How Spain will lead me to Tanzania
If you could only visit one more country before you die, what would it be? For me, Tanzania is the ultimate destination. Before I explain, let me back up:
After visiting Spain three years back, something cracked open within me. I’d dreamed of going to Europe, specifically the city of Barcelona, since my high school days. It wasn’t until I was 33 that I would finally see the continent. I was fed up with lusting over destinations, feeling like I’d never realize these dreams.
Instead of pursuing my passions, I was listening to what others said about places. It’s too expensive. Women aren’t respected there. I’ve heard it’s dangerous. Don’t go alone. Here’s a bit of advice that is true in most aspects of life: The naysayers are usually wrong.
One Californian winter, I sat in my childhood bedroom, prolonging wrapping Christmas gifts by looking through old travel photos. I felt that familiar, yet rare, spark that changes your life. At that moment, I promised myself that, no matter what it took- even if I had to sleep on benches and eat bread the entire time- I would explore the following countries:
Three very distinct countries, continents, cultures. But these places each called me for different reasons. At the time of writing, I have spent five weeks in Iceland and a month in India. Tanzania is the last on the list.
If it weren’t for Spain, for realizing that I can make things happen, I might not have come this far. Nearly twenty countries later, I could still be immersed in nostalgia and wondering what life is like in Western Europe. Fortunately, that is not the case.
Africa the Continent
(Don’t get me started on people lumping 54 distinct countries into one generic “country.”)
“I’m going to Africa, mama,” I told my mom over Skype. I sat in my friend’s spare room in Madrid, staring at my laptop screen and waiting for her response. Then came her laughter (nervousness or disbelief?).
“No, you’re not,” she said, a lightness in her voice.
“Yes, I am.”
“Ok, mi’ja… How are you going to get there?”
“By ferry.” More laughter. “I’m headed to Morocco after I visit Tarifa, at the tip of Spain.” Crickets. If I know my mom well- and I do- she was running the world map through her head, or at least Googling the geographic proximity of Europe and Africa on her iPhone.
“Ohhhh, mi’ja…” She understood I wasn’t kidding. Her voice changed from carefree to insanely worried in one nanosecond. “Are you sure you want to go? There’s no one to go with you?”
There was nothing to worry about, I explained to her. I was going alone, but I’d be safe, and I’d only be in Tangier (mainly to see where William S. Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch) and Marrakech for a few days, then back to Spain for TBEX.
I loved the chaos and hustle in Tangier, the taste of whisky (Morrocan mint tea), and the views of the ocean. But I knew that this was just an introduction to the continent of Africa. There was still so much more to see, to learn, to explore. Three years later, after spending over a month in Egypt, I feel much more strongly about this conviction.
Tanzania: The Ultimate Destination
My curiosity about Africa came about around the time that I became obsessed with Spain. After reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises in high school, I delved into his other works, learning about the time he spent in Africa. But I wouldn’t get serious about it until a decade later during my Master’s program- after realizing the extent to which imperialism had devastated both Latin America and its eastern continental neighbor.
While I’ve now been to Morocco and Egypt, I’ve only touched the surface of Northern Africa. Two out of 54 countries means I still know practically nothing. Far too many years have passed that I’ve yearned to discover more southern regions of the continent.
My next trip to Africa will be to Tanzania. While I’d love to see other neighboring countries, such as Uganda, Mozambique, and Madagascar, Tanzania is the ultimate destination. After watching Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” episode on this country almost four years back, something just clicked. (Fellow vegans, please try to ignore the meat porn.)
Tanzania has been a stable (war-free) country for over 29 years- longer than most in Africa, and the rest of the world. As Bren on the Road details, its rich culture is paralleled with a vast diversity of landscapes- from the relaxed beaches of Zanzibar to the hectic streets of the previous capital, Dar es Salaam.
What to Do in Tanzania?
Doubtlessly, people who have visited or lived in this country could write a book on this subject. For me, while I love to research a country’s history, dynamics, and culture, I also am a spontaneous creature. The best locations and events seem to come up on a whim, while crossing paths with a friendly local or meeting a well-traveled backpacker on her way out of the country.
Admittedly, I have so much research to do before I head to Tanzania. I’m still hoping that I’ll be able to get there this autumn, but with relocating to South America, it will be a bit tricky. Nonetheless, here’s my wishlist (so far) of what to do in Tanzania:
- Relax on the beaches of Zanzibar
- Go on a Mt. Kilimanjaro Climbing adventure
- Museum-hop in Dar es Salaam
- Track chimpanzees amidst the Mahale Mountains (where Jane Goodall studied these primates for over 50 years!)
- Sip on some Konyagi
- Learn to climb a palm tree and cut down my own coconut
- Explore local wildlife on a Serengeti Safari
Have you been to Tanzania? What was your experience and what am I missing from my wishlist? Reply in the comments below!