Danny Gold & The 2006 Tour d’Afrique
In the summer of 2005 Danny Gold had just graduated from university and was wondering what to do next. He had several options, but he was not sure which way to head. He was also very fortunate to have an adventurous uncle who offered him an opportunity of a lifetime: join the 2006 version of Tour d’Afrique. Though not a cyclist he thought that four months on a bicycle in Africa would give him the time to ponder and decide on his career. Fast forward to today and Danny is a successful international journalist with stints in Iraq, Syria, Latin America, all over the US and on. He now produces and hosts the top ranked podcast Underworld.
There’s a feeling that even now after more than a decade working all around the world as a journalist I still get when I arrive somewhere new and step out of the airport. More often than not it’s a hot, humid place, where the air just feels completely different than that of where I just left. It’s a feeling of endless possibilities, of being in a place I’ve yet to figure out, somewhere new and exciting where I’m somewhat clueless. It’s something I’ve missed quite a bit during the pandemic. The Tour d’Afrique felt like that every single day.
I had just celebrated my 23rd birthday when I landed in Egypt in 2006, with little idea of what I wanted to be or what I aimed to do in the world. I only knew I needed to see more of it. Traveling wasn’t something I had shied away from, but there’s levels. The Tour d’Afrique is not a level most people are ready for. And, there was also a level of uncertainty there, wondering if I could survive the whole trip, if I possessed the sheer grit necessary to make it through 4 months of riding and sleeping rough. Those first few days, there was no shortage of “what have I gotten myself into” thoughts running through my head, a feeling that back then caused me moments of doubt instead of excitement. I had yet to find comfort in being uncomfortable.
I had a lot to learn, and even that first day of riding picked up a maxim I’ve carried with me ‘til this day: always carry a role of spare toilet paper when traveling into the unknown. A few days before the tour started, I had also learned something new. At 5am the first night in Egypt, I practically fell out of my bed by indecipherable Arabic being chanted over a brutally loud speaker right outside my hotel room window. I had no idea what was going on, and in shock from being wakened by a jet-lag enhanced deep-sleep, I crawled and stumbled my way over to the window to see what the heck was going on. The Tour d’Afrique would end up teaching me a lot of things, among them, never place your tent next to a conspicuously placed loudspeaker.
I could go and on about the practical things you’ll come away with. Developing patience you previously thought you weren’t capable of. Figuring out some insane logistics, managing everything for four months, navigating border crossings, developing the kind of problem solving that you need to excel at when you spend your life on the road in difficult places. Learning how to sleep anywhere, to bathe anywhere, to eat anything. And most importantly perseverance: how to move forward every day.
When people ask me what I like about my job as a journalist, one of my ‘go-to’ answers is that I get to go to places people like me aren’t supposed to go and meet people I’m not supposed to meet. The Tour d’Afrique is an opportunity to do those very things. You’ll wake up in a field next to a rural Tanzanian village, or stop to buy a Coke at a roadside shack in northern Sudan where the only other customers are desert nomads. And you get to do all of that without the foolish career choice, low pay, and angry people yelling at you on the Internet about something you’ve written.
I’ve spent a lot of time the last few years thinking about maybe one day doing it again. I can’t imagine how exciting it would be to be able to do it for the first time.
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