Have you ever gone on a holiday that genuinely changed your perspective on life?
Kenya did that for me.
I visited in September over the Eid break, and I loved every minute of it.
I landed in Nairobi, where I stayed with friends, and flew the next day to the Masai Mara.
The landing strip was surrounded on either side by zebras and other wild animals, and from the moment we touched down the landscape took my breath away. After a 25 minute journey in an open-top 4×4, we arrived at Mara Siria, an opulent bush camp owned by a German family and run by Kenyans, many of them from the Masai tribe. On the journey to the camp alone we encountered giraffes, monkeys, deer and more. The large, luxurious tents had running water, electric lighting and outdoor showers. There’s something about standing outside under running water naked in the African plains that makes a girl feel alive. The quality of the food was exceptional, and the camp was very accommodating to members of our group with Halal or vegetarian diets.
Our safari was organised with Mara Siria, and the guides were knowledgable, thorough and charismatic. The trip was timed to see the famous wildebeest crossing, and we saw thousands of them cross the Masai River. Incredibly, we saw them disperse as crocodiles feasted on the slowest among them, as a family of hippos looked blithely on. We saw several different prides of lions; groups of young males looking to start tribes of their own, females looking after their cubs and a male and female ‘on their honeymoon’, as our guide delicately put it. Majestic elephants and their babies made our day, and we saw lots of other animals from hyenas to ostriches along the way.
Honestly, eight hours in a four by four is quite literally a pain in the ass, but it’s worth every minute of it to see wildlife like this up close. Because of the wildebeest crossing, the lions and other dangerous animals were well fed, which made it safe to get really close to the lions [according to our guide]. As well as making sure we got to see the animals, our guide provided tons of fun facts, information on specific species and mating rituals.
I also visited the Masai Village, where locals live in huts made of mud and cow pat, and a Masai school children walk miles to reach each day. It was a truly humbling experience, and I’m okay with the fact that they ripped me off on souvenirs. If you are planning to go and see for yourself, I would highly recommend booking through Phoenix Safaris.
After two amazing days and nights, I woke up early on day three to watch the sun rise and head back to Nairobi. I have to admit the tiny plane didn’t really suit me, and I did have a little altitude sickness, as did my friend. Back in Nairobi, my friends went all out to ensure we got the ultimate Kenya experience, including making friends with orphaned elephants, kissing giraffes, eating at some of the city’s most amazing restaurants and touring the Kazuri bead factory, where authentic Kenyan jewellery is produced, providing an income for vulnerable women in the city. Throw in a trip to the UN, where one of my hosts works, a Game of Thrones night and my first ever game of Cards Against Humanity, and I really could not have asked for better hosts.
My last few days in Kenya were spent in Watamu, a small coastal town most tourists would never have heard of. My friends organised for us to go there with a group of some of the most passionate, intelligent and stimulating people I had hung out with in a really long time. There were two amazing things about Watamu; the first was that it was simply an exceptionally beautiful place. The house we hired had a beautiful pool that looked out over greenery, and beyond that a white sand beach and the ocean. I felt a sense of calm there that I have been chasing ever since. We did almost nothing for two days and nights but eat, drink, and talk (apart from a couple of hours scuba diving). The second was the people I was with, most of whom work in aid and development, all of whom were fun, bright, articulate people doing what they loved.
In the Gulf, by and large, people put aside their passion for a pay cheque, sacrifice their morals for the sake of status, and often lost sight of what’s important. While I was living a life of luxury built on the back of what is to all intents and purpose slave labour, my new friends were not earning a huge amount, but they were making a difference to this world. Each, in their own way, is contributing to something greater than themselves. I envied them, and the sense of satisfaction they had with life. Even the way they spoke about their hobbies seemed to hold more substance and sincerity than my five-star, cash-rich, frivolous, empty lifestyle.
I realised I was selling out, and it had to stop.
When I got back to Doha, it was hard to readjust. I had only been gone 10 days, but my tolerance for my neurotic, passive-aggressive boss had shrunk to almost zero. While he remained his usual self, I had come to the realisation that there are more important things in life. I had rediscovered the beauty in life, felt my soul revitalised by connecting with nature and was inspired by the wonderful people around me. I realised that I want to go back to Ireland and reconnect with my family and friends in a meaningful way. I want a job I feel good about, because that makes the hard days easier. I want to feel grounded, and right now I think that means being in Ireland.
And so, a couple of weeks ago, after a particularly difficult day at work, I decided that enough was enough. I handed in my resignation, and next week, I’ll be on my way home. In many ways, my 10 months in Doha have been a truly positive experience. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown as a person, and I have made some wonderful friends. But it’s been six and a half years since I have lived in Ireland, and it’s time to go home.
I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who reads and follows the blog. It’s how I got to know the city, where I vented on bad days, how I connected with other expats and shared my thoughts on Doha life. I hope you’ll stay with me on the next chapter of my journey.
Any thoughts on how I should rename the blog now that Only in Doha won’t be in Doha?
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