Chasing Africa: Fear Won’t Find Me Here – A Memoir by Lisa Duncan

I savoured everyone’s company, knowing that once I left for Zimbabwe, I would be on my own again in a country I knew little about. After ascending some of the most incredible dunes on the planet, I was eager to take my desire for adventure to the next level.” p 114

Lisa Duncan’s Chasing Africa is a travelogue memoir of a life-altering trip she took in her early twenties. Based in part on journals she kept while travelling in Africa in 1996, it is a well-written record of an athletic young woman’s journey to “see elephants” and other African animals she refers to as “the big five.”

Her life at the time of her trip is fraught with the weight of illness in her family (both her brother and father were suffering from chronic, debilitating illnesses), and she struggles with the guilt of going on the trip and enjoying it. But enjoy it she does, and she describes the parts of Africa she visits (which most people won’t ever see, like watching a sunset from the top of a sand dune in the desert) in vivid detail. She is adventurous and game and she makes travel companions easily, and the cast of characters she meets are fodder for fun and interesting stories – though her one-sided crush on a Swiss hiker named Matthias takes up too much bandwidth.

Some of the travellers Lisa meets along the way are less amenable to her than others, and she writes of the importance of finding travel companions who are easy-going and enjoy the same things as she does. She quickly moves on from people who slow her down, and she can seem too focussed on the next thing she wants to see at times. She has travel goals to achieve in Africa, and she is determined to do all she has planned to do. Some readers will appreciate her passion for seeing all she can and accumulating positive experiences and wildlife sightings, but sometimes she seems oblivious to whether she hurts people in her wake. She also may have missed out on valuable connections and experiences, because she was always so busy to get somewhere else.

It wasn’t commonplace for a young woman to travel alone in 1996, let alone to travel and explore the wilds of Africa. It took guts and determination for the author to go, and her positive attitude and sincere interest in experiencing Africa first-hand make her memoir an enjoyable and absorbing read. The writing is confident and energetic, and her travel stories exude youthful excitement, gratitude, and an admirable yen for long hikes, steep climbs, and cold swims. If you ever wanted to travel to Africa, Chasing Africa is your second-hand, vicarious chance to go, and Lisa Duncan is a charming and upbeat travel companion.

The five of us sitting around the campfire in the middle of the Tanzanian savannah remains one of the most magical moments of my entire trip. It had all the ingredients of a flawless evening: superb company, sumptuous food and a setting once can only dream about . Now that I was there, living and breathing the experience, I no longer had to imagine someone else’s reality on the big screen. This was my reality, a film nobody else could have created.
I loved every minute of it
.” p 246

Lisa Duncan’s outdoor pursuits have taken her all over the world. She holds a BA in art history and an MA in environmental education and communication. When she isn’t teaching, writing, or travelling, she spends her time hiking, running, and biking the trails near her home in Squamish, British Columbia.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ RMB | Rocky Mountain Books (Nov. 1 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771605812
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771605816

Wanda Baxteris originally from the Kingston Peninsula, New Brunswick, and is the author of If I Had an Old House on the East Coast. She works as a creative and environmental consultant, and lives and works on an old farm in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.