What I learned from being a Digital Nomad in Africa
Hi there… You might have heard of someone like me, or even have a friend or 2 like me. Perhaps you read about it or even considered it at one point in your life. I guess I’m part of that new stream of people.. Those that can’t stay in one city or country for too long — the world is our playground — . Those that can’t work at an office, simply because sitting for 8 hours on a chair is just the-most-boring-thing-ever. Those that don’t want to commit to “grown up stuff” — yet, like buying a house, saving up for retirement, starting a family. And I’m patiently waiting for the day that someone decides to invent a foldable car or give me a helicopter.
So hi again.. you might have heard of someone like me: I’m a digital nomad and Africa is my playground. And trust me.. being a digital nomad in Africa is a whole other ballgame..-
So this is my life in bullet points:
- I scout for the best entrepreneurs in technology in over 20 African Countries.
- My whole life fits in an 18 kilo suitcase
- I work from wherever I can find internet connection and plugs
- I’m in a different African country every week
- I don’t do “grown-up stuff” yet..
- I like to snooze my alarm and wake up my colleague for no specific reason
So, for everyone that dares to try out what I’m doing, these are the main learnings so far:
- It is easier to travel in Africa when you are NOT African: Luckily I have my Dutch passport, which allows me to travel visa free to a number of countries. Yeah… my Angolan passport is pretty useless.. — Except for Ghana. Thank you Ghana for opening your borders to all Africans! You are awesome — . Oh and embassies don’t give a fuck about you, nor have they ever heard of the term“customer service”. And why would Nigeria care if you get in or not? It is not like they have over 150 million people in the county already…
- Always have dollars and bring them from the US or Europe: Mostly for these reasons: 1) Many african countries allow you to pay with dollars so it is always good to have it in case of emergency 2) You will have to pay for most of your visas in dollars (even if the country doesn’t have any dollars #Angola) 3) Many currencies have weakened over the past years (Kwanza in Angola, South African Rand etc.), so life is cheap if you have dollars.
- Always have a contact person in the country that knows where you are staying: since most places don’t have an address :)
- Don’t travel with more than 1 suitcase: Because.. just don’t.
- Don’t argue with immigration, police, or any government official (unless you’re in your own country): Be polite and smile. They just want to be right. So give them that. Even if you are in your right, you will still lose that argument. Even better, they will use arguments that don’t make any fucking sense to a point that you start doubting yourself.
- Never leave the airport without a simcard: If you leave the airport without a simcard, you failed your life right there. You will need it to make your phone call (to find out where you live), but more importantly to browse the internet and have a life.
- (decent) WiFi is luxury: *Walks into a cafe* “Do you have WiFi?” I asked the waiter. His answer: “Sometimes yes… sometimes no. But most of the times ‘No.”
- Always charge your phone and computer: And there it is.. a power-cut..again…for 2 days.. and I didn’t charge anything.. #fml
- Say goodbye to your warm shower: Well… life could be worse.
- Be adventurous, but don’t be stupid: I probably currently feel safer being in Africa than in Europe with all of the terrorist attacks going on. However, never take safety for granted. Like that one day we decided to drive from Johannesburg, through Pretoria, to Botswana and we didn’t know there was a riot going on. GPS tried to be smart and routed us through the Township. It took us passing 3 burning busses and trucks and people shouting when we asked for the way to Botswana to realise that we were probably not in the safest situation…
- Don’t be cocky. Everything you might know about this continent called Africa, its different countries, cultures and people might be wrong or incomplete. Media does a very good job at pointing out all of the bad and scary stuff: Boko Haram that is killing everyone in Nigeria, people starving of hunger in Ethiopia etc. Now, I don’t deny that these problems exist, but Africa is way more than just that. It has history, culture, and some of the most talented, interesting and intelligent people I have met so far.
- Enjoy the ride! Last but not least, enjoy the ride. Not that many people get to travel to so many countries in Africa— yet. Most places are still untouched by tourism, food is amazing and people are awesome. Get out of your comfort zone, and mingle with the locals. After all.. when your internet is not working for the 1213525th time and you are in a place with no decent infrastructure, these are the people that you will rely on most.
Last week I was in Ghana, I am currently in Ivory Coast and next week I’m going to Mali.
For now, I am going to take a shower and eat a croissant…
Just because I can.