Fast Travel in Nairobi, Kenya

In my last blog post, “Less than 48 hours in Mombasa, Kenya” I introduced this concept of fast travel vs. slow travel, but I wanted to elaborate here to help you understand why it works for certain trips. By now you may have gathered that I had 6 nights total in Kenya, but I lost two days traveling to and from. So to see as much as possible I broke up the trip by doing 2 nights at Maji Motto, 2 nights in Mombasa, and had another 2 nights in Nairobi. Each place had its own unique charm and quality and honestly no experience was better than another. That’s because of the planning that went into each experience and that makes all the difference in the world when planning fast travel.

Slow travel for me is when I have a lot of time in one place and want to focus on having no real plans other than soaking up the surroundings and the people, but at my leisure. I might do more time alone on a beach when doing slow travel, or spend more time in very small groups and just bond at brunch or dinner, or I simply just lay around doing nothing. At its core, slow travel assumes what it sounds like; you move at a slow pace and have no set agendas or don’t care to stick to them.

Fast travel is the opposite of slow travel. I have been doing more of it because I am traveling much further and have a need to experience more things so that I can learn a lot more culturally. This means I have to plan and research what I want to experience and to make sure it fits in an itinerary that makes sense logistically and financially. In a fast travel state of mind its about hitting the mark and getting the most out of an experience and making it as interesting as possible. The goal for me when fast travelling is to walk away wanting more out of the next destination in terms of experiencing an even stronger connection based on the country’s history or politics. So in this respect, I went to Kenya for 6 nights only, but I saw three different parts and did three different itineraries to appease my curiosity. Remember this if nothing else: fast travel is you putting curiosity at the front and moving quickly to engage that thinking.0

We arrived in Nairobi and hit the ground running. We had an event to go to that evening and the traffic had eaten into our day, plus we took a long detour for lunch that was unexpected, but that happens in both slow and fast travel. After lunch, we still had to make it back to our bed and breakfast called Hob House. Hob House is far away from the city center and put us even further away from being on time for the event. The event, called “blankets and wine” is a must do if your going to Nairobi. It’s their version of a wine and music festival. You can buy tickets online and they have them throughout the year so we were very lucky to have planned our trip inline with the event. Our contacts in Kenya gave us the scoop on this must do event that features Kenyan artist and fashion designers and incorporates the food truck theme that’s spreading throughout the western world.

By the time we made it to the event, the music was still going and there were so many people out and about looking like they had been at an AfroPunk event in Brooklyn and flew into Nairobi. But, these were Kenyans, which again broke the stereotype of the African in the movie “Coming to America.” These young Kenyans, mostly millennials, had changed up the game to incorporate aspects of hip-hop culture blended with Swahili and different tribal traditions to create a hip event that spoke volumes of the shared experience of what it is to be Kenyan and interested in black culture and the African Diaspora.

We left that event and it felt that we had been somewhere strangely familiar and we agreed it was a dope moment. The next morning Kenyatta and I woke up early to go on our sightseeing and Marlynne and Sonya decided to take it easy before their flight back to Hong Kong that evening. Honestly, Hob House gives you the feel of being in an exclusive part of Nairobi and is a mini retreat from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi proper and though further away from the city center it was a beautiful home with very caring owners and a very welcoming staff.

Our first sightseeing experience was at the Giraffe Center; it’s a very touristy thing to do, but where else could I make out with a Giraffe? It was a place to see just how tourism is big in Nairobi as many families came from far to have their kids experience this Disney like moment of petting a Giraffe.

We left the Giraffe Center and headed to an elephant sanctuary called The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and saw orphaned elephants whose parents were killed by poachers or died naturally as prey, sickness, or drought. The elephant sanctuary was also packed and it is only open for a few hours a day and you should get there early enough as the crowds get larger and everyone wants the perfect picture with the baby elephants.

The most memorable experience that day didn’t come from kissing a giraffe or petting a baby elephant, though it was pretty awesome to be that close to some of the world’s most famous animals. It was going to the Kibera slum that was most memorable that day. This is the largest slum in Nairobi and the largest urban slum in Africa. Our purpose there was not to be voyeurs but to spend the day at an orphanage called the Inua Mimi Rescue Center. Benson Manyunyu, a photographer who uses photography to get students interested in learning about the craft and staying in school invited us to see the center and Kibera. Benson is also the social media coordinator at the orphanage and manages the social media page for the center on instagram.

The orphanage is ran by Benson’s mother, Paschalia Nduku who started the project after she saw so many abandoned young children roaming the streets. She’s taken in over 66 kids and continues to help the community by not only sheltering the kids, but also educating them. A total of 15 kids sleep in the cramped orphanage on bunk beds donated by volunteers, but they are safe and cared for by Paschalia and her workers and her own children.

The project is an amazing show of humanity as Paschalia is not a rich woman herself, but she knows that if she doesn’t try to help these children the likelihood of them surviving is slim to none. This part of my trip convinced me that I am interested in philanthropic travelling; travelling that involves service. I first experienced this concept of traveling with a purpose last Christmas while on holiday in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Kenya as a destination was amazing and I know that fast travelling through it was the way to go because it gave me a better perspective on so much about the country, it’s different tribal affiliations, its colonial past, its present political climate, and its ability as a country to thrive in the face of severe poverty. If you do nothing else when visiting Kenya, you should spend time amongst the people in an authentic way.

I hope whatever you do while visiting came after reading about my three-in-one blog post on Kenya and using my narrative as a guide in figuring out what might work for you. The best part of Nomade en Noir isn’t traveling or writing about it. It’s hearing from people on how something I said helped them along the way!