While I was in school I had the opportunity to travel through the beautiful country of Ghana. I visited Accra, Kumasi, and Bolgatanga. I also crossed the border into Burkina Faso. If you don’t know where any of these places are, it’s okay. They are not well known countries. While I was going through airport security the TSA officer had never even heard of Accra. I hope to inspire some to at least learn more about Ghana and its culture!
This trip quickly became one of the most interesting I have ever been on. Traveling through a developing country, meeting and working with locals, and really getting to experience a culture is a truly remarkable experience.
- Traveling with a group can make or break your trip. This trip was actually a travel course that I took through my university, so my group was 8 other students and 2 professors. Our group got a long really well, in my opinion, and that made the trip much more enjoyable. Traveling in general can be stressful, but being in a developing country with no comforts from home can really take a toll on you after a while, so having a good group with you can make the trip much better. We had plenty of fun times and also times where we sat around and reminisced about how nice the bathrooms are back home.
- You must be flexible, especially while traveling through a developing country! Our trip started off with the flight from JFK to Accra being diverted back to Atlanta. While we 5 hours into the flight. Over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I literally took a 10 hour flight from NYC to Atlanta. The flight was originally supposed to be 9 hours, but 20 hours later I finally made it! We had one bus that was ours for the entire two weeks. The air conditioning broke on the bus. One night we all had to get behind the bus and push it down the road to get it to start. There was one road we had to drive down that for almost 30 minutes was completely unpaved. It was like being on a un-fun roller coaster. Most of us got the dreaded traveler’s diarrhea (TMI? Sorry.) I was without phone and internet for 5 days. Our flight back home was delayed almost 12 hours. You can’t let it get to you. Just gotta roll with the punches.
- Talking with the locals and seeing their day to day lives is the best way to get the most out of your trip. This trip was a travel course so I had a project that I had to complete while we there. Because of this I got to really know some of the Ghanaians. One day was spent in a kiosk in the Kumasi market working with a makeup saleswoman. I also spent a week in Bolgatanga with a woman who is a local shop owner. I learned so much about the country, the culture, the government, and their day to day lives through this experience. At times it was sad because it is a developing country and the standard of living is way below what we have in the United States. However, everyone was so friendly and pleasant and thankful for what they did have. It really helped me put things in perspective when I got home and is something I still try to continue today.
- Go out! Find the local hot spot. We ended up at nightclub one night in Accra that was filled with prostitutes. We had the best time dancing, drinking, and people-watching. Throughout this trip I actually went to quite a few really fun bars and restaurants. A complete stranger came up to our group one night and invited us to a reggae nightclub. I had the best time! You never know what the night will bring (just make good choices!).
- Read about the country and the culture that you are going to be experiencing. Obviously this applies anytime you travel, but this helped me out a lot before I went on my trip to Ghana. There are many cultural differences (and similarities!) that I experienced and it was good to have a heads up before I went so that nothing was shocking. For example, did you know that the cars have the right of way in Ghana? That is something you definitely have to get used to! Also, when you are at a restaurant they bring the dishes out as they are ready, not all at once. This is because they do not have big kitchens like we do in the U.S and can only make one or two dishes at a time. So obviously you do not wait for everyone to get their food before you begin eating because you might be waiting a very long time.
These are just some of the important things I learned while traveling through Ghana. Every trip is always a great learning experience. Ghana is an interesting country to visit with very friendly people. However, it is very underdeveloped so keep that in mind if you travel there. This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am thankful I was able to visit the country of Ghana.
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