Franci Neely’s World Travels Continue — The European Business Review
Franci Neely is a retired lawyer and Houston-based philanthropist. She’s also an accomplished world traveler currently in pursuit of visiting every country. “I do it because I love to explore other cultures, other areas of the world, ways of living, and history,” she says. “I’m very curious about that.”
Experiencing other cultures around the world is a joyful experience for , who spent her professional career , spanning over 20 years, as a corporate attorney with the Susman Godfrey law firm, where she had the honor of being its first female partner. “Travel is an incredible learning experience for me,” says Neely.
Exploring the world’s different regions and experiencing how others live has opened her eyes, heart, and mind. “Travel has changed me in a good way,” Neely says.
Franci Neely Reminisces About Recent Travel Destinations
She enjoyed witnessing the culture of the Pygmy people in the Central African Republic. “The chief greeted us, and the villagers treated us to dance and song and shared some of their hunting and gathering techniques with us. I loved the people’s sense of fun and play ,” she recalls. “ I danced with them too.”
Also, in January 2022, Neely visited the Raponda Walker Arboretum in Gabon. “ For about 30 minutes, I got so entranced with its beauty that I meandered off on the wrong trail,” says Neely. Luckily she didn’t encounter any snakes in the new-growth tropical forest. “We traveled to a village’s poultry farm and vegetable garden that same day. Near this village, we watched a ceremony. The celebrants eat iboga, a naturally occurring psychoactive evergreen rain forest shrub indigenous in the Congo. It has a yellowish root or bark and produces hallucinations. I did not partake. However, I watched those who did. The Bwiti blessed us.”
In February 2022, Neely visited Karima, a northern Sudanese market town. “I encountered beautiful people in front of fruit and vegetable stands, where the produce was decoratively displayed,” she says. At the marketplace, Neely bought okra for the chef at the Nubian Rest House, a boutique hotel outside Khartoum, to prepare. “In Karima, we stopped at a tea stall for a Sudanese coffee with ginger,” recalls Neely, who enjoyed a local culinary experience at the rest house. “ I climbed [the large rock outcrop] Gebel Barkal at sunset one evening and returned to a four-course dinner, one with baba ganoush, vegetable soup, beef kebab, and crème caramel,” she says.
During her time in Sudan, Neely also visited the Temple of Soleb, the best-preserved temple constructed from sandstone in northern Sudan. It was built during the time of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in the 1300s B.C. She says, “ It has a vast necropolis with small tomb chapels decorated with pyramids. In the ruins, I saw two rooms adorned with bas-reliefs showing captives with their hands tied behind their backs, one with Nubian captives and the other with Asiatic captives.”
“The Mundari use cow manure as fuel and burn it to ward off insects. Dung dust hovered around the camp. Many of the people rubbed the burnt manure on their bodies as a mosquito repellent and natural antiseptic. They sleep on mats with goats, sheep, and cows. When I arrived at the camp, brightly garbed men were gathering/eating mangoes under enormous mango trees. A boy had climbed [high] up the tree to chunk mangoes down to the elders. It was magical.”
While in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, Neely visited a local dressmaker in the Marché Central. The central market thrives inside a large semicircular building that’s been converted into multiple market rooms with traditional stalls all around it. She says, “I bought some beautiful fabric and then had it made into a dress that very same day — all for $50.”
“I finally saw a leopard seal on this last trip. They’re not rare, but I’d never seen one on all my trips. It put its head right up on our Zodiac [heavy-duty inflatable vessel] and proceeded to grab a penguin in its mouth and eat it in front of us.” That’s the way the circle of life goes in Antarctica.
A Website To Curate Her Travels
“I’ve got some other traveling to do to finish my [goal] of every country in the world,” says Neely. She has plans to cruise the western coast of Australia. “From Perth to Darwin, to see the Kimberley and more,” she says. “It’s a natural trip to see animals and beautiful landscapes. But I’m also going to Christmas Island.” In addition, she plans to stay in an eco-lodge and visit the little island country of Manawatu in New Zealand.
What keeps her going? Neely says she “very much believes that when someone experiences the different people, different cultures, they have a greater understanding of the universal humanity we share. None of us are strangers if we look at each other in an open, accepting, nonjudgmental way. And it’s very life-affirming to me to do that.”