travel

  • On Hating Beets (Travel Diary: Bagamoyo, Tanzania)
    The Port I stand by the gate, hesitant, and call out to the guard. “Naweza kuingia?” I ask. Can I enter? “Ingia, ingia,” he ushers me in. It’s dark, but the beach is busy. A crew of about thirty men wades back and forth through the shallows, carrying sacks from a truck to the dhow, loading the boat for Zanzibar. There are no docks here, no ramps or vehicle bridges over the water. The boats can’t come all the way to shore without beaching themselves in the sand, and so loading means wading, sacks above heads. “Salaam aalaykum,”… Continue reading On Hating Beets (Travel Diary: Bagamoyo, Tanzania)
  • Tips for Riding Bodaboda (Motorcycle Taxis) in East Africa
    It’s the easiest, cheapest way to get around most cities in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, but it can be nerve-wracking if you’ve never ridden on a motorcycle before. Here’s a quick guide on how to use the bodaboda (people will often just say “boda”) system in East Africa, so that you can zip around town in style. Figure out the price before you go get a boda. If you’re staying in a hotel, ask the desk what a boda should cost for where you’re going. If they recommend a taxi, be polite but insistent, and ask what transport… Continue reading Tips for Riding Bodaboda (Motorcycle Taxis) in East Africa
  • How To Pack for Long-Term Backpack Travel
    We’re not talking about a weeklong trip to the beach, in which you’re restricting yourself to a single checked bag because you’re trying to go “minimalist.” We’re not talking about moving abroad, where you cram everything into a giant suitcase to be exploded exactly once (when you arrive) and packed exactly once again (when you depart). No, we’re talking about taking a backpack (and not one so big you could fit inside it), and figuring out how to live sustainably from it: packing and unpacking each day, traveling regularly and carrying everything, and not going completely mad in… Continue reading How To Pack for Long-Term Backpack Travel
  • Uganda: A Traveller’s “Must-Know” Introduction
    This spring, I’ll be spending approximately a month each in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. While I used to live in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are new to me! I’m very excited about the trip, and will be channelling my excitement into some introductory blog-posts about each country. So, this post is a quick introduction to the “must-know” factoids about Uganda. Note: This post is not a travel guide to Uganda, and doesn’t include logistical advice on travel — instead, this is a run-down of some common knowledge and household names you should really know if you’re going to… Continue reading Uganda: A Traveller’s “Must-Know” Introduction
  • Thoughts on Packing for Three Months in a Backpack
    Today, I stared at a backpack. It was given to me, and it was going to work. No matter that the packing list recommended an eighty-litre pack, and this one was fifty litres. No matter that I don’t have a compression sack, and my sleeping bag was taking up half the volume. No matter, no matter. Everything I needed would have to fit in this backpack. If it didn’t fit, then I didn’t need it. I had packing cubes, but they were already tearing apart at the seams, having been stuffed one too many times. Would the mesh… Continue reading Thoughts on Packing for Three Months in a Backpack
  • Tanzania: A Traveller’s “Must-Know” Introduction
    This spring, I’ll be spending approximately a month each in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. While I used to live in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are new to me! I’m very excited about the trip, and will be channelling my excitement into some introductory blog-posts about each country. So, this post is a quick introduction to the “must-know” factoids about Tanzania. Note: This post is not a travel guide to Tanzania, and doesn’t include logistical advice on travel — instead, this is a run-down of some common knowledge and household names you should really know if you’re going to… Continue reading Tanzania: A Traveller’s “Must-Know” Introduction
  • Kenya: A Traveller’s “Must-Know” Introduction
    This spring, I’ll be spending approximately a month each in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. While I used to live in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are new to me! I’m very excited about the trip, and will be channelling my excitement into some introductory blog-posts about each country. So, this post is a quick introduction to the “must-know” factoids about Kenya. Note: This post is not a travel guide to Kenya, and doesn’t include logistical advice on travel — instead, this is a run-down of some common knowledge and household names you should really know if you’re going to… Continue reading Kenya: A Traveller’s “Must-Know” Introduction
  • 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Process The Pre-Departure Roller Coaster)
    If you want to write something about your travels before you actually go, but want to write something more substantial than a packing list, here are ten writing prompts to help you process what’s about to happen. Most of these are meant for long-term travel or moving abroad (ie. won’t be coming back for several months, at least), but could be adapted for shorter trips. Write a letter to your future self, describing what you know (and don’t know) about the countries and places you’re going to. Admit all the gaps in your knowledge, and embrace the things… Continue reading 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Process The Pre-Departure Roller Coaster)
  • 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Connect With Loved Ones Who Don’t Travel)
    One of the biggest challenges of travel (especially for those of us who travel a lot and/or live abroad) is connecting with friends and family who aren’t experiencing the same things we are. We want to connect and share our lives with them, but bridging that gap can be difficult. So, here is a list of ten travel writing prompts to help you connect with your loved ones who don’t travel. Whether you use them to write a post card or a blog post, hopefully they bring you a little bit closer to the people who matter in… Continue reading 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Connect With Loved Ones Who Don’t Travel)
  • 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Handle Reverse/Return Culture Shock)
    Going back home after a long time abroad or away can be a rocky transition, especially if it doesn’t really feel like “home” anymore. Here’s a list of ten writing prompts to help you process the reverse culture shock. If you happen to use any of these prompts and post the results anywhere, please include the link back to this page, and let me know! I’d love to read what comes of this, if anything, and would love to share your writing, as well! Write about your “home” bus station or airport like you wrote about places abroad.… Continue reading 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Handle Reverse/Return Culture Shock)
  • 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Find Grounding in Overwhelming Foreign-ness)
    It happens sooner or later — as a traveller, you find yourself overwhelmed by simply how “different” and “foreign” the place where you are is. The diversity and complexity of our world is something to cherish and appreciate, but it’s hard to process, much less distill into something relatable and comprehensible in your writing. Here’s a list of ten travel writing prompts to help yourself find grounding in the most foreign-feeling of places, and to help you write through the curtain of “foreign-ness.” Select a food that you don’t really like, that you don’t really connect with, and… Continue reading 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Find Grounding in Overwhelming Foreign-ness)
  • 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Smile During Travel Delays)
    This is exactly what it sounds like — ten travel writing prompts, which I’d recommend saving for when you’re sitting on an airport (or bus station, or train station, or wherever sort of station) floor, waiting for some delayed transportation. Your trip isn’t going how you thought, but I hope these prompts bring you to a place of joy (or at least appreciation for the journey), and make you smile during your delay. If you happen to use any of these prompts and post the results anywhere, please include the link back to this page, and let me… Continue reading 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Smile During Travel Delays)
  • Red Lines (Washington-Dulles Airport, USA)
    “Next,” he calls from behind the glass, and I cross the yellow line.“Hello,” I greet him. I slide my passport and customs form across the counter.“Where are you coming from?” he asks, glancing at my passport and tapping at his keyboard.“Somalia.” The US doesn’t recognize Somaliland as an independent nation, and I figure this isn’t the moment for the distinction.“Somalia,” he repeats, and abandons tapping the keyboard.“Yes.”“How many days were you there?”“Three and a half months.” He looks me over for a moment, his gaze apologetic, and yet not quite. He takes my passport and places it into… Continue reading Red Lines (Washington-Dulles Airport, USA)
  • Stained Glass Ceilings (Hargeisa Airport, Somaliland)
    I arrived so early to the airport, I was the first one there. I was so early, the security guard’s name is Ayaan, and we got into such giggles during the security screening that the male guard asked if we knew each other. At immigration, the officer asks me which guesthouse I stayed in. I tell him I was working here, that I had a house here. It’s always strange, the first time you articulate a change. The first time you use the past tense. Past security and immigration, the terminal is quiet. The roof is stained glass,… Continue reading Stained Glass Ceilings (Hargeisa Airport, Somaliland)
  • Lemon Juice and Fleece Blankets (Hargeisa, Somaliland)
    There is no conductor on the bus, no ticket collection — only a Zaad number, written on the roof in permanent marker. We send our fares without acknowledgement or question to the driver, a cashless society.  As Salat al-Maghreb approaches, the air loosens around us. We drive with the door open, rolling down the street with the city beside us, traffic to thick to allow for enough speed to close it. Gas station, bakery, computer shop, pipe fitter, tyre supplier, supermarket, bookstore. A man scatters water from a bucket to hold down the dust. White people with laminated… Continue reading Lemon Juice and Fleece Blankets (Hargeisa, Somaliland)
  • Salat al-Maghreb (Berbera-Hargeisa Roadside, Somaliland)
    The women’s prayer room is in the back of the restaurant, where the men sit and drink tea and soda. Compared to the main mosque, out front by the road, the women’s space is austere. Dirt floor, corrugated iron for walls and roof, tacked onto the building itself. We wash in a small fenced area outside, and then line up along the edge of a straw mat. Allahu akbar. When we kneel for the first rakat, I realize that the mat is plastic, not straw. We press our foreheads against it, and repeat three times. Subhana rabbiyal a’Allah.… Continue reading Salat al-Maghreb (Berbera-Hargeisa Roadside, Somaliland)
  • On Floating (Mansoor Beach, Berbera, Somaliland)
    “Can you teach me how to float?” she asks, standing in the waist-deep water.  With my support beneath her legs and back, she lies back in the water — body tense, head bent forward away from the waves, hands raised to hold the edges of her hijab against her face. “You’re going to have to relax,” I tell her. “You can only float if you relax.” She takes a deep breath, and then another one. As a wave comes, I lift her up to keep the salt water away from her face. The motion scares her, and she… Continue reading On Floating (Mansoor Beach, Berbera, Somaliland)
  • COVID-19 Testing in Hargeisa, Somaliland (PCR for Travel)
    Travelling from Hargeisa to the US, I’ve had to get a COVID test done (PCR, within 1 day of the flight, according to the US guidelines). I thought I’d share the process/logistics, for those planning a trip. COVID-19 testing in Hargeisa is available at the Hargeisa Group Hospital, in the city center. There are no rapid tests available, just PCR. Entering the hospital complex, there’s a one-way flow of vehicle traffic (in one gate and out the other). Follow the vehicle traffic all the way to the end, right before the exit gate, and the COVID testing will… Continue reading COVID-19 Testing in Hargeisa, Somaliland (PCR for Travel)