The COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) pandemic has considerably changed the way we do life in so short a time. The impact is even a greater deal for travel industry professionals and enthusiasts like myself. But even in this unpredictable phase of time, there are people whose stories give you an extra dose of hope. American travel influencer, writer, and entrepreneur, Rashad McCrorey is one of those.
A few weeks ago, it was just another one of his many inspired trips to Africa, with a team of Americans on holiday in the West African country of Ghana. Little did he know that he would be ‘stuck’ on these beautiful soils for at least ten weeks.
McCrorey arrived in Ghana on the 27th of February 2020 with a plan to be there for not more than two or three weeks. At the time we spoke (4th May 2020), he had spent 66 days in Africa and was currently self-quarantining at Aburi Botanical Gardens located about a forty minutes’ drive from the country’s capital Accra, in the Eastern region of South Ghana.
Following his interview with the global media giant, Forbes, I sat down on Skype to ask Rashad McCrorey a few questions.
Question: Who is Rashad?
Rashad McCrorey: My name is Rashad McCrorey, and I am from Harlem, New York in the United States of America. I am the owner of Africa Cross-Culture. We take Americans on holiday in Africa.
Question: Tell me more about Africa Cross-culture
Rashad McCrorey: We are an outbound company sending Americans on trips to Africa. We have so far served about 300 guests since 2017.
(He smiles when I ask him if these are black Americans, going by the fact that society has unfortunately taught us to differentiate between people of color and Caucasians. Rashad quickly insists that he prefers to call them “American” irrespective of Race and would like to remain impartial. He however confirms that most of the trips he’s done have been to inspire a movement to Africa, largely of African Americans. Rashad adds that he has however had at least two Europeans on his trips.)
Question: I skimmed through your article on Forbes, and I am interested in knowing more about how you ended up here.
Rashad McCrorey: I was hosting a group of 4 Americans for Ghana’s Independence Day, a trip that was meant to last, in total, 6 days. Little did I know that I would make Africa my new home for the next two months. I had bought a one-way ticket for flexibility because there were other events that I wanted to attend. However, once the coronavirus pandemic started to take its course in America, I became very concerned about the whole situation in America, especially in New York where I come from. I was frightened more with the fact that it was affecting asthmatic people like me more. So, I was under this belief that the virus would not overtake Africa and I felt it was safer to stay here.
(He quickly interjects that he does not want to go off as a conspiracy theorist, and encourages me to stick to all health safety guidelines)
Question: You sound to have settled in pretty well. Don’t you miss home?
Rashad McCrorey: I have a daughter that is 15 years and we have talked about this, and she’s understanding. She wants to come down here but we have agreed to travel Africa together when this situation ends. I also have a five-year-old, and I cannot be stuck down here forever, otherwise, I might be abandoning her. I miss them so much and I badly want to see them. If it wasn’t for them, I would have just set up shop and brought them to live here with me. I am a city guy from New York, stereotypical black American basketballer one hundred percent; so it’s been pleasant being down here. I just can’t describe how amazing the experience has been to be in the woods and the mountains enjoying nature’s goodness. In terms of spiritual currency, I might be sitting on 100 billion dollars right now; I might be a billionaire. (he smirks)
(For a man miles and oceans away from his family and daughters; in his own words, Rashad refers to his time in Africa as “a blessing from the ancestors and the universe.”)
Question: What’s the situation been like in Ghana?
Rashad McCrorey: The country has been on lockdown and I believe it’s pretty much the case elsewhere. Lockdown had just been relaxed a week ago, borders are however still closed, social distancing still a norm and no large gatherings permitted.
Question: You said your company operates trips to Africa. As someone passionate about showing more and more people my beautiful continent, can you tell me where you have been?
Rashad McCrorey: With the company, we have been promoting trips to Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and I am working on getting Uganda and the greater East African region on that list including Ethiopia, Burundi, and South Sudan. I met Ugandan superstar Eddy Kenzo in 2019, I was telling him what I do and I told him just because of you I will be coming to Wakanda, sorry Uganda.
(He laughs and makes a shout out to Eddy Kenzo)
I was meant to visit Uganda sometime in the summer this year but because of the Coronavirus, I will have to re-plan. But I have heard good things, and I am definitely coming to Uganda. I have however also been to Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, and Benin.
Question: Any favorite experiences so far?
Rashad McCrorey: I have had some awesome experiences in pretty much all of the countries I have visited. Even this year I got chased by an elephant while on safari in Kenya. If you scroll through my Instagram you can find that video. I was in Kenya for only 5 days and I had already seen all of the Big Five, which I think was special. I love Egypt because of the Nile River, the origins of mankind, the pyramids, and tales of the old civilization. I like Ghana because of the people, the culture and the heritage. But you know I still have a whole lot on my bucketlist.
(I confirm to him that he definitely has a lot more to discover, especially in light of the rich culture on the continent)
Question: What inspired you to come out and speak?
Rashad McCrorey: I think there’s a lot more out here than what our press back home shows us and I believe I have received the best of it. Jonathan, you being a safari guy, I know you understand how special it is for anyone who is out in nature right now without the usual competition from other tourists. I have been waking up and walking barefooted, hugging the trees for thirty minutes, and meditating. We don’t get this back home, and it’s so sad that it might take a couple of months until we can send people here again to experience this.
Question: Since you have said that, and you operate in what I will brand a source market for many tourism destinations in Africa, what advice do you give to tourism players during this crisis?
Rashad McCrorey: Before planes begin flying again, people are going to be slow on long-haul travel in the short-term. So, a lot of travel will be in the form of short-distance trips. People who will immediately gravitate towards Africa will be those that are truly interested and invested in discovering it, whether for environmental reasons, scientific or cultural reasons. My advice during this time would be for African tourism players to expand and not retract. Reach out, make as many partnerships, build your networks. Even if people cannot travel now, there’s nothing stopping anybody from building stronger relationships, getting the word out, and increasing their market space. Put that work in, this stuff ain’t easy.
Question: Thank you so much for doing this, and I trust Eddy Kenzo will see this haha. Is there anything you want us to know before we close?
Rashad McCrorey: Yes. You can keep up with me through my socials; follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, I will continue to highlight my experiences on there. I am working on my book so that will be ready soon. And I am definitely coming to Uganda, Eddy Kenzo knows that hahaha!