Tarah has lived a pretty awesome life, and she hasn’t even turned 30! She is a native of Colorado and has an obsession with mountains. If she could, she would spend every second outside. Tarah seeks out unique adventures, in remote places that few travel to. She prefers slow travel which allows her to get to know local people and places and has spent a year living in South Africa and two years in Morocco.
In 2008, Tarah went to Ghana to work in an orphanage for a summer and she fell in love with the rich culture and friendly people there. This sparked her desire to explore more of the continent. A few years later, she decided to study abroad in South Africa, where she filled her days teaching kids at a local school. Her love for children and teaching led her to Morocco, where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer, working on youth development.
More recently, Tarah hiked the Andes for several days, ending in Machu Picchu. This is only one of the hundreds of epic hikes she has done, throughout the world. She also recently worked on a fruit tree farm in Hawaii, one of the most beautiful places she has explored in all of her travels. Now, she is living in Eastport, Maine working in community development, and spends all her free time promoting sustainable development through Dunia Unificada, a company she founded in 2015. She also takes some pretty kick-ass photos and is an aspiring travel photographer!
Want to know more about Tarah and her adventures? Read more in our interview below and connect with her here on Backpacker Travel and her blog.
BT: Traveling seems to be part of your soul. What first inspired you to start exploring?
Tarah: When I was a kid, my family used to take these pretty epic road trips where we’d drive to several states in one trip, like California to Vancouver or drive to my grandmother’s house in Minnesota or, my favorite, would explore the Rockies, just a few hours from our house. At a young age, I became very addicted to constantly being in motion. A number of personal events shook my day-to-day life and constantly moving and exploring somehow helped balance everything out.
When I traveled to Ghana with my sister after graduating from high school, I was ripped from the depths of my ego and ignorance and forced to become an acting member of the global space I found myself in. Each new country after that, each new experience, has pushed me to reach greater depths of myself. When I stay still, or motionless for too long, I become anxious and introspective. When my body craves being outside and on trails, literally 24/7 and my mind starts to daydream, I know it is time to go again. I know it is time to make myself feel completely uncomfortable and out of my element again.
I was first inspired to travel by my desire to find peace in my life and something greater than myself. My current addiction to traveling has arisen from the adrenaline of truly knowing myself and my place in the world. If I can adapt and live peacefully among various peoples from various cultures and backgrounds and stories, then I can be content in knowing myself as a global citizen. Traveling is, in a sense, freeing because it releases me from the limitations of being identified by one country or place or experience.
BT: You seem to really love living in new places and getting to know new people. When you are first settling somewhere, how do you adapt to a new culture?
Tarah: The first thing I do when I go somewhere new is to visit a market or the grocery store. This is the best place to meet locals, learn a great deal about the culture, and explore new foods. Watch what people buy, and see what the common foods are in households around the new area you are in. Ask store employees or market vendors what the best food in the area is. Ask other people shopping for their advice on what to do and see while you are there. You can learn a lot at the grocery store and even more at a public market.
The other approach I take is to figure out where the “meeting” spot in town is. What I mean is, what is it that locals ritualistically do to pass the time. When I served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, this was tea time and going to cafes. When I lived in South Africa, it was watching Braais and soccer or rugby games at bars. I learned millions of mannerisms, sayings, proper greetings, inside jokes, etc. in the spaces locals felt most comfortable.
BT: You have spent a ton of time in Africa, what is it about the continent that you love so much?
Tarah: Africa is an enchanting and humbling continent. Humanity began in Africa. Every corner of the continent is completely different, yet there is an overwhelming sense of hospitality anywhere you visit. No matter where I have traveled, I have been greeted with tremendous kindness.
The unquestioned giving that happens in communities all across the continent is unlike anything I have seen. Tribes, communities, and people thrive on this idea of existence because of the other. Giving to neighbors and family, those in need, and random strangers happens without question. You could be sitting on a bus in Morocco in the middle of summer, the sun beating down on your head with no AC or open window, all hope seems lost and the world seems like it is one living hell, but then the stranger sitting next to you offers you half an orange. Suddenly, the bus ride becomes the story you tell most often.
The continent is also the most resilient in the world. Africa has faced unimaginable horrors over the course of centuries. People have been brutally murdered, the land has been cut up and robbed of all its natural resources, and corruption constantly cuts countries’ economies at their knees. Yet in spite of all these truths, the people of Africa stand up again and again. From the Berber kings of the Sahara to freedom fighters in South Africa, the continent is bursting with unbreakable pride.
I was first inspired to travel by my desire to find peace in my life and something greater than myself. My current addiction to traveling has arisen from the adrenaline of truly knowing myself and my place in the world. If I can adapt and live peacefully among various peoples from various cultures and backgrounds and stories, then I can be content in knowing myself as a global citizen. Traveling is, in a sense, freeing because it releases me from the limitations of being identified by one country or place, or experience.
Africa is a continent of extraordinary cultures, landscapes, and people. I am not sure how to define it in any other way besides, existential and addicting.