Kenya, Africa (Volunteering Experience)

Alayna

Traveler | Canada

       

One of my first solo trips was a happy accident. I was down in the dumps and decided that I needed an adventure. After looking online, I found a volunteer project in Kenya where I could volunteer at a hospital in Nakuru, live with other volunteers in our own apartment and get a feel of the solo travel life but be surrounded by other travellers. It turned out to be absolutely nothing like that, but became one of the best experiences of my life.

Cool, isn’t it?

Photo Copyright Alayna

Travelling to Kenya is a bit of a challenge. It requires a good travel clinic months prior to your departure, ensuring that you have all of the proper vaccinations (including yellow fever).  From there it’s typically via Europe or the Middle East to get you into Nairobi.

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At the airport it’s a bit intimidating (and may or may not have electricity), and luckily there was someone there with a sign with my name on it to direct me to my place for the night. I would recommend you do that if this is your first time in the country or if you are arriving late at night. Otherwise, there are lots of taxis available to take you to your destination. Be prepared to barter.

A great thing about Kenya is that the majority of the country speaks English in addition to Swahili, making it very easy to get around. There are buses between the major towns and cities, and tuktuks for within the city. It is best if the place you are staying at recommends a driver, and then they become your driver for the time you’re staying in that location. Buy a sim card- it is SO CHEAP, so if you have an unlocked phone, it is easy to call/text not only within Kenya, but anywhere in the world. For example, a half an hour chat with my family in Canada cost me roughly $3, whereas when they called me I think it was about $60.

Beautiful Elephants.

Photo Copyright Alayna

MORE TO MY STORY

 

Now, back to my story. After arriving late at night into Kenya, I was whisked to a family’s house where the next morning I was informed that there were no other volunteers, and that I’d be living with a family, and working on my own with a local medical practitioner. It was a little bit daunting, but hey I was there; there was no going back! So on the very bumpy and pot holed roads I rode on a bus, passing zebras, fruits stands, giraffes, and monkeys on my way to the complex in which the family I was living with lived. It was a small street, with a high gate with broken glass on top, a dirt patch, and a concrete slab of a house. But they were friendly and welcomed me with open arms.

 

The kids around the neighbourhood were enthralled by this “msungu” (white person) who was now living in their neighbourhood. They would yell hello, walk beside me, ask me questions, and try and touch my blond hair. Eventually I became friends with some of them, and we would walk to the National Park outside of town to see the monkeys (but were scolded by the ranger for getting too close). I went to smaller towns outside of Nakuru, and was the first white person some of them had ever seen. They would follow me around so much that I had to monitor my water intake so that I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom until we were able to go home! I became a hot spot at one of the markets, where I was befriended to sell beans because the local people would come to buy beans just to see me scoop some and hand it to them.  We had our car break down on one of the adventures, and we rolled down a hill backwards until we hit a post (put there for exactly that reason- because cars break down so frequently). The drivers are crazy there, on one of my public bus trips they went over the median and drove down the wrong side of the highway because there was a traffic jam.

Photo Copyright Alayna

MAASAI-MARA NATIONAL PARK

 

I also had the opportunity to go on a safari to the Maasai-Mara National Park. All I can say is, it is astoundingly beautiful and if a safari is not on your bucket list, it should be. Seeing these animals in nature is a million times better than the zoo and the vastness of the park is unbelievable. I did see the biggest spider of my life on my tent wall though when I was there.  I promptly turned off the lights, tucked in my mosquito net, and pretended I no longer had to go to the bathroom. Luckily, when I woke up, the spider was gone!

Sweet Giraffe.

Photo Copyright Alayna

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

 

All this to say, take a chance, don’t be afraid of when things turn out differently then what you expected. Roll with it and it may turn into an adventure of a lifetime. This opportunity forced me to be okay with being a solo traveler. People said that I was brave, but it was just a happy accident that it turned out like that, and it really changed my life. Since then I’ve travelled around the world on my own, and it’s because of my Kenyan experience that I have the trust that I can do it.

 

SMOOFLY RECOMMENDATION for Kenya.

 

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