AWA - Africa Wins Again

Some people have asked: "Why Africa?"

The short answer is: "Why not?"

I just wanted to come to a place that I knew would surprise me. No expectations, no prior knowledge... I sounded like a hell of an adventure.

And boy, was it. 

It's hard to boil down a month of impressions into a blog post, but I'll mention a few things that stood out to me. Basically, I traveled from Kenya through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, and finished at Vic falls in Zimbabwe. I went with an organisation called Pink Caravans (or Rosa Bussarna) together with a bunch of other Swedes. We lived on the bus for pretty much the full month, slept in our sleeping bags on the roof with our mosquito nets, and basically lived on top of each other. I wasn't sure what I would think of the concept, but I don't think I could have been happier with the turnout. We got to experience as much as possible without having to think about transportation and accommodation; everyone got along so well, we practically became a little Scandi family who cooked together and hung out together all of the time. A real good vacation. 

I have a few best moments that I can think of...

The first time we saw the Indian ocean, after about ten days on extremely bumpy roads (they call driving on those tracks "african massage" for a reason). Last day before we reached the water was so hot, we had about 40 degrees Celsius inside the bus with no AC or windows that could open. We drove with the door open and binged water all day, until we finally saw it in the horizon. We spent many, many hours playing in the waves that evening. 

My first time on a horse, that wasn't a pony being led by a grown-up. Me and four of my mates went to a farm to spend an hour riding horses - by ourselves! I was pretty much taught to be afraid of horses when I grew up, so there was quite a lot of adrenaline involved during the first fifteen minutes. Best part of the ride was when we got down on the beach, unsaddled the horses, dressed down to our swimming suits and then went swimming with the horses while the afternoon sun was setting on us. 

When we saw the sun rise over the Masai Mara, from a hot air balloon. Everything about that morning was pure magic. From the excitement when first we left the ground, to watching all the animals wake up from the very first sunrays of the day, to HENRIK PROPOSING TO ANNA IN THE AIR, to all of us crying, to celebrating by having champagne breakfast on the savannah, to seeing cheetahs for the first time. Fucking a!

Rafting on the Zambezi river was a thrill, and just enough adrenaline for my faint heart. Also, the hike down towards the river might just have been the most beautiful landscape I saw during my whole trip in Africa. On our way down the muddy slopes, it felt like walking through a very humid jungle with a few waterfalls here and there. And when the view of the turquoise river opened up below us... Woah. We filled a boat with eight people from our bus Gullan, super excited and couldn't stop chanting and singing. The first few rapids were the most fun, we were all pumped with adrenaline and had no idea what to expect. I fell in once.

When we had passed the most dangerous rapid and weren't even halfway down, we started enjoying the nature more, stopped to jump from cliffs and whenever the water was calm, we got in and felt the currents pull us down the river. Best mix of adrenaline and tranquility. 

Oh, and the tuna I had on a rooftop in Stone Town. It almost made me cry. 

We didn't just hang out with each other - we did get to meet the locals as well in all kind of circumstances. One weird part of it was that from Tanzania onwards, everyone seemed to go by aliases. I've hung out with Marmite, Chicken Pizza, Donald Duck, Nutella, mr. Fantastic... I never understood it, but thoroughly enjoyed it and tried to come up with my own pseudonym (but Vanilla Sugar never really stuck). 

In Kenya, I had an incredibly interesting conversation with a man who lives in a Maasai village. I was inside his house, which was made out of mud and cow dung, pitch dark from the lack of windows and filled with smoke as they cooked inside over an open fire (he said that it kept the mosquitos away). We had just talked about circumcision and how they at age sixteen have it done without any form of anesthesia, as a form of manhood test.

I asked him if they were allowed to marry after their circumcision. 

"Oh, no, that's when we go out to live in the bush. Then we can marry."

" go, what?"

"Every man must go out in the wild and learn how to survive there, for five years. We're not allowed to build new houses, we must live in and with the nature. After five years, the ultimate test is to kill a lion. When we've killed it, we cut off the mane and bring it back to the village as proof."

"Did you do this?"


"How do you know it's been five years?"

"I count."

I have no idea how you count to five years, but I was fascinated by his story. We continued talking, and among many, many stories I learned that the main thing they eat is milk and blood from their cattle (they don't kill them, they just switch with cow to drain every week); they have to buy wheat and vegetables, because if they grew it themselves the elephants would come eat it; that the one who jumps the highest during their ritual dance gets a wife for free, and that a wife usually costs a few cows - but you can also trade your sister for her. 


Finally, two things I've learnt about myself from this trip: 

1. I'm more extrovert than I thought I was. My 'alone time' has always an important part of my life as I can get exhausted when I've been around people for too long. Well, not during this month. I was literally surrounded by people the whole time, even when I was asleep. When we went to Zanzibar and got to sleep in hotel rooms for a few nights, our guide told us that this would be a good time to get that alone time and get a rest from all the social activities. We ended up hanging out all of the time anyway. As long as I'm with the right friends and in the right mindset, I've realised that I love and prefer being around people. 

2. I don't need wifi nearly as much as I thought. I know it's a cliché to talk about this, but the whole experience was quite ground-breaking to me.

When we first landed in Africa, we hadn't had wifi for the whole flight and I was quite eager to find internet sometime soon. We didn't have any the first day, which was fine. When we didn't have any access the second day, the internet sweats started coming. I didn't understand why we couldn't try to find an internet café nearby - what if something had happened? If I had received an important enquiry? Or if someone had liked my new profile photo?

We didn't have wifi for the first week. When we finally came to a camping that had wifi, we were over the moon. And spent the whole night in silence around a table, staring at our phones. It was the most boring night of the whole trip. When we left and didn't have wifi for another few days, I didn't mind at all. Instead of treating our restlessness with YouTube and Facebook, we were forced to get to know each other better and come up with things to do. We played cards. Talked. Had spontaneous bus parties. Music quizes. Read books. Learned how to braid each other's hair. And when we reached an internet café after another week without internet, I had checked all my emails and notifications in an hour. One hour. How many hours do I spend online per week now? Per day? 

I really think that played a huge part in how close we came, and how fast we got to know each other. 

Oh, you want to see some photos? I could ramble for ages about this trip - our exhausting hike to Livingstonia, how I almost shit myself bungee jumping, when we played drums by a bonfire on the beach while watching the Milky Way, how three of my friends almost died on three different occasions... But I'll save that for another time. 

This is what I've been up to in the last month. 

My 2015

How do you sum up a whole year?

Seventeen weddings.

71 events.

Six countries. 

22 flights.

I think the images will speak more than words. 

First part: my favorite wedding photos from this summer. 

As you already know, I shoot lots of events whenever I don't celebrate my wedding couples. This year I've worked with some exciting characters including Reg Traviss, Brian May, Tiff Needell... But two of my favorite experiences must be the time I shot backstage at a fitness competition, and the time I photographed a 60th birthday party with a very ambitious sci-fi theme. 

Best part of 2015? My family grew bigger. Within two weeks I got a new niece and my first nephew. I'm so lucky to be surrounded by these cuties whenever I hang out with my family and friends. 

I've done a couple of stories for magazines as well this year. The most interesting one for me was definitely when me and Emelie Hill went to Scotland to hang out with Annie and her mother Sophie Dow (founder of Mindroom) for a day. Two very inspiring people. The night bus to and from Edinburgh wasn't as inspiring. 

One magazine I shoot for quite often is ACCA. I get to come with the journalist and listen to the interview, then take a few posed photos afterwards. I've met with the Financial Directors of Tesco, Homebase, Leeds Castle, ODEON, Reader's Digest... These environments are always fascinating to me (no mould or mice anywhere!). 

Best decision of 2015? Getting a desk. No more working from home. A lovely stroll to work every day. Colleagues who have become friends. Haggerston is the center of my London, and will hopefully stay that way for a long time. 


2015 has been a year of change in many ways. I've parted ways with some and paved new ones with others. The most important thing - I'm finally seeing this city as home. 

In thirty minutes, I'm leaving England to spend the next five weeks in Africa. Can't wait to spend long hours on the bus, in the wild, on the beach, and plan for what 2016 will be all about. 

Until then.