I first went to Africa in 1977, with a vague idea that I could hitchhike all the way to Timbuktu from my family home in the New Forest in the south of England. I left with a friend, with $100 each in $10 notes and a copy of the Michelin map. No guidebooks, no mobile phones, not much sense. We got to the fabled city, and home again, largely by good luck and the kindness of others, having learned what a visa is (a hard lesson when you're already half way across the Sahara and the Malian embassy is in Algiers) and what malaria feels like. Back in the UK I went to university, got a degree in sociology, and later went to London University's School of Oriental & African Studies to do a Master's Degree in East Arican Ethnography and Linguistics. I'm the author of The Rough Guide to Kenya and The Rough Guide to West Africa and co-author with Emma Gregg of The Rough Guide to The Gambia and The Rough Guide to First-Time Africa. I was formerly director of communications at Rough Guides and I now work as a freelance author, editor, writer and PR consultant. You can read my Kenya blog at theroughguidetokenya.blogspot.com, my West Africa blog at theroughguidetowestafrica.blogspot.com, follow me on twitter @richardtrillo, email me at richardtrillo (at) blueyonder.co.uk and read more about me at the RoughGuides.com website.