This past week I've been reminiscing a lot about my time in Tanzania and it also got me thinking about what inspired me to go there in the first place. I mean it isn't exactly the most obvious of choices for a girl's first solo adventure is it?
When I first announced that I was going travelling and would be spending some time volunteering at an orphanage, I remember people saying to me “why do you want to go there?” “isn't it quite dangerous?” “you’ll see so much poverty, I don’t think you will be able to cope” “you’re going to catch all sorts of tropical diseases.”
Then of course it was around the same time of the Ebola outbreak in the West, and despite Tanzania being thousands of miles away on the other side of the continent, it didn't stop some people genuinely worrying, while others would flippantly make ignorant remarks.
But for as long as I can remember, I have always had a fascination with Africa. So it didn't matter what anyone said to me, I was determined to go. Maybe it was the fact that while I was growing up I was totally obsessed with wildlife, watching David Attenborough programmes on repeat. Or maybe it was the fact that I’d always wanted to help others.
But I think it was largely down to the fact that my grandparents had spent a number of years living and working in both Tanzania and Ghana before I was even born. Every time I visited them, I was always fascinated with the African souvenirs that covered their house from top to bottom, and would love hearing their stories about what a magical place it is. But I wanted to see it for myself, and I very clearly remember looking up at the African-shaped clock on their wall one afternoon and saying to myself, “one day, I will go there.”
So fast-forward a fair few years, and there I was. In Moshi. Living in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. In Tanzania. Doing something that I had always dreamt of doing. I’d enjoyed the experience so much, I ended up going back there at the end of my around-the-world trip.
And now I've come back to England, people are asking me “why do you want to go back there?” I mean, surely twice is enough?!?!
I can think of a hundred different reasons why I fell in love with Tanzania, but have narrowed it down to a few. And hopefully they will inspire you to give this wonderful country a visit.
Tanzania is wild and captivating
Tanzania is one of Africa’s top safari destinations and after going on just one safari trip, it’s clear to see why. Home to a number of national game parks with an abundance of diverse wildlife and vast iconic plains that go on for as far as the eye can see…Tanzania is the stuff that nature documentaries are made of. Not to mention it also boasts Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, and of course there’s the beautiful tropical island of Zanzibar lying off the coast. Tanzania offers the perfect mix of adventure and comfort. It’s anything you want it to be….and then some!
Tanzania is colourful and vibrant
From the emerald green landscapes to the brightly painted murals covering storefronts and art galleries – there is something colourful to make you smile wherever you look. The women walk the streets wearing boldly printed khangas, and Maasai tribes roam farmlands with traditional red/blue shukas accented with beaded jewellery that catch the eye. Tanzania is a land filled with stunning imagery, and you’ll walk around wishing you had photographic lenses for eyes.
Tanzania is about family and community
While most cultures are based on material wealth; community, family and faith are at the heart of Tanzanian culture. Through volunteering I got to spend a lot of time with families living on next to nothing, but that didn't mean they were any less happy. As you walk around you witness so much laughter, love and joy. Tanzanian communities really look out for one other and welcome visitors with big open arms. While they are probably some of the most disadvantaged people I've met, they have been one of the most generous and hospitable. And that is something that really made an impression on me.
Tanzania is like music to the ears
Tanzania boasts a rich musical scene that has many different foreign influences. And with almost 130 tribes, there are countless flavours of traditional music that is pleasing to the ears. But it’s the modern bongo flava that really gets your feet moving. You can’t help but bop along to the rhythmic beats and there were many a night I’d find myself dancing to the likes of Yamoto Band or Diamond Platnumz. The Tanzanians love to dance, and no-one can move their hips quite like they do.
Tanzania is a home away from home
At least that’s how it felt for me. It’s hard to put into words how this wildly contrasting place gets under your skin, but it does. I do feel that being there has opened my eyes and changed my views on a whole lot of things, and because of that it’s not been an easy transition getting back to my old life and habits back here in England. Maybe it’s a combination of all the things I mention above or the connections it has with my late grandparents that made it a special place. But one thing’s for certain, I feel more homesick now than I ever did while I was away, and I can't wait for the day that I can return.