Muzungu: One who travels around


Article first published as Mzungu: One who travels around on Technorati.

lostIn the book, The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World, the three “lost girls” are in Africa and learn the word, Muzungu.  “I learned that [muzungu] originally meant ‘one who travels around,’ referring to the European traders who came in the 1800s.” As a “muzungu” or one who travels around, I really enjoyed this travelogue with the three 20-somethings on a mission to see the world, have adventures, and as with all long journeys, to find themselves.
Their three voices share the storytelling and their personal sagas. Each brings personal experience and dreams to be fulfilled. Learning to scuba dive, teach yoga or help young African girls through creating a play, is mingled with the dramatic tuk tuk rides, muddy hikes and their evolving lives.
sigiriaDuring our summer Sri Lankan adventures and in my 103rd country of travel, while reading this book, I had an incredible new experience!  At the Flower Inn outside Sigiria Ancient Rock Fortress I went to the toilet and A FROG jumped out of the toilet. I was surprised to see a frog and it smelled like crap which makes sense since it must have climbed through the septic system. Later that night as I checked the toilet first, there were two smaller frogs and tons of ants. Not a huge shock, as we generally stay in hostels that rank on our scale of minus one star.
We did have a typical rice and curry dinner which was a feast of 14 dishes of curry including pumpkin, Jackfruit, carrot, potato, vegetable soup and an omelette at the family owned Flower Inn which was started in 1972.elepphant
Sri Lanka is definitely a wild adventure and was a great place to read, especially when we were not allowed out at night due to wild elephants that wander in Sigiriya. In the book, The Lost Girls, they learn to be better friends to each other and themselves as they evolve while discovering the beauty of the Taj Mahal, the forgiveness of a van company after you total their car, and the importance of true friends who support you through all of life’s struggles. dagobaMy favorite quote is from the beginning of the book, “The world is round, the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning. Ivy Baker Priest.” The more I travel, the more I learn about myself and that the end is only the beginning. Like the actual Lost Girls in the story, I have “prioritized adventure and discovery over stability and structure” and that has made all the difference on the road less traveled. 
We are leaving December 18 for Colombia to begin our next adventure, and I look forward to more dramas like frogs in the toilet or wild elephants at night. Who knows what these muzungus will see next!  
New article on Science and Education, at Science Isn’t Scary: for the article: Race to Nowhere

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

3 responses to “Muzungu: One who travels around

  1. From LM: "Lisa,
    Have a wonderful holiday on your next adventure!!!! I am looking forward to the updates as i live vicariously!

    Thank you!

  2. Joseph Ernest posted the following in response to this article at technorati:
    "Actually Mzungu is a Swahili word and Muzungu with a "U" is a Ugandan word. Both words mean "English person." The only place you hear that word is East Africa which was once a British protectorate. The original explorers to arrive in Uganda and Kenya were English. People like Speke, Grant, David Livingston and so forth. The language they spoke was English which is referred to as "Luzungu." So a person who speaks "Luzungu" is a "Muzungu" in Swahili it would be "Mzungu."

    The word has now evolved and is used to refer to White people. A group of white people are "Bazungu" The "Ba" is used as a collective noun the "Mu" as a singular noun. So as long as you are of European descent they will refer to you as a Muzungu, because they assume you are English speaking. People from France are referred to as "Bafaransa" if it is one person it would be "Mufaransa." Whoever told you it meant "One Who Travels Around" musn't know their native language. One who travels around is "Mutabaazi" and the collective noun is "Batabaazi."

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  3. Great post, love it! haha Anyway, today I had a big luck and want to share it with everyone – I finally found a way to make cheap calls to Australia, where my cousin Becky lives! There's this very neat site,, that offers a fast and easy way to reach your friends and relatives all around the world! You simply dial 084 3278 7878 for Australia landlines, and if you're in the UK, you can call Australia and talk for as long as you like! 🙂

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