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Jo Jordan’s new tale, “African Approaches: Roads to a Far-Off Place”, is on the surface a somewhat chronological journey of Ms. Jordan’s business travels across the continent as co-leader of Hobo Trans Africa Expeditions. Along the way, we meet the characters, customs, and landscapes that enticed her to leave her native Britain for a life of overlanding adventure. Her company’s ethos favors a less structured approach to travel which, combined with the ever shifting political landscape of the African continent, pushes the expeditions’ travelers to places far off the average itinerary. Often, peculiarity of African mindset or travel in relation to European custom force unexpected diversions and time spent negotiating the paperwork and favors needed to make forward progress possible. While on Hobo trips travelers live on African time, simply keeping at a task until it is done no matter the length or ingenuity of the journey it takes to arrive at such. Ms. Jordan shares her impressions of each with sensory description that allow a reader to learn about the languages, wildlife, foods, bush repair tricks and local peoples in a hodge-podge “picked this up along the way” approach similar to the experience of actually being on the road.
Her driving force as a traveler is one that is familiar to many of us. A dissatisfaction with the rigidity of standard career (in her case, the law profession) and a novel-fueled desire to see the exciting, fantastic worlds described within not just as tourist, but as participant in the daily beat of life. For any seeking similar inspiration to get up and fulfill immersive traveling desires, African Approaches will offer plenty! While the average traveler can only scratch the surface of a place, Jo and her husband Nick’s extended and repeated trips into and across the continent as guides grant her an ability to glean the essence of African ways and descriptively frame local lifestyles rather than merely recount a handful of sights, sounds and tastes.
Although the tale’s tone is that of wandering nomad who throws off the confines of life, woven through the main story is the counterpoint of establishing roots in a place, of acquiring family and a house in distant lands and gradually coming to know them as home. Early along her travels, she meets her future husband and they have a son. It’s a family that doubles as a tour guide company. At each stop along the never-ending road they acquire family-in-spirit. Brothers and sisters that bring either grimacing comic relief or joy, sometimes for a single moment, and others appearing at intervals waiting to greet road-weary travelers and help propel a greater dream (even if also for the sake of helping propel their own). Jo and Nick buy land in Tanzania with a view of Mount Meru and begin the process of building a lodge house to become the heart of their expedition company. As they drive – and rather often dig – a path through the continent’s many nations they acquire materials for their Samaki House. And as it takes shape over time, the lodge plays host to a number of travelers with tolerance for sparse domestic luxury, eventually becoming a part of the local community landscape. Aside from the obvious entertainment of learning about the many places and peoples of the continent through Jo’s travels, more generally, African Approaches offers a satisfying peek through the eyes of those who choose to travel at the rate of life. I’d especially recommend it to those considering the expat life, or those planning a multi-country trek through Africa.
Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was given to the reviewer with the expectation that they would write an honest and fair review of it.