I boarded the local bus in Salzburg, Austria heading outside the city to my Couchsurfing host’s home. I was not sure of my stop and asked another passenger about directions. This turned into what would become a life-changing 20-minute conversation. She was working in a hotel in Salzburg, but her home is in Tanzania. I told her about my plan to travel the world. She lit up and told me to go to Tanzania, an incredible country and she has the hook-up. Just before I got off at my stop, I got her name – Mariah (her friends call her Happy) and her email, pledging to stay in touch.
Leaving her, I felt quite foolish uncertain of where Tanzania was on a map. I had thought Serengeti was only in Kenya, Zanzibar was a country of its own and Mt. Kilimanjaro, well I knew it was in Africa. After doing a bit of research I reached out to Mariah and said “Yes! You were right! Tanzania looks incredible, can you give me some tips?” She exceeded my expectations tenfold.
I flew into Kilimanjaro International Airport two months later and her friend collected me from the airport and took me to her house in Arusha while she and her family were in Austria. He was the manager of one of the nicest hotels in town and I got to enjoy the perks of the pool and hotel bar.
Mariah’s sister woke me up the morning after I arrived and took me shopping at the local market, educating me, negotiating on my behalf for fruit and veg and she introduced me to her friends that took me to all the local hotspot clubs.
If I needed a ride, call her brother. For Safari, she has a friend that could give me a good deal. If I plan to trek Kilimanjaro, her grandmother has a house in Moshi. If I want to relax, she has another sister in Stone Town, Zanzibar I could chill with. Holy Cow! I never thought I would be given such an amazing opportunity.
Everything worked out brilliantly. Clearly an incredible woman and fortunate to have asked her for directions on that brief bus ride. Tanzania was my gateway to East Africa, my principal residence for a few months, and the first experience of grand hospitality, generosity and kindness from a stranger. She gave me comfort and support in the unknown Africa that I would fall in love with. We have yet to meet again, but now that I am married to an Austrian and living 1.5 hours away, there is no excuse – it’s destiny we stay in each other’s lives.