Photo Credit: Dada Femi
Traveler Story: My 3-Week Vacation Turned Into A New Life In Zanzibar
A 3-week trip inspired by the cancellation of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival in February 2021 led traveler Dada Femi to Zanzibar, where she has created a new life for herself.
Find out how and why Dada Femi packed up her life in the UK and settled in Zanzibar.
Travel Noire: Dada Femi, what brought you to Zanzibar?
Dada Femi: I’m a February girl, and I am always usually in Trinidad and Tobago for carnival to celebrate my birthday. Due to the pandemic, the carnival was cancelled in February 2021, so I thought to myself, I want to be on the beach, in the sun to celebrate my 47th birthday, that was my criteria and Zanzibar fit the bill. I booked my flight with the intention of being out of the UK and here for 3 glorious weeks.
TN: How did it compare, swapping your usual Caribbean trip for a Tanzanian one?
Dada Femi: I’m very much a carnival fanatic, had I gone, the trip to Trinidad and Tobago would’ve been my 19th one, so I knew it was going to be a big shift for me. It was also my first time in East Africa. I’ve visited West Africa – the Gambia and Senegal quite a few times and there is a different flavor on this side of the continent.
There is a huge sense of peace here in Zanzibar. I would say the country is made about 80% Muslim and then 20% other faiths, and everyone gets along and lives in harmony. It’s very laid back, just like the Caribbean. I love that I ended up on an island too— I’m half Jamaican and half Guyanese, so I’m an island-girl at home.
TN: Could you tell us about the process of transitioning your vacation into a whole new life in Zanzibar?
Dada Femi: I kept on changing my return date because I was having such a wonderful time. I fell in love with Tanzania, I met a man, I found community, so I kept going back to the travel agent to change the date. I did that about four times and then six weeks into the trip I called my Dad and I said ‘Dad, I’m not coming back. I need you to help me pack up my life, my flat, and I need you to help me sell my Vespa.’ And he said, ‘Alright, are you happy?’ And I said ‘I’m blissfully happy’ and without further question he said ‘Okay then. No problem’. And that’s what my family did. They were exemplary. They just packed up my life—and I had a lot of stuff, some of it is in storage and the rest is on a ship on its way to me now – very delayed mind you, but it’s on its way. It was really the family and community support that made it easy for me to make a decision and stick with it.
For me, I knew this was always going to happen at some point in my life, it was just a question of where I would end up. The pandemic sped everything up. I said yes to the opportunity and here I am, loving it.
TN: Would you say it has been easy for you to adjust to life as a Caribbean in Zanzibar?
Dada Femi: From the very start I felt completely welcome. I stand out because I’m not Muslim and don’t wear the traditional dress, but I am still very mindful, and I dress accordingly. I keep it colorful, loud and bright to match my personality. I think the key is having the right attitude and mindset.
I feel honored to be here, and I have had a smooth transition because of keeping a positive mindset, and I’m seeing it return to me. My skin has never looked so great, everybody in my family notices when we video call, and most of all I’m at peace. I think Africa is nurturing me, cleansing me, detoxing me and stripping down all the harshness of the West.
TN: What was your life like living in the UK?
Dada Femi: I was in the rat race, really. There were a lot of long days and nights. I had my own cleaning company, and I was also working in hospitality. I was constantly up and down, feeding and cooking, in pubs, festivals and anything else. The thing is I love working hard, and I never hated it because it was my own business and even here, I am still working on my businesses but England was just the wrong environment for me.
Zanzibar is the most fertile land I have ever lived on, the vegetables are so fresh that when I cut them the aroma hits me and in the UK they call it ‘organic’ but here it’s just how it is, fresh from the Earth.
TN: So far, what would you say is the best thing about living in Zanzibar?
Dada Femi: Seeing people who look like me on billboards and commercials is really empowering for me. Also, the sun. I’ve been lacking it in the UK, so I’m just drinking it all in. The first couple of times visiting the beach, I burst into tears because I couldn’t believe the beauty. I had to call my Dad and show him because the beaches in Zanzibar even managed to out-do the beaches in Jamaica, and he had to agree with me.
TN: Do you see Zanzibar in your long-term visions?
Dada Femi: It’s not made 100% easy for internationals to settle here. You’ve got to renew your visa card every three months but there are options, such as business visas which allow you to settle for two years. Ultimately, I envision myself here on the land. I feel at home. When I go out to party, I represent with my Guyanese flag, my Jamaican flag and now my Tanzanian one— they’re all tied together, and I wave them proudly in the air.
I think anybody Black, should come back home. It will take adjustment, of course, but it is so worth it. I feel like I’m living a wholesome life, and I’ve never experienced it before. I used to just exist, and now I feel like I’m living.