During my “pandemic” gap year before graduation, I desperately wanted to go on an adventure somewhere outside Europe. Asia closed its doors to me, but Africa’s were wide open! After almost two years, I set out on a trip to sub-Saharan Africa. The destination was Tanzania. So unexpected, yet incredibly exciting.
I discovered Tanzania completely randomly. I was first planning a getaway in Morocco, where I’d already arranged for voluntary work. I was supposed to live with a traditional Berber family in Sahara and also help build accommodation for tourists. After that, I’d be cleaning the hostel in the blue city of Chefchaouen. I booked a one-way flight, but was then not allowed to board the plane because I didn’t have the right Covid-19 test. After a total mental breakdown, when things that mattered the most to me – meeting new people, discovering new places and living with the locals – were taken from me, I started looking for new options. The coronavirus measures were incredibly strict then and travelling was nigh impossible. But I was also active on social media and noticed bloggers, influencers and especially the Russians and Poles holidaying in droves in Zanzibar or even moving there.
I didn’t find Zanzibar particularly interesting at first, due to hordes of tourists flocking there during the pandemic. If possible, I always try to avoid the touristy parts and get to know the culture and the locals better. Resorts are a no-go for me. I really like living with the locals, which I contact through various portals (e.g., Workaway, couch surfing).
I looked up volunteering options in Tanzania and Zanzibar and, after some deliberation, it became the destination for my next travel adventures.
“The cheapest and the first available flight to Tanzania or Zanzibar, please,” I called the agency. “For the next three months,” I added, not very convincingly.
And so I got the travel bug again. Looking up available voluntary work, visa and vaccination information, and airport transfers, watching vlogs about Tanzania and Zanzibar on YouTube.
After about three weeks, I travelled to Tanzania for three months.
Upon arrival at the Kilimanjaro Airport, I just couldn’t believe I made it. After an utterly unpleasant experience of being rejected in Morocco, I kept pinching myself for the next two days to make sure I was actually there. »You made it! Ida, you’re in Africa!« I had already been so fascinated by Africa two years before to the point, that rarely a day went by when I didn’t think of Mozambique and the locals there. When the plane landed, I felt at home again. Except that it was Tanzania this time.
With visa paperwork having got through exceptionally fast, my host welcomed me at the airport and drove me to his family’s house where I was to stay. My hosts were a young couple with a three-year-old son, with a tourism education and good knowledge of English, which helped me a great lot. They were in charge of a small safari agency called kilitanzaniapridetours, and at the same time the hosted numerous volunteers who helped them out. My work wasn’t particularly difficult. Each day, I made one post on Facebook and Instagram to promote various safaris and the best tourist activities the agency offered, such as a tour of the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro crater, treks to Africa’s tallest mountain – Kilimanjaro – and holidays in Zanzibar.
I got used to my new workplace and the room in which I stayed incredibly fast. I’ll never forget the first day when my hostess walked me to my room.
“This is your bed. Okay? This is the bathroom. Okay?« she asked me each time.
»Of course, okay!« I answered every time.
I should add that the bathroom only had a pit toilet. That’s where I used the water from a plastic washing bowl to wash myself, my hair, brush my teeth... Toilets in Tanzania are usually located outside the house, due to practical reasons. New buildings that imitate the western house styles, on the other hand, also have an indoor toilet. And my room was one of those.
“You get water outside the house. Okay? The washing bowl is here. Okay? The water cooker is here. Okay?” she kept on going.
»Of course, okay! Of course!” I nodded and tried to let go of all my expectations I had upon my arrival. What is this place???
“And another toilet paper roll. I think you’ll need it,” she concluded her tour.
Oh, crap! I completely forgot they didn’t use toilet paper! Which was very eco-friendly, but I just can’t go without it! There’s a song in Slovenia, sung by Adi Smolar. That toilet paper roll really came in handy.
I got used to the charming bathroom, cooking the water, doing the laundry by hand, showering with cold water and other everyday stuff rather quickly. It became my new reality and I have to admit I was just fine. I had a clean bed, a safe environment and good food, and I was surrounded by wonderful hosts and community who took me in. A person really needs very little in order to be happy.