I am finding travel books more engrossing during the ongoing pandemic. The temporary escape to a far away place holds great delight while we’ve all been drawn back into our households in this 3rd winter of the Covid era. I’ve also grown to appreciate the particular travel-writing talents of a writer like Terry Lister, who recently released his second book covering his solo journey through West Africa.
In A New Day Dawns: My Solo Journey Into West Africa, Lister returns to the Atlantic coast of Africa to visit the lower region of Africa where he traveled in his first book a few years prior. I reviewed his Immersed in West Africa last, year and was impressed with a travelogue chronicling a trip through lesser written-about countries like Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia and the Guineas. My impressions of that book were quite positive, and that remains so with Lister’s next trip in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Ghana.
A Return to West African Places, Less Known
Having experienced his first book, I knew that this author has a style all his own. Claiming to have traveled to nearly 100 countries in his many years of international voyages to and from his home base in Bermuda, Terry is at once a traditional travel writer offering helpful tips for readers interested in following his footsteps and a strong political commentator. Top these off with a sense of humor, optimism and historical passion and I’m convinced you will find these books worth your time.
A Rough Start in Sierra Leone and Liberia
In his return to the west African nations this time, the author, again, works his way North to South, starting in the troubled countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia. Much like the first book – A New Day Dawns shows a travel writer’s desire to explore the history of nations steeped in the 17th-18th century slave trade. I’ve been appreciative of this approach as it makes for a focused journey through the author’s eyes. He isn’t just there to see modern-day situations but wants us to understand how these places have evolved to where they are today. I have to say I was struck by the difficulty and despair that the narrator encountered in the first leg of this journey. Time and again he was discouraged by the lack of infrastructure, political leadership and overall social systems in Sierra Leone and Liberia. He also makes some strong comments about the lack of environmental protections that threaten the natural resources of these places – flora, fauna and geographical.
Ivory Coast – A Land of Riches and History
As things move south, the picture does brighten. I was fascinated to learn some of the facts about Ivory Coast. I like to think I have a decent amount of knowledge about most regions of the globe, but was surprised to know a few cool things like Cote D’Ivoire’s prominence in the world cocoa trade. The Firestone factory in Liberia was also an eye-opener. I knew cocoa and rubber were major industries in Africa, but not these little details.
Ghana and the Ashanti Kingdom
Finally, as the journey reaches its southern terminus in the relatively prosperous nation of Ghana – we get some travel notes of delight. This brings me back to my opening comments about vicarious travel amidst the pandemic. As I read through the descriptions of the Ashanti kingdom my imagination lit up, and was transported to an exotic part of the world that I’ve only ever seen in movies and history books. I’m grateful for this book’s ability to shine a light on a topic I might not otherwise encounter. I think this is what the best travel writing seeks to do, and it can be found in A New Day Dawns.
I recommend this new work from an author who is a seasoned and savvy world traveler. In reading two of his books I’ve been reminded of the importance of experience in the successful journeying abroad. Many of us only go to “safe” places, where a little conscientious use of a money belt and common sense help avoid travel catastrophes like pick pocketing or worse. To go somewhere like Sierra Leone requires extra preparation and know-how, and I’m respectfully in awe of a traveler like Lister who moves through rough places with seeming ease. Thanks to his intrepid soloing, we are the benefactors of some really fun and enlightening tales.