inbox or email him. Visit his website here****
Now for our question of the day, what African country is on your bucket list?? What are your thoughts on the issues discussed above.
Share your comments with us below.
Visit my Instagram @nana_ashanti