Wonder What Thailand Was Like Pre-Tourists? Head To Sierra Leone

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Want to experience for yourself the sense of discovery like your traveling forbearers did? You’ve heard the stories before (most likely from that high school science teacher that had a pony tail or from that uncle that shows up for Christmas every three years): The Hippie Trail in the ’60’s, Thailand/Bali in the 70’s — those famed destinations pre-Lonely Planet where the culture was real, the Speedo-wearing vacationer was non-existent, and the experience was authentic. It may be getting even more difficult now with the rise of the internet to keep a destination secret — ahem — but don’t blame the messenger.

Anyways, it’s hard not to think of Sierra Leone and West Africa as one of those secrets. Scared off by a distant war and relatively difficult accessibility (be ready to take a speedboat from your airport), Sierra Leone’s way off the well-beaten-path for most travelers, despite its beautiful — but empty — beaches, Freetown — “one of the prettiest town on the West African coast,” and a chance to experience that magical sensation of discovery (and to say you were there in the ’00’s — that’s so awkward to say isn’t it?).

I saw The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars at the African Music Festival here in Brooklyn two summers ago and I’ve got to say, if these guys don’t turn you on to Afro-Pop than there’s something clinically wrong with you.

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