Today’s Culture with Travel interview comes as part of our Travel Entrepreneur series, where we talk to travel leaders who are running businesses all over the world.
We recently spoke to Justa Lujwangana, the founder of Curious on Tanzania. Learn more about this travel entrepreneur and her Tanzanian company in the interview.
Why do you love travel? How do you think travel unites us or teaches us more about the world?
Travel for me is an escape to the other person’s world. It opens up and allows anyone to walk into someone’s shoes, learn to understand what they treasure the most but also build friendships that enable better communication between strangers. You never know what the other person’s joy is until you experience it with them. That’s what travel does for me.
Travel has taught me to be patient and live in the moment anywhere I go but also to trust the locals as they know their communities best. As a stranger in a new area, especially in countries on the continent, it doesn’t matter how knowledgeable you are about the area, you always want to ask for permission or their blessing to go through their communities. I have learned that traveling in communities with a local is way more rewards that using a GPS (if it works) or travel guides books to get around. You can never beat having a person who is passionate about their community showing you around.
Languages not only give us the power to communicate, but also can unite us across cultures. Share a favorite saying you know.
Pole pole ndio kwendo- Little by little is the journey in Swahili
“Kumbuka wewe ni mtoto wa kiafrika” – Always remember you are an African child. This is a saying that my mother always preached to us every time we started questioning or doubting ourselves. She did this to remind us of the traditions we were taught and not to compare ourselves with others as they may not have the same experiences as us. But appreciate others have and also remember to show your uniqueness. Not to be ashamed about where we are from but praise the positives of it.
What local spot in your hometown do you love most? Why is it personally important to you?
I love going to this spot called Samaki Samaki (meaning “fish and more fish”). At Samaki Samaki restaurant and bar, they save every kind of fish fresh from the ocean or lakes in Tanzania. When you go here on a Thursday or Friday night, you will meet both the locals and foreigners all waiting to see whats on their plates. As soon as 5pm comes around, the sunsets and the music starts playing, sitting in the middle of town, the outdoor boat or fishermen looking restaurant comes to life. The owner and the staff are also amazing.
I love the authenticity of the restaurant and the openness of sharing a meal with both locals and foreigners.
Who is the most inspiring person in your life? In which ways does this person inspire you?
She’s a woman who sees more for her kids, wants the best for them, and will do anything to get that for them. My mother is the person that inspires me the most. She is a strong, courageous woman who gave up everything to move to a country that she knew nothing about to give her 5 children everything they have now. I wish, I can be half of the woman she is.
She is also very supportive of my entrepreneurship pathway with my startup Curious on Tanzania. She’s a type of woman, when you say I want to do this, the next day she’s ahead of you with the research, call you and giving ideas.
Have you ever met a stranger during your travels who made an impact on your life in a certain way, or maybe it was you who helped someone else? Share the story!
While I meet strangers all the time , they end up turning into friends as time passes.
So, I remember the first time I decided to go to Tanzania by myself with a crazy goal of traveling cross country and learning more about the country. I came to America at the age of 12, and before that I was going to school in Uganda. While in the USA, I spent 10 years without going back to Tanzania.
So, my knowledge of my homeland as an adult was very limited, with all the development that had happened but also the biased stories I had on the American news, all of that got me scared to travel back home. When I finally made that leap of faith, to travel for a month to go and learn as much as I could about tourism in Tanzania, I didn’t know where to start.
Luckily, I had met a Tanzanian friend who came to visit in NYC, I quickly contacted him and told him what I was thinking of doing. With no hesitation, he sat down and listened to what my ideas were and what I wanted to do. While on the plane, I starting writing down what I wanted to do and as soon as we landed, we started planning where we were going to go next around the country and we were ready to go.
I was scared and nervous, didn’t know if to trust him or not, but I just had to as I was looking at the future. He was very knowledgeable about the country. We didn’t even need a GPS; we just hopped in the car and started driving and filming. From that day, he was the first person to join the Curious on Tanzania team. From there, we have been working on helping other travelers see our homeland (Tanzania) authentically. Plus, we have also recruited other teammates the same way from personal experiences.
Unfortunately, stereotypes exist in the world. What are some common misconceptions you’ve heard about Tanzania?
Many people think Tanzania is just poor, and some think about the great safaris/wildlife. Most Americans generalize the whole continent of Africa – not just Tanzania – to be poor. As a Tanzanian diaspora living in New York, I can see why. Media can be misleading, and most stories about the continent are related to poverty, diseases or about wild animals. Most are either scared of going, or some want to just for the safari experiences and run back.
I think for us as diasporas, we have a responsibility starting with our friends to share the positive stories of our homelands, culture, traditions and people to help bridge that gap that’s keeping everyone away. Then we can look into inviting them for a visit. That’s what my company Curious on Tanzania does. We help others discover our homeland through tangible experiences here in New York, and customize authentic experiences with locals.
What is considered disrespectful in your culture that visitors should be aware of?
You always want to show respect to your elders, even if they look to have less than you. You must greet your elders with Shikamoo (this goes for mornings, afternoons or nights). Make sure you ask for permission to use or enter anywhere. Dress appropriately. Bad language is barely used anywhere. Respect is everything in our country, especially to the elders.