Faith Kanja talks to travel blogger Muthoni Maingi about her trips across the globe, talking to strangers in pubs and accepting invitations that no sensible person would.
What inspires you to travel?
I have always loved to disappear and immerse myself in the novelty of ‘undiscovered to me’ territories. This started when I was a small child who would climb into cupboards and hide for hours, to the present when I sometimes book spontaneous trips and disappear into weekends of pure silence. I like to walk in spaces that are familiar and comfortable to others because it is their home, but that are unfamiliar to me. In many ways, a penchant for discovery and disappearing are not solely tied to the traveling experience; these are inherent drives that come with certain personality traits. I also like to engage in the banal difference and nuance of everyday existence in a different place, because a morning commute in Kuala Lumpur and one in Nairobi essentially holds the same tension; working hard to get somewhere on time, in style and in one piece (the mundane) but the difference is in the sounds, smells, transport options and directional signage languages.
What are some of your favourite destinations that you’ve been to?
Malaysia, Mexico, Scotland, Madagascar and Turkey are my favourite travel destinations for their amazing people, food, one-of-a-kind views and experiences overall.
How have other cultures influenced you during your travels?
I always come back with recipes and cultural practices that I love to replicate at home. I do Ethiopian coffee ceremonies for friends and make Malagasy iced tea. The latter is pretty simple: boil black tea, lavender, vanilla, honey, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, add lemon juice when cool, add ice then serve. I also have a tradition with a close friend where I bring the country’s alcohol back and we enjoy it in my garden as we gossip and catch up.
What’s your favourite thing to do in a new town?
Walking into bars and cafes and striking up deep conversations with strangers. I have friendships that have grown having started off from this, as well as heaps of stories on adventures that this led to!
What’s one tip you’ve learned thanks to frequent travel?
Please buy travel insurance. So much can go wrong with your health, missing flights, theft or loss of property.
Essential items to pack…
My packing list always has sweaters, scarves, sundresses, shorts, sunscreen, sunglasses, sneakers and sandals. I call them ‘the big S’, and those are the essentials. Everything else is not as important.
How do you prepare for a trip?
A lot of research goes into the tourist traps and how to discover the path less travelled. I make sure I have insurance, extra money (make sure you have 1/3 more than you think you need) then take care of cultural sensitivities to avoid offending anyone by reading up on the place. I’d suggest following local bloggers and voices for insight on that.
Which three destinations are currently on your bucket list?
Jamaica, Japan and Colombia.