Travelling abroad: Why You Should Not Do It

by Syl Tamanda

So many people risk their lives, burn their bridges in their countries of origin (mostly in Africa), and set out for the life they see in western movies and TV screens. Is travelling abroad really a saving grace, as most people seem to believe, or is it just another battlefield where they have to toil for their daily bread?

Why are most Africans so desperate to travel abroad?

Travelling abroad is like a dream come true for many Africans who feel hopeless and helpless in their home countries. They are often under the illusion that the grass on the other side is greener than where they currently are. Some even refer to western countries as a haven on earth, and they would often do the unimaginable to arrive at the imaginary promised land.

Most people are desperate for an economic breakthrough, and there’s nothing you can say or do to dissuade an individual in Africa who has their mind fixated on making the move to travel abroad.

However, the worst mistake anyone can ever make is to travel abroad without a plan.

The economic conditions in most developing countries are tough, no doubt. In 1950, Africa’s population was around 177 million, but has since grown to 1.341 billion in 2020. That’s an exponential growth rate within a short period. Of this total population number, an estimated 490 million people live below the poverty line (UNCTAD, 2021).

Furthermore, the transparency international ranked Sub-Saharan Africa, where 44 out of 49 countries scored an average score of 33, much less than the global average.

With such a level of corruption, most African citizens are robbed of good infrastructures, foreign direct investments, job opportunities, good schools, good medical facilities and an overall acceptable standard of living.

Unfortunately, given all the circumstances mentioned earlier, most Africans are fed-up and desperate to exit from their “suffering” into countries that they believe to be better options.

The Cameroonian from Nso who travelled abroad without a plan and ended up rough sleeping

This article was inspired by a post I came across on a Cameroonians in the UAE Facebook group. It broke my heart to see one of our own in such an inhumane situation. Rough sleeping in an alien environment can precipitate anyone into depression or PTSD.

source of image: Cameroonians in UAE Facebook page

I wanted to write this blog because evil only prevails when good people do nothing. Sadly, just like the individual who shared the story with the Cameroonian community, I cannot offer any material help to this brother, but I sure can do something about informing people who are planning to make the same mistake.

Ignorance, they say, is bliss, but ignorance is also deadly!

Far too many people in Africa have left the devil they know for the angel they don’t know, only to end up in the Lion’s den.

In Africa, we claim to be the most religious people, yet we forget the very principles of the Bible that should be our guiding force.

What happened to the famous bible quotation “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge ( Hosea 4:6)?

Are our home countries that bad? So much so that we are willing to put our lives on the line to migrate to a land that wasn’t even promised to us?

Abraham was going into the unknown because he was walking on God’s instructions, which isn’t the case with many Africans who decide to leap into the unknown.

We all agree that things may be very bad economically in most of our poorly managed and corrupt countries. However, travelling abroad without a plan isn’t the answer either, because failing to plan is planning to fail.

Why Most Africans are disillusioned about life abroad

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Most Africans who grow up in middle to lower-income families would most likely admit to the fact that the image portrayed about the western world on TV, magazines, infomercials and all media outlets to which young African kids are exposed, is what makes for love at first sight with the west.

Growing up, I always had this paradise-like image of Europe and the Americas in my mind, and it was always a dream to someday visit one of these continents. The western world has the art of branding their countries so well and shows you the absolute best that they want the world to see. But when you arrive at your dream destination, only then will you realise that perhaps you were better off in your home country.

People abandon very good jobs back home in Africa to travel abroad, only to realise that they have left a life that wasn’t all that bad, into one that depresses them every single day.

Let me tell you all something that may shake up the current belief you have about life abroad in the “bush”.

How Africa is PORTRAYED on TV Vs the Reality

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When most western countries show Africa on TV to their citizens, they seldom show the good. They portray all sorts of images of kids starving, with flies in their eyes, carrying buckets of water and travelling long distances in red dust, and all that kind of stuff. That may be the reality for some, but that is not an honest reflection of the beauty of the African continent.

What happens when people abroad see these images? They think we are all starving to death and don’t want to travel to such misery.

When I was working for a logistics company in Cameroon, we were nominated as the agents for an American warship that was on a training tour in central Africa.

Before the arrival of the vessel, the captain ordered 300 40 ft containers to be placed around the duck where their vessel was going to anchor, as some protective measure. At the time, I didn’t understand why anyone would incur such enormous charges just to make a vessel invisible to the rest of the ports users.

I asked the supply officer of the vessel why they asked for armed escorts for their mini transportation vans and the reason for the containers. He said they needed to ensure the safety of all the crew members at all times and ensure the vessel is not easily accessible. A few days into their stay in Douala, they no longer needed to be escorted, and they were all very sad to leave. They had such a good time that their prejudice about Africa was a thing of the past.

Also, most white people who have had the privilege of working as ex-pats on African soil have lived lives they never dreamed were even possible. They enjoyed our diverse culture, good food, a comfortable place to live, beautiful women, a kind and welcoming community, and the list goes on and on. My French boss cried on the day of his send-off to France, after his work was over in Cameroon. He told me that he would miss everything about Cameroon.

Check these articles on best African-resorts and 8-most-beautiful-cities-in-Africa

the Africa that is not shown on western TV

On the other hand, Africans see movies, commercials, magazines, and all the well-branded media content and they start to hate their lives, believing that travelling abroad is the summit of success and, therefore, will do anything to achieve that goal.

I bet that, if anyone had tried to dissuade our Nso brother from travelling to the UAE, he would have cursed and all hell would have broken loose.

Africans in the Diaspora have to tell the truth.

Did you know that some people abroad don’t even have a roof over their heads and they sleep in their cars, some on trains, others on the sidewalks?

I have never seen as many homeless people in my entire life as I did when I first arrived in London. I used to work at Premier Inn Kingscross, London, and homeless people would camp at the side of the hotel building. Imagine sleeping under an unstable tent on a cold and rainy winter night!

When I saw these groups of white and black people who looked so hopeless, my jaw dropped, and I asked myself, “Is this the “obodoyibo dream” that people are burning all their bridges back home to travel to?

Take a look at this compilation of people who are homeless in the world’s richest countries. These are black and white people.

Some people think that the white skin is perfection and everything abroad is like a rose garden and in the movies. My friends, this right here is the reality for most people abroad.

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I wrote a story about Evelyn, who went from trial to triumph after she was trafficked from Cameroon to the USA. I can only imagine her excitement when she boarded the plane at age 9 to the land she thought was heavenly, only to end up in modern slavery.

You can also read the story of the African man who lived on London buses for 21 years and tell me if this is the kind of life you want to live.

Perhaps Sunny thought that as soon as he got to the UK, he would find his way into the system and start living his best life, but little did he know that this part of the world is ruthless. Everyone is busy trying to stay afloat, which means most of the time you are on your own.

If you look closely at most of the snapshots of homeless people around the world, you’ll notice how people are walking past the homeless and going about their business. That’s the image of the west that people in Africa may never see on TV!

According to Business Insider, 60% of millennials who earn over $100,000 (XAF 50,000,000) a year say that they’re living paycheck to paycheck. While 31% of British workers are a paycheck away from being homeless,

Most people abroad live from paycheck to paycheck, and most times, one month of job loss can set them back many years. Anyone in these developed countries can become homeless with the snap of a finger, which is not the case for most Africans.

A homelessness study done in Canada revealed that 14% of people who were identified as homeless in 2018 were newcomers. Of this total, 8% indicated that they were immigrants, 3% were identified as refugees, and 4% as refugee applicants.

Yet when they’re going home, most of these people who are struggling abroad rack up loans to buy stuff that they’ll use to impress the people in Africa.

A little story about Africans faking riches abroad

It is a real-life story about a Nigerian couple in the UK, told by their relative to a Nigerian YouTuber.

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The wife’s father died, and her siblings in Nigeria asked for help burying him. So she pretended to be okay with her husband’s decision to spend only £1000 (543,000 Naira). In addition, he reminded her that they had bills to pay and two young children.

The woman’s African siblings had compiled an extravagant shopping list that included 10 cows, various celebration outfits, food, and other nonsense.

The wife decided to take up a bank loan in secret without her husband’s knowledge. She sent £20,000 (about 11,000,000 Naira) to her siblings, who used the money to execute a burial that was the talk of the town.

When the husband saw pictures of the grandiose ceremony, he asked his wife how her family could afford such a lavish burial, and the woman remained silent about the loan.

The outcome of lying about life abroad

Months later, she lost her job. The job she needed to make her monthly payments. When reality hit, she was in a pickle. She couldn’t tell her husband she’d taken the loan without his knowledge. The bank began pursuing her and writing to her.

On a bad day, the postman came to the house. The warning on the envelope prompted him to open it. The wife had put her family’s finances in jeopardy for no reason, and the husband felt betrayed and hurt. When she got home, he asked her about the loan. She concocted a story that didn’t sit well with the man, who quickly showed her the recovery bank letter.

After such a deception, the man lost trust in her and vowed to stay away from her. She lost her marriage, endangered her children, and racked up massive debts, all to show Africans what life abroad really is like, which, of course, wasn’t a true.

This story is true for many Diasporans who have decided to live an impressionable life of lies.

“Not all that glitters is not gold” may be as old as the bible, but it remains true to this day.


Africa’s location isn’t always a hindrance to success. Due to misinformation, lifelong TV viewing, and ignorance, many people believe that they can only succeed financially if they travel to the West.

Many people who travel abroad without a plan end up worse off than they were at home. Some die, while others become vagabonds, wandering the streets in despair.

However, many people travel abroad, and they end up living the good life and providing the best quality of life for their families. They become successful and great!

In any case, it’s important to get a full picture of life abroad before making such a big move.

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