A Road Trip in Upper Peninsula Michigan

The upper peninsula of Michigan is a beautiful and often underrated place to spend time. I didn’t grow up there, but a large portion of my family did, so I spent many of my vacations there as a youth and it is a place with its own culture that isn’t seen anywhere else. The people, who are called Yoopers (I am completely serious, it stems from the sound pronounced from reading “UP” aloud and then antonym would be Trolls since those in Lower Peninsula live under the Mackinac Bridge) enjoy a lifestyle of outdoor living since the area is beautiful. There are no major cities in the UP and the biggest town is Marquette with only around 16,000 people. In fact, only three towns reach above 10,000 people in population. Overall the place is very rural, but it is home to many rivers and water way, as is expected when one is sandwiched between the Great Lakes.

Because of this, there are some awesome sights to take in and it is super road trip friendly. During one of my stays there, we decided to take this little loop and make it into a super scenic little loop. In total, it took about 14 hours, but we were walking and exploring a bunch too.

Originally we started in Iron River, a very small town in Iron County. Here is where I spent most of that time as a kid, when my family would go on trips. We woke up where we were staying on Sunset Lake and headed north to Ishpeming, where we had more family. This place is also home to a fabulous destination called Yooperland. You should absolutely stop here if you want to get a grasp of Yooper culture. It is an absolute tourist trap place but the sheer corny-ness of it is what makes it so fabulous. Many of the jokes play on the UP’s strong desire to be the 51st state or the Yooper accent, which is a mix of Finnish, Ranger (the Minnesota type accent), German, French Canadian, and Native American dialects filtered into English (if you really want to get into the linguistics, there is an entire Wikipedia page on the dialect). There are many souvenirs and crude jokes all around the store. I have never seen a place like it and it’s definitely worth the stop, especially if you want something to commemorate your trip.

Sunset Lake in Iron River

We then drove through Marquette, which is the largest town. We didn’t spend time here, but one certainly could. There’s a lot to do, from the historical down town district to the many lighthouses to snow related festivities and more. It reminds me of my hometown and would make a nice place to stay and use as a base for other adventures.

Continue traveling to Munising, where there are many sights to see. We started with Lake Superior, where we stopped and looked at the views. Honestly, as one of my friends stated, this place looks like the Oregon Coast. You can hardly tell its a lake because it’s so huge! There was a huge freight ship that was turning around, which was also cool to see. We drove nearby to a white sand beach where we could play in the water a little bit more. I absolutely loved it!

One of the beaches on Lake Superior

After Lake Superior, we drove to Munising Falls, which is a smaller waterfall hidden by a small walking path. There is also a parking lot and restrooms at the start of the trail and the path itself is very well cleared and packed. This waterfall is not large and actually freezes into a column in the winter. Luckily, there are even some platforms available making viewing the falls easy and pets are also allowed. I would definitely take the brief time to see it, especially if you are visiting nearby.

Munising Falls

Afterwards, we drove to Miner’s Falls, which was much larger. This hike is a little more extensive (although it is fully graveled) but goes all the way to the waterfall. The distance is just over a mile, but is pretty flat and pets are not allowed. There is an upper and lower platform, but both have fantastic views.

Picture Rocks is not far away and is also an exceptionally scenic place. In the winter there is ice climbing, fishing, and Nordic skiing. In the summer, the bay is gorgeous and there are numerous tours, but even the lookout alone is super cool. We just went to two of the points and looked at the greenish-blue waters and the orange carved rocks. There was a family swimming at the bottom (whether or not that was allowed, I don’t know) and tons of kayakers. I wished we could have stayed here longer!

Next we moved on to Escanaba, where we got a glimpse of Lake Michigan, another one of the five Great Lakes. Here, we stopped at a small, white sand beach, which was easily one of my favorites. It was so peaceful and absolutely gorgeous! It would be a fantastic spot for a picnic. Escanaba itself is also quite beautiful and a grand place to spend time, much like Marquette.

Also in Escanaba we stopped for pizza at Sidetrack Pizza. My family has gone here a few times and like always, the food and service was great!

However, after this, we decided to call it a day and head home to Iron River, but we did stop to watch a phenomenal sunset! This trip, although only a day, was one I would recommend to anyone and hopefully will take again someday, perhaps including some more historical sights and waterfalls if possible!

All photos courtesy of my awesome aunt!

Reflections on England

Note: This is one of six articles on my time in England, United Kingdom from December 2016 to January 2017. Not every one of them follows what I did during that particular day, but also follows the culture, lifestyles, and interest in the area. Articles will be published twice a week until complete.

Honestly, I should have created these posts much closer to when I arrived home, but here I am, two years later, writing about my experiences in London and Bournemouth. It was my first international trip after my arrival home from Tanzania. I went with my dad before departing to Italy alone, where I visited some fabulous family friends. London was also my first in depth city experience, since I have spent my life in a rural town with only 7,000 people in it. But what are my takeaways from such a drastically different experience?

Me in one of the iconic red telephone booths

London was a whirlwind of history, sights, new food, and an entirely different culture. Everywhere I looked I felt like I was experiencing something new and learning more about the world around me. The diversity was incredible and the amount of things to do and see awed me. To further this, London also felt very safe and friendly. The people were warm and welcoming and I had no issue with anyone. Additionally, everywhere was pretty clean and well maintained, especially the public transport systems.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to connect with many of the locals, but I was immersed in the day to day life. Our friends from the United States moved there and we were staying with them, so we got to do a lot of things that those who live there do, but I was unable to meet many people native to the area. However, those I met in passing were super sweet and kind!

Going on a walk

The culture was something I hadn’t experienced before as well. Even though I was a fellow English speaker, British life has differences in comparison to here in the States. There is a broad appreciation of soccer, which I absolutely loved and the deep history and pride from that is something I wish we had in the US.

The food was also super good. I tried lamb and calamari for the first time, which was exciting and I liked both. I only had one bad food experience the whole trip, but it was only with a Cesar salad that tasted quite awful. This is a relatively small happening, but I also had my first Kinder Egg, which was super exciting since they are banned in my country. The pub atmosphere is incredible and fun, in which the drinks are good as well. I wish we could have seen a few more of the more traditional ones!

The Royal Oak

The buildings themselves also amazed me, since I was so unused to ancient or even old buildings. In my state, the oldest building was built in 1848, yet some of the ones in London are in the first century! On top of that, the architecture, both old and new, was astounding. I loved each style from over the centuries and am exciting to see what the future will bring.

Buildings in London
The bridges are super cool too!

The attractions were all I hoped and more. My personal favorite was the Tower Bridge and the Tower itself. I could go more into detail here, but for a better grasp of their beauty, I wrote a post on the most popular sights. I also thoroughly enjoyed the soccer games and their stadiums, which are quite impressive. They turned me into more of a fan than I was before and hopefully I can go back for a few more some day! We love you Arsenal!

Emirates Stadium, home of the Gunners
Big Ben and Parliament!

I didn’t spend much time there, but I also enjoyed Bournemouth as well. This city lies on the coast of the English Channel and is quite beautiful. We were there for less than a day to watch a game but from what we saw, it seemed like a nice place. We walked from the train station to Dean’s Court to the coast, where we hung out and stood on the pier. Since it was the middle of January, things were awfully quiet, but it looked like a fantastic place to be in the summer. We ate at a nearby restaurant, which was super good, and walked to a hotel to meet up with our friend and the Arsenal team. After the game, we took the train back to London. I wish the visit was longer, but it was nice!

Ferris wheel in Bournemouth
“Surfing” in the English Channel
English Channel

Overall, I had a fantastic time in England and hope to return some day. It was a beautiful place with beautiful people and is home to some of the most fantastic history. As this is my final post on England for now, I hope to be moving on to other places in Europe, but the UK will always have a dear spot in my heart.

Top Attractions in London

Note: This is one of six articles on my time in England, United Kingdom from December 2016 to January 2017. Not every one of them follows what I did during that particular day, but also follows the culture, lifestyles, and interest in the area. Articles will be published twice a week until complete.

London is exceptionally famous for all of its iconic sights, from the Queen’s palace to the magnificent bridges. I got to experience a handful of them during my two days of exploring. Honestly, there is so much history and depth in this city that even though I got to see most of the major attractions, I felt like I was barely scratching the surface. Out of all those amazing things, here are some of my favorites in no particular order:

Buckingham Palace:

This stunning building doubles as an iconic sight and the house of the royal family! It is tucked away across the Thames River and the London Eye and is squished between Green Park and St. James’ Park. The royal palace has hosted many celebrations from its construction in 1703 and is exceptionally ornate and detailed. While you can tour inside, watching the pompous and extravagant changing of the guard at 11:45 is exciting and gives a taste of royal British culture. Make sure to get there early because the space can fill up quickly and so you can see/listen to the band!

Buckingham Palace

Big Ben and Parliament:

Ah, the most iconic sight of London! The four faced clock tower looms over the Houses of Parliament, always chiming on time since its first strike in the mid 19th century. The clock tower is not open to the public, but tours of Parliament are available. Additionally, there are numerous videos of inside it, if you are wanting to take a look. As of 2017, it is under maintenance for three years, which will stop the chiming and will cover the faces up with scaffolding (big bummer, but worth it in the long run!). Parliament is also ornately detailed and is an exceptionally beautiful building that houses the sessions of British officials. Together, Big Ben and Parliament make an iconic duo that are definite landmarks of London.

Big Ben’s face
Big Ben and Parliament

Westminster Abbey:

Westminster Abbey is a stunning gothic church originating in 929. This building has been through it all, from remodeling to destruction to renovation. It has held weddings, funerals, coronations, masses, and more. Even today, it still continues its services. It is full of art and history, from its medieval rooms to its paintings to its poet’s corner. This is a vast and extensive piece of British history that has only continued to grow over the years and into current day. Luckily parts of it are available for tour, but make sure to be quiet and respectful, as it is a functioning church!

Westminster Abbey

The Coca-Cola London Eye:

This massive observation wheel is the most popular attraction of London and rightfully so, since it manages to incorporate all parts of the city. When it opened in 2000, it was the largest of its kind, but even now it amazes the people who visit it with its views of London. It also can light up differently depending on the occasion and serves as a popular monument. Instead of seats, it has large capsules than can fit 25 people. Tickets are easily bought online with a fast track option, which I would recommend because the lines are excruciatingly long.

Coca Cola London Eye

War and Calvary Museums:

Sandwiched between Big Ben and St. James Park is a number of museums that hold a lot of history of London. The Imperial War Museum, a museum with five branches dedicated to preserving the history of England, owns three branches that are in London, one of which is the Churchill War Rooms, which held an underground war communications room from the twentieth century and focuses on war communication and the life of Churchill himself. A large amount of restoration took place after Margaret Thatcher pushed for it to be opened and now it serves as a popular attraction. One of the other museums is the Household Calvary, which specializes in telling the history of the British calvary, including the royal horse guards. It costs to get in, but the changing of the horse guards is free for all to see (definitely get pictures, it is a unique sights amongst the rest of the city). A number of other museums and departments litter this area as well.

Household Division Charity near the Household Calvary Museum

Tower of London:

This fortress was established in the 1070s by William the Conqueror. Since then, it has faced an array of historical moments, different uses, and now, millions of tourists every year. It is mostly famous for its rich diversity of reasons for fame, since it is known for being a safe place for royals and their jewels, but also the site of murders and executions. This is heavily showcased through the modern usage of the facilities, with one of the tours taking place at twilight to highlight to some of the legends and myths. Over time, it has seen the creation of currency and armor, the murders of young princes, the executions of those famous and unknown alike, the creation of legends and ghosts such as young Anne Boleyn, a 17 year old queen executed for adultery, and so much more. I would definitely recommend checking it out and getting a ticket for tours.

One view of the London Tower
Gift Shop at the Tower

Tower Bridge:

During the Victorian era, this magnificent bridge was built to accommodate both road and river traffic. Its ornate decorations help it stand out from its neighbors, the London Tower and HMS Belfast, a moored ship converted to a museum on the Thames. The bridge is now a popular attraction, since it has opened to show people the history of the bridge and the steam engines that once gave it power. It was also furnished with a glass walkway that allows people to experience views all around them and see the water and life below. Additionally, you can check the times to see the bridge lift up for waterway traffic.

Tower Bridge
A view of Tower Bridge from the London Tower

Platform 9 3/4 :

For all the Harry Potter fans out there (myself included), this is an absolute must-see and an easy attraction to reach. When you are en route to any of the other destinations, stop by King’s Cross/St. Pancreas station and explore the home of Platform 9 3/4. The station itself is beautiful and is a gateway for the underground and the train station. There is also a gift shop full of Harry Potter memorabilia and souvenirs. There are so many people but honestly it was such a cool place to be in. I was fortunate enough to leave with Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Hufflepuff (the best house) and Gryffindor scarves, a wand, and numerous other little gifts. There is also a spot to take photos of you running through the wall to the platform.

Platform 9 3/4

All of these places are absolutely marvelous to see and explore. Many of them are phenomenal, even from the outside. I highly recommend getting some sort of pass to help with cheaper admission rates, such as the London Pass, so you can explore more of the history and beauty of this city. Either way, even just going to one of these is a fantastic experience!

For further information, or a place to get tickets, here are the websites for most of these stunning attractions:

Buckingham Palace: https://www.rct.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace

Big Ben and Parliament: https://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/tours-of-parliament/bigben/

Westminster Abbey: https://www.westminster-abbey.org

London Eye: https://www.londoneye.com

Imperial War Museum: https://www.iwm.org.uk

London Tower: https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/

Tower Bridge: https://www.towerbridge.org.uk

London Pass: https://www.londonpass.com

Favorite Memories of London

Note: This is one of six articles on my time in England, United Kingdom from December 2016 to January 2017. Not every one of them follows what I did during that particular day, but also follows the culture, lifestyles, and interest in the area. Articles will be published twice a week until complete.

Going to London was a fantastic time for me for so many different reasons. I loved its vibe, the many things you could do there, the history, and just everything about it. I was lucky enough to do a wide variety of things, but here is a list of my most favorite moments, one from each day:

Day One: When we first got off the plane, we were picked up by our friend’s cab driver and we drove to the training facility of Arsenal. This was exceptionally awesome, since I had never seen how professional athletes train and it was great to see what our friend does at his job. I was so impressed with all the detail and effort all of it takes. I don’t know when I would have another experience like this, but I absolutely loved it.

My dad and I outside of the training center

Day Two: We went on a walk from Highgate Wood to Alexandra Palace to give some exercise to our friend’s dog, Khaleesi. Highgate was such a nice little park with towering trees and people walking dogs everywhere, It was quiet and full of life, even though it was in the middle of a truly urban area. There was a lot of ivy everywhere, which was different compared to the plant life in my home. Alexandra Palace was also gorgeous too and the pub on the inside had the most wonderful pub food. We had fries, onion rings, chicken, and fried calamari, which was phenomenal. During the time that we were there, there was a championship darts game and schedules for more concerts and events, which was something I would have loved to see if we had had more time.

Highgate Wood
Alexandra Palace

Day Three: I was fortunate enough to spend New Year’s Eve in London, which was exceptionally fun. We had a small party, with my dad and I, our friends and their friends including a Norwegian family and a girl from Pittsburgh. For dinner we had personal pizzas, which we made from scratch and it was so amazing. We listened to music, our friends played an electric guitar, lit sparklers outside, and it was absolutely fantastic. When the clock chimed in the new year, we were on the rooftop of their house and got to watch the most phenomenal fireworks ever. The whole skyline was lit up. I think this has been one of my best New Year’s Eve to date.

Day Four: On the first day of 2017, I got to go to a Premier League soccer match with my favorite team, Arsenal, and Crystal Palace. It was so exciting and the largest event I have ever been to. People were so excited and there was tons of cheering and excitement for Arsenal. Olivier Giroud also scored the Goal of 2017, a beautiful scorpion kick. Afterwards, we went underneath the stadium to eat dinner with some of the staff and families of Arsenal, which was super tasty (I got to try lamb for the first time!) and then walk out onto the pitch, which was amazing.

Come on ya Gunners!

Day Five: My dad and I got to explore more of London’s sights, from the London Tower to Buckingham Palace to the Shard. My favorite was probably watching the changing of the guard, which was unlike anything I had seen before. It was so pompous, but also mesmerizing. We also got to explore St. James Park, which was full of all sorts of birds. I had never seen swans before either, so that was cool!

The royal guards marching to switch places

Day Six: We took the train from Waterloo to Bournemouth, where we were attending another game. I loved seeing the English Channel, especially since France was just across the water. The game we watched was Arsenal versus Bournemouth, which was absolutely hilarious. The cheers of the fans were vulgar and entertaining and it overall had a more personal atmosphere than the first game did. Taking the train was fun, since I hadn’t been on one since my town did a tour of the area via train when I was really little.

Freezing (but smiling) in Bournemouth

Overall, this entire trip was super fun and gave me a lot of new experiences that I won’t forget. The culture and beauty of London and England in general is unmatched compared to places I have been before. There was so much to do and see, which I absolutely loved. In the least, I can certainly say that I want to go back some day.

24 Hours in London

Note: This is one of six articles on my time in England, United Kingdom from December 2016 to January 2017. Not every one of them follows what I did during that particular day, but also follows the culture, lifestyles, and interest in the area. Articles will be published twice a week until complete.

London is a massive city with boatloads of history, sights, and experiences. To get a full grasp of it would require days, but it is easy to experience the main attractions in a single day. If you’ve got 24 hours to visit, here is how I would spend it:

(To preface this, I would suggest staying in Muswell Hill. We stayed there and I truly loved it. It is quiet, beautiful, and offers fantastic views of Central London. It isn’t too far away from the city and can be reached by the metro. Also, it offers a fantastic array of pubs and restaurants for eating out, but also grocery stores for nights inside.)

07:00: Eat at breakfast at a local restaurant. London offers a vast assortment of food and there’s much to try in every area of the city. If you are staying in Muswell Hill, please consider Bill’s, which has a very healthy and happy vibe. Its decoration and service is superb, with options for light and heavy breakfast foods as well. I had a more American meal of eggs, toast, and bacon, but it was super good. I tried some of the other foods off of my friends’ plates and it was fantastic as well. It isn’t radically expensive either, which is nice.

The Christmas menu at Bill’s

08:00: At this point, take the metro to Westminster station, where you will be right underneath Big Ben and Parliament. The massive clock tower and ornate building are gorgeous and full of immense detail. If you continue walking around, you will find a park full of statues of world leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. While this isn’t a super common attraction, it is still interesting and inspirational to see. Next to the park is Westminster Abbey, a gorgeous Gothic church. Westminster is honestly one of my favorite sights in London and is definitely a must see. Even if you are on a budget and can’t get tickets in, looking from the outside only is more than enough to amaze you.

Westminster Abbey

09:30: Scoot over to Green Park Station from Waterloo. Here, you will essentially be in the backyard of the Queen! Green Park is an open lawn with Buckingham Palace propped up right next to it. Take some time to admire some of the flower beds and massive trees. If you continue walking towards the Palace, you will cross over into St. James Park, which is full of birds. Ducks, geese, swans, pigeons, herons, and more all inhabit this little area. There is also a small lake and a cottage in the middle of it on Duck Island. I loved this little place. If you keep going, you will also find some of the horse guards and World War memorials, which are interesting as well. Make sure to loop back to the palace to watch the changing of the guards at 10:45, which is incredibly intriguing. You will get a chance to see the royal guards and the procession used to switch them out!

One of the Horse Guards
Some birds in St. James Park near Duck Island

11:30: Take the metro to Waterloo to greet the London Eye, a massive ferris wheel built in 2000. Although I never got a chance to take it myself, I would highly recommend getting tickets and waiting in line to see the most exceptional view of London. Instead of seats the Ferris wheel is big enough to hold whole rooms of people and it takes 30 minutes to rotate one time. One of the friends I stayed with in London got to go on it before I arrived to the city and she absolutely loved it and her pictures were phenomenal!

13:00: If you haven’t gotten anything to eat, I would take time to do so now! There are so many food options in Central London and many of them are fantastic! If you don’t want a full meal, consider eating some pub food, like French fries (chips) or fried calamari. The calamari is definitely one of my favorite things!

The London Eye

13:45: From your nearest metro station go to Tower Hill station, where you will arrive next to London Tower and Tower Bridge. Walk through the medieval castle on the edge of the Thames river. I also didn’t get an opportunity to explore inside but I wish I did. Even if you don’t make it in, there is a gift shop filled with awesome gifts. Next to the tower is Tower Bridge, the iconic Victorian era building spanning across the water. This bridge has two other super cool features: it lifts to accommodate the massive river barges (even though it stops road traffic) and there is a glass walkway at the top to give you a new perspective on the sights below. In addition to Westminster, this is one of my favorite places. There is also a Starbucks nearby if you are craving a yummy treat.

Tower Bridge

15:00: Unless you are spending some extra time at one of the previous attractions, you will have some free time. You could go back to something, walk around, or try something new out, like visiting Piccadilly Circus or Madame Tussaud’s. Explore pubs or cafes for a quick snack.

16:30: Go out for dinner at a London restaurant. If you are staying in Muswell Hill, I would highly recommend The Mossy Well, a pub with exceptionally good food. It seems like a rather plain building on the outside, but the inside is exceptionally impressive. The set up makes it easy to order food, drinks, and then more drinks while you are waiting for your burgers or ribs. There is seating inside and outside, with an additional balcony area. The quality, cleanliness, and service were all excellent and I would highly recommend it.

18:00: Stop at a pub for a few drinks. If you want a true British pub experience in Muswell Hill, stop at The Royal Oak. This place is essentially a living room with a bar and is the pinnacle of man-caves. There is a pool table to play on and walls full of the most interesting decorations. The bartenders are friendly and the atmosphere is authentic and fantastic.

Inside of The Royal Oak

19:00: This time could be potentially different depending on the schedule, but I would definitely recommend seeing a Premier League soccer game. They are absolutely fantastic and show a large aspect of British culture. I was lucky enough to go to two and I think that will be one of my favorite memories ever. For more information, read my Guide to the Premier League.

After the game, return to wherever you are staying for a night’s rest before moving on to whatever else you are doing, since you will definitely need it after a long day of moving around the city. I love London because of its flexible and easy access to some of the most beautiful attractions and would suggest visiting it, even if you only have a short amount of time. This schedule can easily be adjusted to accommodate other interests as well!

Best of luck in your travels!

The Infamous Tube of London

Note: This is one of six articles on my time in England, United Kingdom from December 2016 to January 2017. Not every one of them follows what I did during that particular day, but also follows the culture, lifestyles, and interest in the area. Articles will be published twice a week until complete.

If you step foot into a British souvenir shop you will find a plethora of items, including: snow globes with Big Ben, royal guard rubber ducks, figurines of the iconic telephone booths, and shirts saying “Mind the Gap.” That same phrase is used throughout the entire underground metro system, or the Tube, which is one of the most interesting aspects of London in my opinion. It sprawls underneath the entire city, going from neighborhoods to Piccadilly Circus to Waterloo to King’s Cross Station and helps people get to and from everything they could possibly need in their daily lives.

For my experience in London, this method of transport was exceptionally useful. From our nearest station at Highgate, we could go anywhere, from Platform 9 3/4 to Tower Bridge to Big Ben. It was my first time on a metro, so that was new and exciting for me!

A sign for an entrance to the Underground

There are eleven lines used by the Underground, in addition to the bus and train systems. The spread from the central areas of London to neighborhoods like Muswell Hill, Notting Hill, South Bank, and more. For example, the nearest station to Muswell Hill was Highgate, which was a short bus ride away from where we stayed. Some of the stations even take you straight up to some of the big sights, such as Westminster which opens right up to Big Ben and Parliament. Most lines are open generally open from 05:00 to 00:00 throughout the week (except for Sunday, which has different hours), with some select lines running with night services on weekends too. Each station typically varies slightly so it is important to check that out before you go! Maps are also helpful and can be downloaded for no charge.

Additionally, some stations are only for the Tube, but some of the larger ones include train access as well. One of those is King’s Cross/St. Pancreas, which is one of the most beautiful stations and home to Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4. This place also has some super cool architecture as well, so make sure to stop by. Another popular train station is Waterloo, which is the one that we used to travel to Bournemouth. Even though we had never been on a train, it was easy to navigate and figure out where we need to be.

King’s Cross/St. Pancreas

If there is any piece of advice I can pass on to you, it would certainly be to download Tube Map – London Underground. This app is made by Mapway Limited and is absolutely essential for easy travel around the city. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without it. It doesn’t use data if you are only navigating the Tube -which is helpful if overseas phone plans are a concern- and is compatible with Apple Watches too. You can not only see a map, but also enter a desired destination and it will give the fastest route, making travel simple and stress free. If you opt for notifications, it can also let you know if there is an issue causing delays.

If the metro isn’t your only travel option, the app will also share information on the bus and Uber prices, providing you with the cheapest or fastest routes, which is helpful for tight budgets. Overall, this app was a complete lifesaver and I would highly recommend using it. Mapway Limited also has apps for other cities and their metros like New York, Madrid, Dubai, and more.

Another tidbit of advice would be to get some form of the Oyster card, which is London’s underground and bus pass. The visitor card is the most convenient and saves a lot of money and time. When we were there, we borrowed actual Oyster cards from our hosts and they allowed us to get through much more smoothly than the clumsy paper single tickets that people had. You can get different levels of credit, ranging from £15 to £50, but luckily, there is a price cap, so you won’t spend more than £7 a day in Central London. Other Oyster options can include visits to the main attractions as well, so you could save money that way as well. Either way, getting the card in advance would be exceptionally helpful during your trip.

Also, I have never been on other metro systems yet, so I don’t have a comparison, but the London metro seemed exceptionally clean to me. I never felt gross and there wasn’t overflowing trash or grimy benches. Overall it felt super well organized and put together. If you are in London, I would totally advise using this method of travel wholeheartedly to save money and time!

Comparisons in Experiences: Tanzania

This article is unlike any of my others because for the first time ever I had the pleasure of featuring a fellow traveller on Walks of Namayani!

Chloe Braedt has attended the same school as me for the last four years. She has traveled around the world with her family every two years to places like: Costa Rica, Germany, India, Tanzania, Peru, as well as Austria and Italy! She is in love with traveling and meeting new people and experiencing different cultures in a multitude of ways. She also hopes to continue traveling in her near future, hopefully touring New Zealand in two years!

We traveled to Tanzania in the same year (2016) and found that there were many differences. I went in June (their winter) and she went in December (their summer) but the experiences differed far more than mere temperatures. We decided to compile a list of topics regarding this wonderful county and share each of our perspectives to give a broader idea of the country and also to see the differences in tourism versus volunteer work. Here were the results:

Chloe and I attempting to pack in Peru

First Impression of Tanzania:

Chloe:

After a thirteen hour flight and a long wait for visas in Kenya, we finally arrived in Tanzania. The air was hot and humid, and full of an indistinguishable almost earthy smell, noticeable as soon as we left the plane. Driving on the opposite side of the road from the airport to our hotel was trippy! Honestly, my first day of Tanzania was a blurry, beautiful, overwhelmed, over stimulated, and an exhausted jetlagged blur. We arrived in Arusha, and drove to Arusha National Park to experience a Safari and I took a selfie with my brother while giraffes chilled in the background!

Namayani:

We arrived late evening to Kilimanjaro International Airport, where we were greeted by our guides, Charles and Deveney. All of us had our visas beforehand, except for one girl who had Canadian citizenship, rather than US. After customs, we grabbed our luggage and converted the currency (at the time 1 USD = 2000 TZS). The air outside was fairly humid and had a very distinct smell, although not a bad one. It smelt more earthy than my home does. I was immediately shocked by the traffic for two reasons: it was on the opposite side of the road and it was so busy and overwhelming. I was entranced by the differences from my city to Arusha and even though I was so drained from the flying, I noticed every single thing. Something that stood out to me was definitely the convenience stores. They seemed to be the social gathering of the culture. There were also a lot of ads for Coca-Cola too!

A horribly blurry image of our plane from Amsterdam

Slave Trade:

Chloe:

In Zanzibar I had the opportunity to tour an old slave storage prison. The air was hot and thick as we descending the steep stairs receding underground. After maneuvering through foul smelling tunnels we arrived in a small cramped alcove and discovered that more than twenty slaves would be crammed into this dark room for days, awaiting to be sold in Zanzibar or shipped off somewhere else. My tour consisted of 12 people, and the tour guide made all of us stand squished together in the cave for ten minutes to experience a small glimpse of what the African slaves experienced for days. It was suffocating. The ceiling was low, even while sitting on raised rocks, and there was a small hole that revealed a little glow of light, but ultimately it was nearly pitch black. It was an eye opening experience, and one I will not forget in a long time.

Namayani:

I actually did not have an experience with the slave trade history. My group was in a rural area, far from tourist attractions and historical sites. However, I wish I could understand this horrific experience further and am hoping to visit some sights in Morocco this June.

Treatment of the Environment:

Chloe:

Overall, the treatment of the environment was mediocre. Not nearly as dramatic as India, but trash was still noticeable on the sides of the streets, mostly plastic water bottles and plastic soda bottles. One memorable experience though was when we visited a small market place. There was a sign that stated something similar to, “Keep our environment healthy and clean!” and piled high around the sign was trash, ranging from plastic items, to old clothes, to dead carcasses.

Namayani:

I found that treatment of the environment was somewhere between good and bad. Personally, I felt that the people had a huge amount of respect for the natural world, but lacked the resources to actually take care of it. I never felt dirty or unclean, but trash was evident on the streets and waste didn’t seem to be adequately dealt with, although I am observing from a first world perspective. In terms of the animals though, I feel like the safaris were well maintained and clean, and the animals, though observed by tourists, were independent of humans and living a natural life.

African elephants in Tarangire National Park

Overall Poverty:

Chloe:

Compared to India, the poverty I experienced was less, but still severe in more populated areas. Sellers, ranging from young teenagers to old men and women would come up to me and grasp my arm and beg for shillings, or shove a bracelet on my wrists, attempting to convince me to buy it. At one point this women roughly grabbed my hand and pushed a ring on my finger, rapidly speaking broken english that it was beautiful on my hand. I told her I didn’t want it and it took me several minutes to even pull it off my finger, I had to yell at my dad to help me. The people were kind, but also understandably desperate for money from white tourists.

Namayani:

I was in an area devoid of markets or peddlers, but I was in an exceptionally rural part of the country. Where I was, the average family, which is seven people, lives on an average income of 10,000 shillings, which equates to five US dollars. No one was asking for money, but for help. Many of these people didn’t even have access to water or a safe shelter or the ability to read. They were making a small living off of what they could produce because selling to tourists was not an option. At one point, we took part in the local Maasai market, but even there, the people who had lots of supplies were struggling. It was eye opening to see how some of these people work so hard but barely make enough to get by. This deficiency in funds was a large focus of my trip because it begins to affect people physically, emotionally, and socially. I couldn’t fathom being in their place. Too many times, I saw the effects of poverty: malnutrition, starvation, dehydration, sickness, stunted growth, and no education. These people were so kind and gracious and it hurts me to think about how much difficulty they go through throughout the year.

Inside the home of a Maasai family

Religion (Christian/Muslim):

Chloe:

In the majority of Tanzania it was difficult to discern the primary religion, however; in Zanzibar there is a huge muslim population which was very prominent. Zanzibar is a beautiful island with breathtaking sandy beaches and crystal blue water. Nevertheless, I don’t think I once noticed anyone swimming on these beaches besides a few very white tourists. Most of the locals living on the island are extremely conservative and covered up, especially the women.

Namayani:

I actually had the wonderful experience of being in Tanzania during Ramadan, a Muslim holiday. My area was predominantly Christian and Muslim, with a very even split. When we first arrived, we saw lots of people in Mosques praying and in the morning, we were typically woken up by the prayer calls. However, many people were Christian too and despite differences, there seemed to be no conflict over beliefs. Even though Ramadan wasn’t celebrated by half of the population, nearly everyone greatly respected it.

Weapons:

Chloe:

AK-47s. Lots and lots everywhere! Tanzanians would be sitting outside local restaurants with these massive guns strapped on their bags, casually talking to their neighbor. At one point my family and I were riding in a jeep across Zanzibar and several black jeeps full of men in military uniforms with AK 47s passed us with horns and sirens blaring. It was pretty terrifying, my mom saw the group speeding towards us and shoved me down behind the seat just in case something became violent. These guns appeared commonplace in both Zanzibar and the areas of Tanzania I visited.

Namayani:

AK-47s were very commonplace where I was. On our first night people would be laughing and smiling in the convenience stores with the automatic rifles propped up against them. There was no need or threat by them, they were just there. I wasn’t expecting it and it was startling, but I didn’t feel scared or afraid. There was no tension or present danger, they just seemed to be a part of daily life.

Food:

Chloe:

In Tanzania, we could only eat thoroughly cooked food and bottled water. We were strongly advised to avoid all meats and fruits in order to stay healthy. Overall the food was yummy! My family planned out all of our meals in advance so most of the meals we ate were “americanized” which was frustrating, but I never got sick so that was good. At one point we watched a man climb a coconut tree and harvest coconuts for all of my family! The coconut water was incredible, strikingly more sweet and crisp than anything you could buy here in the U.S. The coconut meat itself was a little slimy, but overall pretty yummy!

Namayani:

We had no recommendations about food, mostly because it was prepared for us. The volunteer company makes extra effort to coordinate safe food and water, but luckily we also got to experience Tanzanian food. Lots of their cuisine deals with natural fruits, meats, and grains. Corn products are common, as well as bell peppers, tomatoes, bananas, watermelons, and more. One day, we had a special opportunity to prepare our own meal. Together we made ugali, a sort of corn meal loaf, vegetable stir fry, and some other things and it was so good. I even make ugaliand stir fry at home now for special occasions. Another day we had a much more negative experience. We woke up and had to eat one of the more common local foods, which was essentially cornmeal oatmeal. Our group of nine had to finish at least one bowl and each of us had to finish a cup. It was one of the worst things I have ever eaten since it clung to my throat and mouth, was gritty and just all around awful. Our whole group was rather disgusted, but this meager meal of cornmeal and water is the primary food for the people in the area. They don’t like it much, but they eat as much of it when they can, while the supply is there, because for many, it will be their only source of food. Another interesting food experience was goat. We, as a group, gave a goat to our wonderful hosts as a gift, and because of that, we had the unique opportunity to watch a ceremonial goat slaughter. Only half of us could really stomach the event, but I was grateful for this true experience of culture. Later that night we had a celebration and ate said goat, which was a new food for me!

A super yummy breakfast
Some food from the market

Tourist level (especially in regards to culture):

Chloe:

My experiences with Tanzanian culture was more specifically with the Maasai tribe. We drove into a rural area and through our massive tour bus we watched the tiny dots of Maasai men graze their goats and cows. At one point I remember seeing a teenager, he appeared about my age (16) and he was gripping a tall spear and donning traditional clothing. What different lives we lead as teenagers. After driving down a long dusty road we arrived at a Maasai village. The village itself was primitive; with straw and mud huts and thatched roofs. The Maasai people welcomed us warmly, but honestly the entire experience was very touristy. The women performed a dance for us, and the men jumped in tribal dances. It was really interesting learning about their culture, but I could easily tell this particular tribe thrived off of tourism, which made the experience a little less realistic and personal. Overall though, I really enjoyed the Maasai people.

Namayani:

Unlike Chloe, I was not observing the Maasai culture, but was living in it. I was about three hours from the nearest city and our tents were near a local group of Maasai. We never witnessed any of the dances, but instead helped the tribe carry water to and from the source and visited a nearby family. None of these people were thriving off of tourism, but instead their funds were from agriculture. Their mud huts were their true home, equipped with feeble electricity and small fire pits. Many of them wore traditional clothing by choice, rather than to appease us and overall it was an honest and accurate experience, rather than falsified for tourism. The only “performance” that we experienced was when we finished working on the school, the students sang us a song, but it was much more of a thank you than a plea for money or attention.

Our guides, Lekihiti and Mollel on a termite mound

Lodging in Country:

Chloe:

On my trip, my family and I stayed in lavish hotels and glamped when we were on the Safari part of our experience. One thing to note, the “fancy” hotels that we stayed in were honestly what I would consider average hotels in the U.S. Tanzania has differing standards in regards to hotel services, compared to the U.S- understandably of course. The beds were always pretty stiff and the showers I experienced consistently possessed a slimy quality about them, the water was slippery and almost felt greasy which was a little unsettling at first.

Namayani:

Throughout my time there, we were almost always in our camp in Orbomba. We were in a hotel, The Outpost Lodge for only one night, of which the food and service was fantastic. Unlike most standard hotels we had three to a room, but each room was typically its own building. The beds were stiff but relieving after a long span of flights. I don’t recall any of us using the showers, but the hotel was super cute and clean. We were also provided with mosquito nets, which was also reassuring. The food was superb as well and overall it just felt warm and welcoming. It was certainly a transition though, as the first thing I noticed was a sign to not leave windows open due to monkeys (although we never had an issue)! Also, during breakfast the next morning, we saw lots of chameleons, which was super cool. For the the rest of the trip, we slept in tents near our volunteer site. Our camp was set up with one big mess tent and lots of tents fitting four people and their belongings. Staff stayed nearby and there was a makeshift kitchen, where our food was prepared each day. Bathroom and shower tents were behind us and the whole thing was fenced in. I felt super safe the whole time and actually quite close to nature. In fact, one morning we woke up to giraffes in our camp!

Giraffe in the camp!
My bed at camp
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Monkey notice at Outpost Lodge

Biggest Takeaway:

Chloe:

Oof. Difficult question! My travel to Tanzania was enlightening, exciting, heartbreaking at times but most importantly gave me a huge sense of perspective in the world. The U.S is one of the most wealthy nations in the world, and because of this fact, it’s easy to take opportunities and graces we receive on a daily basis for granted. Clean running water, grocery stores, cars, electricity: all functions we interact with constantly, but in places like Tanzania, this is obviously not the case. My trip instilled a permanent sense of gratitude, and even though my heart shatters when I think about the conditions the men, women, and children in places like Tanzania experience daily. I am able to reconcile myself by knowing that I will go back one day and impact these families in a positive way, which is something I hope everyone who travels to an impoverished countries feels.

Namayani:

Narrowing it down to a single thing is very difficult for me. Often times I think of my experiences with water there and how that one resource affects such a grand portion of life. Too often I feel guilt for having such easy access and I want to do something about it. The fact that I personally know some of the people that are being affected by drought and disease makes the global situation much more personal and heartbreaking to me and to the others in my group. My experience with carrying the water to the home enlightened me to what it is like to struggle with things we take for granted and someday I want to help those in need with their resource access. Additionally, I witnessed the effects of poverty in general, and I hope that one day that burden will be lessened for people globally. While this trip was a massive culture shock and a guilt trip, it also sparked a desire to help, a new sense of gratitude, and a better understanding of the world.

Water from the local drinking hole