How Tanzanian Labor Changed Me

Doing manual work not only made me stronger, it changed my outlook on life

Hein de Haan
Jun 27 · 2 min read
Photo by Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash

Five years ago, a good friend of mine convinced me to go with him and around twenty-five other people to a small village near Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. For two weeks, I did quite a lot of manual labor there. It’s important to note here that I always saw myself as a thinker, not a very physically active person. But these weeks, laboring under the Tanzanian Sun, changed that. They changed everything.


So how exactly did a few weeks of manual work changed my entire life? After all, it was mostly just digging in the ground and carrying heavy stuff. Well, there are multiple parts to the answer. One, I didn’t know I liked doing manual work. I enjoyed being outside, working hard, and being proud and tired at the end of the day. Two, more importantly,

I didn’t know that I didn’t know I liked manual work.

It’s the second part of the answer that is important to me: there is a lot to the human experience, and by living live in the default, more passive way will give one only a small part of what’s out there, often without even realizing it. I now know I have to actively seek out new experiences: I might like them (great!), or I might hate them. In both cases, I will learn why, and the reasons will tell me more about myself and the human experience in general.


The third and final part of the answer to how my Tanzanian experience changed my life is the influence it had on my daily activities. Since I liked the labor so much, I started missing it when I was home again. This made me join the gym and start bulking up a little, to keep doing physical work. In the gym, I met people with whom I started a group doing various obstacle runs, which made me run regularly. Later, I learned running is not the best cardio for me, so I bought a racing bike, which in turn gets me to places I frankly had not been before. I’ve even had kickboxing lessons.

It’s fair to say my Tanzanian experience gave me a more healthy lifestyle, more energy, a new outlook on life’s experiences and more and closer friends.

    Hein de Haan

    Written by

    Futurist, freelance writer and Artificial Intelligence expert.

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