Why My Time in Africa Will Always Be Cherished

Franci Neely
5 min readMar 20


A wise man once said, “The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa, for he has so much to look forward to” — and I couldn’t agree more. As I continue my journey of visiting every country in the world by 2025, I also look back longingly on the many fabulous trips I have taken to Africa.

Africa is such a special and sacred place. I had a wonderful time traveling through Republic of Congo. While a travel advisory has now been issued for the area due to increased crime and civil unrest, the time I spent there in January 2022 was very meaningful. I had a lovely experience engaging with the sapeurs in Brazzaville, the capital of Republic of Congo, on Jan. 28, 2022. They are part of a high fashion and cultural movement that originated in the 1920s. These dapper dressers typically don three-piece designer suits and will sashay through the streets in coveted fashion brands such as Gucci and Dior. They’re a fascinating and essential part of Congolese culture. As a style aficionado myself, it was quite fun seeing their fashions.

French is the primary language spoken in Republic of Congo, although a connection can easily cross language barriers through the eyes or a simple smile.

Gabon was another charming stop on my travel itinerary. With a little over 11% of its terrain designated as national parkland, Gabon is home to lush rainforests and much wildlife.

I had a remarkable time visiting the Raponda Walker Arboretum. Located in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, this protected area is open to the public. Walking through this vibrant green space was inspiring. French President Emmanuel Macron recently visited the Raponda Walker to raise awareness to keep this area safe from deforestation. The world’s three major tropical forests can be found in the Amazon, the Congo Basin and Southeast Asia, and it’s crucial for citizens of the world to be cognizant of keeping these areas protected for future generations to enjoy.

Cameroon was another joyous stop on my journey. While travel advisories are currently in place to exercise increased caution, my time in Cameroon was memorable. I made a pen pal there with whom I continue to keep in touch. The sights, scents and sounds of the Cameroonian marketplace Marché Central in Yaoundé will remain in my heart forever.

As I was walking through this bustling hub, I commissioned a seamstress to design a dress for me and she made me a beautiful one-of-a-kind dress in just six hours. There were dozens of stacks of dazzling textiles to choose from. From bold orange, blue, and yellow mosaic patterns to red and black tribal prints, there were plenty of alluring options for my custom design. This talented designer stitched my dress on a vintage sewing machine and used the utmost care on this piece. It was beautifully made and it will continue to be an iconic part of my personal wardrobe.

It’s something I didn’t expect to do while I was there but I welcomed the opportunity. On all of my trips, I like to make a point to visit the local shops and peruse the goods crafted by artisans there. Some of my most prized possessions have been spontaneously acquired during my travels.

The market also had a large section of produce. Seeing the local villagers selling delicious, freshly harvested cucumbers and carrots was another highlight of my time there. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my time visiting the Reunification Monument in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on Feb. 23, 2022. It was constructed in the 1970s to pay tribute to the postcolonial merging of British and French Cameroon. Designed by architects Gedeon Mpondo and Engelbert Mveng, it’s an eye-catching landmark and an important symbol of unity for the French and British Cameroonians.

The Ekom-Nkam Waterfalls were another majestic stop during my jaunt through Cameroon. I have a fantastic portrait in front of the falls with my driver, Armand, and my guide, Chemba. The photograph really doesn’t do the falls justice. One must admire them in person to get the full effect of their grandeur and magnificence. Nestled in the middle of the jungle, these twin waterfalls are not to be missed while visiting this area.

Wherever my adventures take me, I want to make a point to make a cultural exchange with the people there. I could admire the head wrap of a woman in Central Africa, and she’ll promptly wrap it around my head. I could stop to watch kebabs being grilled, and the chef will offer me one or two to sample. It’s in these moments that I get lost — and also where I find myself. Travel has opened my heart, eyes, and mind to new ideas and more diverse ways of life, and it perpetually shows me that no matter how different we may think we are, we’re all far more alike than we could ever imagine. In my photos, I have captured some truly significant moments on my life’s path — but perhaps the most important ones remain tucked away in my heart.