Oh my, oh my, how I loved Africa. For the past year, I have been planning and paying for a trip to Tanzania, knowing it would be something special. But I never could have imagined just how magical it would be.

I have been home for more than a week now and am still struggling to find the words to describe it. Everyone has been asking about the trip, and I try to answer, but mostly just stutter a few underwhelming sentences.

IMG_3766“It was just……unbelievable.””Fascinating.” “Friendliest people.” “Incredible.” “I loved every minute.”

They are all true but don’t even begin to do the country or experience justice. This is shameful for someone who earns a living with words.

IMG_3559But no matter what I manage to share, I always end with, “I can’t wait to go back.”

IMG_3646This seems to surprise people, who then furrow their brows and ask me what made this place so special. Didn’t I see the animals? And learn about the Maasai tribes? I got to see what I went to see, so why do I want to go back?

IMG_3597The truth is, I don’t know. Something caught hold of me, that I still can’t quite put my finger on. But as I mull over the question, I think I may have stumbled upon a sort of answer.

IMG_3468Whenever I travel, I do this really silly thing, especially if I love the place. I spend way too much time in la-la-land imaging myself living there. I wonder where I would live – in a third floor apartment with bay windows in Paris? Or a small, spare bungalow on the beaches of Providenciales in Turks & Caicos. I know exactly which raised house nestled along a canal in Key West I want to be mine, and my favorite narrow, cobblestoned street in Rome.

I imagine the things I might do there – taking walks on the beach, paddle boarding every weekend (or morning!) or writing at an outdoor table at a sidewalk café. I can see it. Picture it. I consider any downsides but don’t harp on them, because that just ruins the fun.

IMG_3487But in Tanzania, when I tried to imagine living there, I couldn’t. It isn’t that I wouldn’t want to – because I dream of living away in different places for a year all the time. And would certainly do so there. It’s just that life there is so different from what I am accustomed to, that it’s hard to really imagine. Every small detail of daily life there was interesting, because it was new.

I love travel because it forces me to be present and alert. At home, it is too easy to get comfortable, to tune the little things out. You don’t fully see the sunset when you let the dog out in the backyard. You stop hearing the hum of small planes flying overhead and the excited yells of the neighborhood kids playing outside. You no longer run out to feel the first snowflakes each winter. Things becomes common, expected and, sadly, mundane. And in the process, less magical.

IMG_9557Now, of course, I am sure this happens to people living in Tanzania. They are not excited to see a dik-dik or the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. It happens to people living everywhere. But being there, in some place so different, awakened me. It made me excited and curious. I heard bits and pieces of so many stories and hope to get a chance to visit again and maybe tell them.

IMG_3569 I promise to write more about this experience, and so many others soon. I won’t be a stranger.

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