Africa Madagascar Peace Corps The Nomadic Life

Breaking Up with Madagascar

Broken Hearts by Darwin Bell

I need to get out of Madagascar. And I will leave, to East Africa, in 40-some days. Don’t take this to mean I dislike Madagascar — I’m lucky to have been placed here for my service in Peace Corps and there some truly wonderful things about the island, but two years is enough. I like to use the analogy of an arranged marriage to explain being a PCV here. I, along with most PCVs, came to Madagascar knowing little about it but willing to make the commitment based on the little we did. After we got here, we spent much of our first few months figuring out what this place was all about and in the process uncovered wonderful and awful aspects of Madagascar’s character. Yet despite all of the awful (smelly piles of trash, annoying men, general lapses in logic) we found ourselves forcing to focus on the parts we loved in order to make the ‘marriage’ work (beautiful landscapes, cheap fresh vegetables, laidback attitudes). Some people here, well, they’re really just ‘staying married for the kids’ (as in, they aren’t happy in Madagascar but for whatever reason are too committed to quit now). It’s definitely like an arranged marriage – you don’t know much getting in and have to focus on what you love, not what you hate, to make it work.

On the other hand, I believe a healthy relationship makes you the best possible version of yourself. I would say this extends to a person’s relationship with a place, not just people, as well. This is why I need to leave — Madagascar does not allow me to be the best possible version of myself. Yes, I like the relaxed sort of lawlessness of it all, of living here, but overall I don’t like the characteristics it tends to draw out of me. Over time, it’s made me angrier. I’m constantly on guard, ready for someone to pickpocket or harass me. The lack of general creative energy at first was disappointing, but now it feels stifling. I remember being blown away when I went to Thailand briefly last year, because there was so much presence of fashion, art, and architecture that had been carefully thought out, designed, and constructed. It was inspiring. (To be fair, there are some very creative people here making beautiful things, but it doesn’t seem to be as embedded in the general Malagasy mentality or history as, say, Thai mentality).

I understand that Madagascar has been through some unfortunate circumstances (political instability, it’s one of the world’s poorest countries, locust plague) so I feel somewhat unfair to speak badly of it, but I think my run here is over. We just weren’t made for each other. We had some fun, but didn’t fall in love. In a way, I almost feel like I’m breaking up with it. Sorry Mada, you have some fantastic qualities, and I’m sure you’ll find someone who loves you for who you are, but I just don’t think we’re right for each other. We can still be friends though, right?

Oh, and just to let you all know… I will officially be an RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteer) September 6th, and fly off the island for Kenya – Uganda – Ethiopia on September 9th. I’m looking forward to this next adventure!

Photo: Flowers in Golden Gate Park by Darwin Bell

By Jessie Beck

SEO and content strategist with a passion for travel, bikes, and food.

12 replies on “Breaking Up with Madagascar”

Hello! I’ve enjoyed reading your Madagascar blog. I would like to email you but don’t see your contact info. Can you provide your email address?


Aloha! Just found your blog and its great! We are a family of three traveling around the world for about 14 months. We are in Istanbul now and our next stop is Kenya and then Madagascar so we’ve been trying to find information on guides and such. We been communicating with someone for a 9 day private guided trip from Tana to Foul Point with stops along the way. We’re getting quoted around 1300euros times 2 for the two adults. Is this about right for car, driver, and mid range accomodations? Sorry to be asking you this touristy question but we are kind of nomads also for a year. Can we easily get a driver once we get into Tana? What would you recommend?


That sounds about right, actually. It’s easy to get a driver once in Tana (normally about $60 USD per day for just the car + gas) so I guess it depends more on how pressed for time you are. It’s funny because, it’s really easy to get away with spending next to nothing on travel here, but if you are trying to have a little more comfort it starts getting pricey quick! No worries about the touristy questions, feel free to e-mail with any others you might have.


No, people don’t normally do Peace Corps twice in a row. I’ll be doing what’s called a “COS trip” or the trip you take once you finish Peace Corps.



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