CROSSING AFRICA: Mario Rigby’s Journey

What would you do if money was not an object, if family and friends were not an influence?  That was one of the many questions that J. Clarke Richardson students contemplated on October 27 during Mario Rigby’s presentation at our school.

Who is Mario Rigby? He is one man who decided to trek across Africa by foot and kayak in 2015, a journey that took more than two years to complete. During his talk, he spoke about his travels through the continent and the way that this trip changed him and his mindset.

Mario Rigby was a normal guy who wanted to have a sense of purpose. As he described, his decision to go to Africa was very sudden but his trip was not spontaneous. He worked hard for 9 months in preparation. In his speech, he described the rigorous training that he underwent. He also spoke about the support that he received from his mother.  Her first words to her son after hearing about the trip were, “If you ever break your legs, get hit by a car, someone shoots you, and you arm has gone missing, make sure that you become the first human being on the planet to go across Africa on a wheelchair.”

What makes someone to do this? Rigby says that he was excited by the idea of new experiences. He kept himself motivated by walking to simple goals and through the excitement of constant change.  He also admits to not knowing anything and being a “city boy”. He went on camping trips with his friends, and he spoke fondly about practicing pitching his tent so he could become the fastest. He talked about learning the basics of the local languages.  At some point, Rigby says, “Work doesn’t feel like work”.

Rigby continually tested himself as he prepared, and driven by curiosity, he decided to walk for 14 hours a day.  He walked all the way to Toronto. Then he walked from Toronto to Montreal.  He took his goal seriously and continued practicing until he knew that he could achieve it.

One of the many pieces of advice he had for J. Clarke Richardson students was that they had to make the approach and “go for it.”.  He also spoke about doing what you want to do, and gave advice on taking the first step to your goal. Rigby sold most of his possessions in order to be able to pay for the trip. He also credits Youtube for teaching him many of the skills he needed like building a fire.

 As he spoke about his trip, he recounted his experiences with ‘relative poverty.’ He also described how in many parts of Africa, people thought that they were living rich. The minimalistic lifestyle in Africa was a stark contrast to the abundance of materials in Canada. According to his experiences, African people are some of the most hospitable people he has ever met and the poverty that we see is greatly exaggerated. As Mario mentions, our privilege is that we believe that we can change our situations.

Rigby brought up another interesting point when he spoke about racism. He observed that xenophobia, an irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries, was something that he encountered. It was also assumed that he was there to “steal jobs” and that he was stupid.

All in all, Rigby says that there was main ways in which this journey has changed him for the better.   This included looking at the bigger picture in life. Rigby mentions that he was not afraid to die because he did not value his life. As he encountered more and more near-death experiences, his perspective changed. Now, he says he is not afraid to die because he knows that he has a purpose and that he is part of a bigger picture. This was something that he really reflected on after being stuck in a conflict zone in Mozambique and almost being shot. Not only was he in danger in the conflict zones, but he also learned about the elephants and people who were casualties of the gunfire.


Overall, the presentation was a testament to the importance of perseverance, and to taking initiative, even when the odds are stacked against you. Mario Rigby became the person to walk across Africa, how will you make your mark?