Big in Africa: 5 Things to do before traveling to Africa

This month, Big in Japan is on vacation in Africa, and will be bringing you travel news and happenings from around this often misunderstood continent.

Japan is certainly a weird, wacky and wonderful place. But, every once in awhile you need to take a break from the madness in the hopes of getting perspective on the rest of the world. So, it is with great pleasure that I kick off the first installment of Big in Africa, a special edition and limited-time only column dedicated to traveling through the African continent…

Few destinations in the world strike fear in the hearts and minds of concerned parents quite like Africa. (Don’t worry Mom – I’m staying safe, wearing clean underwear and not talking to strangers!)

But, the continent is arguably one of the best places on the planet for adventure travelers, especially if you’re easily jaded by the commercialization of the global tourist trail. After all, Africa certainly isn’t for wet behind the ears beginners, but it needn’t be the sole reserve of leather-skinned veterans.

So, without further adieu, here is a quick and dirty list of 5 things to do before traveling to Africa.

1) Get your shots. If you have a fear of needles, than you might want to think about heading somewhere more tame, like Cancun. Before heading out, you’re going to need jabs for all sorts of illnesses that you’ve probably never heard of. But, just because they’re obscure, doesn’t mean that they can’t turn your internal organs into a smoothie.

2) Get your meds. Malaria sucks. Trust me – I’ve had it twice. On that note, be sure to get a good prophylactic from your doctor, and be sure that you understand all of the potential side effects. Malaria meds can induce day-time hallucinations that are more vivid than recreational drugs, but they’re preferable to having your joints seize up like an old Ford.

3) Get some gear. Never underestimate the importance of a solid internal frame backpack, especially since you’re going to be wedded to it for weeks / months on end. A sturdy tent and a sleeping bag is also a good idea, as are comfortable and non-flashy outdoor clothing. And, while I could easily write an entire post on the importance of good footwear, I’ll simply say that’s worth every dollar to invest in good boots.

4) Do your homework. Needless to say, Africa is a freakin’ huge place. You literally need several lifetimes to explore the continent, and it’s impossible to overstate the incredible diversity of experiences that can be had there. Read some books, check a few travel forums and focus on a country or two that peaks your interest. Africa is not Europe – don’t expect to hit up 15 destinations in two weeks!

5) Have an open mind. Africa will blow your mind, so check all your preconceived notions at home and get ready to have your third eye opened and properly squeegeed.

Stay tuned – there is more Big in Africa to come…

** All images courtesy of the WikiCommons Media Project **