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My dream to walk the entire Africa coastline

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Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

I'm Desmond Langkilde, a limber 63 year young fossil, a travel writer, and a dreamer.

I have a dream that's born of passion, nurtured through countless hours, even years, of planning, budgetting, and grant funding application rejections. And still the Dream persists! Undaunted by others who consider the Dream to be fanciful, unrealistic, or just plain crazy. If your dreams are similar, then I'm in good company.

This is a long story. So sit back, grab a coffee (or your favourite tipple), and read on as I share my dream with you.

Then, at the end, make a comment. Be critical. Share your dream. How did you overcome setbacks to turn your dream into reality? After all, I'm posting this to get feedback and inspiration from the Travel Massive community (or anyone you care to share this post with).

👉 So, here's my dream; to walk the entire Africa coastline, including the continents' islands - 40 countries, 40,000km, 52 million steps.

And while walking, to tell Africas' stories. Stories about marine conservation, biodiversity degredation, and sustainable tourism.

The Dream was sown in 2018 after founding Walk4Africa.org (W4A) - a collective of Africa-based tour operators with aspirations of kick starting walkathon events along 40 African state coastlines to coincide with World Tourism Day (27 September each year). The plan was scuppered in 2020 (we all know how global tourism was decimated after the viral event of that year).

Undeterred by the collapse of the W4A collective, the Dream morphed into The Africa Coastal Odyssey; a solo walk circumnavigating the continents' coastline.

But walking alone can become, well, lonely. I tested this part of the Dream as a fundraiser by walking my Siberian Husky, Jaxx, from Plettenberg Bay to Cape Town in August of 2021 (Jaxx is a great companion but doesn't say much - contrary to his blog posts, which can be viewed here - walk4africa.org/blog/)

A dog is great company but the fundraiser ended up costing more than was raised in donations. The problem with walking along a coastal route is that no dogs are allowed on most beaches, especially those designated as marine conservation areas, which hinders progress.

So, the Dream morphed yet again. For company (and more local stories), what if journalism students in each of the 40 countries were hosted to join the Odyssey for a weeks mentoring and practical experience while reporting on the aforementioned topics? (Read more about this idea here - walk4africa.org/africa-coastal-odyssey).

Great idea, I thought dreamily, but woke up disallusioned after speaking to the Dean of Journalism studies at Stellenbosch University. "Our curriculum is set years in advance and leaves little scope for extramural activities that bear no credits for students," the Dean responded curtly.

That was the first Dream bubble to pop. Coupled to the budget bubble, which increased astronomically. Then the funding bubble popped when several grant applications were politely declined (including several National Geographical Society Story Telling grant applications). Even crowdfunding appeals got nowhere.

And yet, the Dream persists. A third morphing is slowly materialising. In this version, each day of the Coastal Odyssey is plotted using Google Maps. Walking tour itineraries are compiled to include airport shuttles to the beach (using local transport providers, of course), tented accommodation, rustic meals, etc. Logistically, this idea may not be feasable considering that much of Africas' coastline is remote. Still, it may be an option to gain company and revenue to proceed along the journey. Especially when the route nears cities that have airports. But who would coordinate the tour package itinerary logistics? So that Dream bubble popped too.

Then another idea materialised in the Dream. What if a series of narrative non-fiction books were written about the Odyssey journey? Publisher advances would surely fund each years costs. So, after researching 30 international book agents who specialise in this genre, I emailed proposals. Only one curt reply was received; "We don't do travel narratives," he said.

The bubble bath Dream has become a cacophony of discordant popping. Yet, one bubble remains intact; the passion to turn this Dream into reality!

And so I ask you; is this a pipe dream? Should I burst the final Dream bubble, get some sleep, and wake up?

PS. The Africa Coastal Odyssey will take at least five years to complete. Taking the first step soon is imperative - before I become a real fossil.

Your thoughts, comments, and anecdotes would be appreciated.

8 months ago (edited)
Ian
Founder, Travel Massive

Hi Des,

I'll add to your list! What about mapping Africa's coastline with Google Street View?

A few years ago, members from Cape Town Travel Massive - @andrevankets and Liam Kelly - met and started a project with Google to map all of South Africa's national parks. They used the Google’s Street View loan program, and with 200 volunteers created 360 degree walks of 19 national parks, 17 smaller nature reserves, and 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Really amazing story, and well documented.

Here's our blog article about it below:

www.travelmassiveblogarchive.com/2017/11/mapping-south-africas-national-parks-with-google-trekker/index.html

8 months ago (edited)
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Thanks for the input, Ian. I do recall the #TrekSouthAfrica initiative and published Jarred Manasse's piece on the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens hiking route in 2016 ( www.tourismtattler.com/articles/marketing/mapping-south-africas-trails/).

In 2019, I had a meeting with Discover Africa Group's team in Cape Town to discuss the W4A project. However, by then, the #TrekSouthAfrica campaign had long-since concluded and they suggested that I contact Google Maps, which I did.

Connecting with an outreach agent for Google Street View via LinkedIn, I pitched the W4A project & was told that they no longer loan 360-degree cameras & could not provide funding assitance. They would, however, assist with stitching & uploading content onto Google Maps once the content had been created.

Then I connected with MapMyTown who were willing to sponsor cameras & crew but would need funds for fuel.

If I ever succeed in getting funding, the coastal route will definetely be recorded (& tracked) on GoogleMaps.

8 months ago
Ian
Founder, Travel Massive

Couple of follow on ideas…

1. Approach the Open Street Map foundation: blog.openstreetmap.org/about/

2. Approach Explore Africa, they are funded by a philanthropic organization.

Post icon
Explore Africa

3. Look into Strava, perhaps they could be a supporter.

4. Gamify the project into hundreds (thousands?) of smaller walks. Make a map that shows claimed walks, and available sections. Claiming a section would require photo evidence etc. Have a leaderboard of people/teams who have done the most walks / covered most sections. You could do this in collab with any of above potential supporters.

5. If you build “the platform” like a game, you can let other people worry about the logistics and how to pay for it…

Hope that helps!

8 months ago (edited)
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Thanks a ton, Ian. Gr8 ideas!
Haven't come across 1 & 2 - will approach them.
I tried idea 3 when doing the Plett to Cape Town walk. Set up a Strava Challenge but few entered. Even tried to get Discovery Health to buy in with their Vitality Steps points programme. No go!
Ideas 4/5 may work. I started working on something similar to Alex Tew's Million Dollar Homepage, using an outline of Africa image comprised of one million pixels arranged in a 1000 × 1000 pixel grid. Donors/sponsors would buy 10 x 10 blocks at $1 per pixel to help fund the W4A Odyssey journey. The purchaser of each pixel block would provide an image link to fill the block and a slogan to be displayed when hovering a cursor over the link.
How about I finish it & partner with TravelMassive to promote it as a game?

8 months ago
Ian
Founder, Travel Massive

Hey Des, I think you've got all the right ideas. You just need to find a co-founder with complimentary skills and a similar vision. Hopefully this post here helps you find that person... I'm sure they are out there!

8 months ago
Design Lead, Travel UX Innovator, Entrepreneur, Memopin, Inc.

Share your dream! Love it. We're super impressed by all the trails and info you have and would love to chat about ways we can team up and collaborate. We're building a cool platform that lets enthusiasts, experts, and businesses create their own maps and connect them to their own stories. This way, people can access information in a fun and practical way.
Excited to hear back from you soon!

8 months ago
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Hey Ian. TravelMassive rocks! Found a link to the Y-Combinator start-up incubator in a members post & am busy applying for their 2023 funding cycle (taking place from June–August). The application is for relaunching W4A as a for-profit company, which could then fund the Odyssey project. Would never have found YC without TM!

8 months ago
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Hi Karen. Thanks for reaching out. I'm busy reworking the Walk4Africa business plan to relaunch the website, so now would be a good time to collaborate & see how your platform could be incorporated. Pop me an email: info@walk4africa.org or WhatsApp +27823747260

8 months ago
Design Lead, Travel UX Innovator, Entrepreneur, Memopin, Inc.

Great! Tnx.

8 months ago

Awesome initiative Des! Looks like a real adventure :)

I don't know if we can help, but we created a platform (mapmelon.com) with maps and I also have a personal google maps where I add my detailed itineraries. Maybe we can help you track the trip or build the platform you need.

About the funds, I'll ask in my company to see if they will like to participate, they are looking for incredible stories like yours :D

8 months ago
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Hi Sole. I love the tracking & journal features in MapMelon. Will certainly make sharing the journeys' progress easier to share. Also a great option for walkathon participants. Check my reply to Karen to connect offline with me.

8 months ago

Way to go Des! It reminds me of Colin O'Brady and his "12-hour walk" concept. Using the approach of walking 12 hours every day no matter the conditions he became the first person to cross Antarctica on foot. He came out with a book and app about it last year and I did my first in September when I walked from one end of Chicago's boulevard and park system to the other. It didn't take the full 12 hours, but I went into it with a growth mindset (what Colin calls a "possible mindset") and ended it satisfied with what I'd done (and a bunch of other learns which I'm trying to workshop into a talk). I'm excited to hear what happens with this.

8 months ago
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Hey Robert. Interesting concept - I'll check out O'Bradys' story for inspiration & look forward to hearing your talk when it comes together. What format will the talk take? Podcast?

8 months ago

I'm part of a weekly discussion group where one of us takes a turn each week to talk about something important to us. I'll let you know when it's ready.

8 months ago
CMO, UnTours & GreenSpot.travel

Love the concept, Des. Am I not seeing how long you think it would take? Around 4-5 years, no? I think breaking it up into "chapters" is more interesting in itself, and more attractive to potential partners.

8 months ago
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Hi, Richard. Yeah, about 5 years (can actually be walked in just over 3.5 years but that's pushing it). I once planned doing it over 10 years, walking for 8 months & taking a 4 month break in the country where I end up at the end of each year (to write the next chapter of a narritive book series). Too late for that option now though, as I'd be 75 by the end if I started next year. I'm physically fit enough now, but the body tends to degenerate as one grows older. Then there's tropical diseases to contend with, like Malaria, although I've had that before & survived.

8 months ago
Freelance Writer/Photographer, Pure Soil International

Des, like many of these projects before you, the individuals had to "start" on their own funds and only after the first few months or kilometers, once people gained interest, did funds come looming in. The French couple that walked, the South African chap that mountain biked the Africa coastline, the Australian that drove his tractor, and so forth...funds were basically zero from sponsors at the start. The nature of the beast I guess.

7 months ago
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Too true, Darryl. I've spoken to Riaan Manser (Around Africa on my Bicyle) & he sold his house to get started. Without assets to sell, I'll have to find another way. And will, eventually.

7 months ago

I'm not sure I have recommendations for you, but just wanted to share I love the dream! This reminds me of doing the Camino and I know there are many other pilgrimages around the world. I like the idea of possibly breaking this down into smaller pilgrimages. Maybe you can work with tourism boards or gear manufacturers (clothing, camera, etc) to sponsor different parts?? I know there are also pilgrimage grants as well. It looks like you have explored a lot already but wishing you the best of luck!!!

7 months ago
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Thanks for your encouragement, Kristen. I've tried pitching SA Tourism, Namibia Tourism, & several LTAs. Also hiking/outdoor gear retailers & manufacturers. All to no avail. Haven't thought of pilgrimage grants - will research that angle. The dream lives on :-).

7 months ago