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Traveler Megan Steiner Takes on Africa

From South Africa to Jordan, It Was a Year Like No Other

When Megan Steiner embarked on her year of solo travel in Africa, she was excited but nervous. Although she had taken two solo trips before, in Western Europe and South America, Africa definitely took her out of her comfort zone.

However, she made the most of it, even during the pandemic. From cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa to feeding wild hyenas in Ethiopia to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Megan came back truly empowered.

Since she was 10 years old, Megan had been fascinated with animals, safaris, and diverse cultures.

Overland backpacking through Africa was always a dream. While researching her potential trip, she found a young female traveler who had backpacked from Cape Town to Cairo over the course of 7-8 months. Her story planted a seed in Megan’s mind.

At the age of 24, in August 2021, Megan took a bold step forward.

The trip began in South Africa, from where Megan took a combination of buses, tuk-tuks, and trains through Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, and Jordan (from where she flew back to the U.S.). The only time Megan was forced to fly was at the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, which was closed due to unexpected civil conflict.

While traveling solo as a woman in Africa, Megan shattered many perceptions. First, the widely held misperception that Africa is a dangerously barbaric place. “What I thought I’d be afraid of was ongoing wars and conflicts, crime and disease,” she reflects. “But life is a series of calculated risks. I realized that with the proper precautions, I felt super safe. Tribal conflicts were limited to areas which I avoided when I could, and most people were extremely friendly, welcoming, and kind.”

The other kind of perceptions Megan overcame were the ones she had about herself. “Solo travel took me out of my comfort zone. I am an introvert. If I had never pushed myself, I would always live my life in my room because when I get scared, I tend to isolate,” she admits. “Now, I know how to handle different situations and find solutions that I may not have thought of earlier.”

Upon her return, reintegration still took some time. “Africa is vibrant, and most people there live in the moment,” she describes. “The next moment is about survival, not what I can do 10 years from now. The concepts of life and death are taken in stride. Yes, war and poverty are a very real part of life. However, in the evening, I watched villagers come together, singing, dancing, and spending time with family. Everyone looks after each other. Here, there’s an emphasis on structure, deadlines, and pressure all around. Now, being back, it’s hard to care about frivolous things like being late to a meeting. This is not the core of our humanity, and the privilege of being alive came into deep focus for me.”

Megan misses the deep orange sunsets, the bellowing sounds of drums beating in the background, sharing hot tea with friendly families and tribes, and all the raw, vibrant colors of the landscape. Her advice to other fellow travelers considering solo travel is simple: go for it. “There’s never a right time. If the seed has been planted within you, start the process. Life is the best teacher. Throw yourself into it, and you’ll figure your way through as you go.”

“GO FOR IT. There’s never a right time. If the seed has been planted within you, start the process. Life is the best teacher.”