My first truly exotic trip was over New Year one year. I'd decided to meet up with friends in Zanzibar which on the surface sounded easy enough, but in practise was a really eye-opening experience.
I'd spent my formative years in South Africa , so was no stranger to Africa per se, but was completely overwhelmed on first landing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This felt like the real Africa of book and film.
We reached Stone Town on Zanzibar by ferry. Stone Town is beautiful and it was all too tempting to get lost in the labyrinth of houses in the centre. We spent New Year's Eve on the lawns of the Africa House Hotel sipping cocktails. Later we travelled north to Nungwe and spent a week relaxing on paradise beaches while our brains turned to mush.
I learned something very interesting about myself. Paradise beaches might look like the perfect place to spend some time, but in reality, my brain craves stimulation. You'd think that I'd be able to switch off from my thoughts, but no! I look back at this now and finally understand. I like the beach, but I love the mountains. Put the two together, like in Cape Town or Vancouver and I have my perfect place. My brain relaxes and my soul sings while I enjoy the physical activity of climbing or hiking, while at the same time looking out over the ocean.
I learned that paradise means different things to different people, such as it is in life, and living someone else's dream won't necessarily make me happy. I'd like to visit Zanzibar again, though, now that I've seen a bit more of the world. I'd be curious to know what it'd teach me on a return trip.