What I learned When I Traveled to Africa in my 40s with my Son

Guest Blog By: Jay Cameron

“It was in moments like these that I saw the difference between us – while I was weighed down by years of caution and hesitations, he was free from those chains. His boldness in embracing new experiences was like watching him break barriers, expanding his world right before my eyes.”

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Misconceptions of Africa Kept Me Away, Going Changed My Life 

Life has a way of surprising us with the paths we take, and sometimes, it’s the roads we don’t take that come back to inspire us. For me, Africa was that untouched path. Despite the connection in my DNA linking me to the continent, I somehow let 45 years slip by without visiting. Europe, Asia, all the places people had convinced me were “better” intrigued me, but Africa? The fact that the continent of Africa had more than fifty countries with different cultures, sub-cultures and languages never dawned on me. In my admitted ignorance, I simply saw it as the monolith of Africa. It always seemed like a destination for “someday,” a “charity case” and was often put on the back-burner. 

My hesitation was rooted in the stories I’d heard over the years. Warnings about possible dangers, stories of sickness, uprisings, kidnappings, corruption and the overall unknown made me wary. Ironically, I was numb to the mass shootings, carjackings, home invasions and everything else happening in America. I was somehow convinced that “Africa” was worse. Also hearing rumors that I would need all of these “shots” (which wasn’t true) was a major discouragement. The mere thought of needles had me skeptical. However, something shifted in me. Maybe it was reaching the age of 45 and taking stock of where I’d been and where I hadn’t. Maybe it was realizing that I had allowed others to influence a narrative in my mind, but I hadn’t actually seen for myself. The reality is that Africa remained a mystery to me. 

One day out of curiosity, I turned to Google Earth. I decided to take a virtual trip to Ghana and it truly opened my eyes. Instead of just vast landscapes or barren land, I saw life — vibrant neighborhoods, upscale homes with swimming pools. It felt familiar and welcoming. Honestly, I was a bit embarrassed and ashamed that I did not know that “Africa” had so many of the things I was familiar with. At that moment, I decided that I needed to go see for myself and the rest is history. 

When I finally touched down in Ghana, emotions of excitement swirled within me. Happy to finally be there, a hint of regret for waiting so long, but above all, an overwhelming sense of homecoming and connection. I could feel that my life was about to change. I could sense that my eyes were about to be opened on another level. 

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Taking My Son To Africa

While on this trip to Africa, I knew others needed to see what I was seeing. This is when I decided to invite people to join me a year later on my first group tour to Ghana, Togo and Benin. I also invited my oldest son, Eric, to join us as a high school graduation gift. One of the best decisions I ever made was inviting him on that trip. Seeing the spark it lit in him and the change in his outlook on life was amazing. Before I knew it, a couple of years later he was off on his own adventure to Egypt, financing his own journey. Imagine that – at 21, my son was doing something it took me 45 years to gather the courage for! It was clear that this experience had given him a confidence that I wish I had at his age. Growing up, my surroundings, my culture, and even the media had a way of making the world outside of the United States seem bigger and scarier than it really was. Many people I knew rarely traveled outside of their comfort zones or local neighborhoods. But my son? He broke that mold. That trip to Ghana wasn’t just a vacation for him; it was a gift, a new perspective. Now, he’s fearless, eager to explore other parts of the world. I can’t help but think of the vast opportunities waiting for him, how his horizons have expanded, and how he’s no longer confined to a limited bubble of experiences.

Father-Son Bonding in Benin 

A moment with my son that’s forever etched in my mind was during our time in Benin, the last leg of the group trip. In Benin, we  found ourselves sitting on a beach, just the two of us in our chairs, engaged in a father-son conversation. The calm sound of the waves and the sand beneath our feet made for a perfect backdrop. It was at the Temple of the Pythons that I saw a side of my son that truly amazed me. We were both given the opportunity to wear a living python snake. Now, I’m not particularly fond of snakes, and I reluctantly took the challenge. But my son? He wore that python with such ease and confidence. It was in moments like these that I saw the difference between us – while I was weighed down by years of caution and hesitations, he was free from those chains. His boldness in embracing new experiences was like watching him break barriers, expanding his world right before my eyes.

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Why Maximum Impact Tours Launched

My initial journey to Ghana was more than just a trip; it was a revelation. Having lived 45 years in the U.S., I had been fed a certain narrative about Africa — one that was influenced heavily by the West. This narrative painted a picture of a continent that needed “rescuing,” “charity,” “aid,” a place that should be molded and civilized into a more Western or “American” way of life. After seeing Ghana firsthand those misconceptions were shattered. It made me realize how connected we all are, especially those of us from the African diaspora. We share more similarities than differences, more ties that bind than separate. Recognizing this truth, I felt a duty to bridge this gap. It led me to found the tour operator company Maximum Impact Travel. Our mission isn’t just about taking trips, but also about adventure, inspiration, education and connection. We travel to places where the African diaspora has left its mark — from Cuba to Central America, the Caribbean, parts of the U.S., South America, and even certain European destinations.

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Spreading African Experiences Among Black People 

There’s something genuinely moving about witnessing first-time experiences. When many of our elders step foot on African soil, the raw emotion is overwhelming. It’s like seeing someone come home after a lifetime of being away. Watching our guests identify members of the local community who closely resemble their family members in the States is an unforgettable experience. It moves many to tears. The tears aren’t just of joy, but of connection and recognition. Similarly, watching our young ones take it all in while experiencing this new environment, arming them with perspectives that many of us never had, gives me hope. They’re learning early on that there’s more to the world than the small bubble we often find ourselves in. For our middle-aged travelers, it’s a moment of clarity. Amidst the day-to-day challenges they face in the U.S.  Many parts of Africa offer a serene refuge. It’s a place where the noise of microaggressions and black American societal pressures seem distant. There’s a unique peace that blankets many parts of the continent, healing the mind, body, and soul. My heart especially swells for our Black brothers and fathers who often feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. Seeing them relax, truly relax, is like watching a weight being lifted. They’ve been conditioned to grind, pushing through life, sometimes forgetting to live it. Here, they often find a joy that’s rare and precious. 

We’re not just about the history; we’re about the full experience. We want our guests to enjoy every bite of food, every beat of the music, every vibrant cultural showcase — a truly five-sensory experience. What makes our approach unique is that we’re from the diaspora ourselves. We not only offer enriching and empowering experiences, but also support local businesses, individuals and communities, ensuring they thrive in the aftermath of the historical challenges left by colonization and imperialism. It always struck me how I’ve seen families of other ethnicities traveling across Africa, completely at ease. Yet back home, there’s this fear, a hesitation, mostly because of the stories we’ve been fed. That’s why we’re here to change that. One trip, one experience at a time. That’s the essence of the Maximum Impact movement. Bridging the gap, changing narratives, and reconnecting people with their roots and with each other.

In closing, being a Black father brings me so much joy. When I encounter other Black fathers who want better for their children than what we were offered, we share a common sentiment. We inspire each other. We encourage each other. I hope this story will inspire many other Black fathers to travel personally and to travel with their children. No one is going to do it for us and NOW is the time. 

 

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Dear Fathers is The Premiere Media Platform dedicated to telling stories of black fathers from all angles.

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