Package holidays are simply not top of Borders man Dominic Taddei’s bucket list.
Bitten by the travel bug when he was a teeanger, the former St Margaret’s RC and Hawick High School pupil joined the army when he was aged just 16.
Postings in Northern Ireland, Jordan and Cyprus with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers only served to fuel his love of travel.
When he left the army after five years, he returned to Hawick where he worked as manager in the town’s Somerfield supermarket.
And every spare penny he saved was spent travelling.
The Costas were not on his radar though – rather China, North Korea, south east Asia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, eastern Ukraine during the troubles, Crimea days after annexation by Russia and five days in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone.
So when Dominic told his mum Carol, who lives in Hawick, and brother Mario he was selling all his worldly possessions to spend two years, self-funded, volunteering in Africa, it wasn’t a huge shock.
Having moved to Colchester in 2012 to work as a security and welfare officer at the University of Essex, he took a career break and set off in March 2017.
Dominic taught English in an Ethiopian school for several months, before moving to Kenya’s Homa Bay, on the shores of Lake Victoria which has the highest incidence of HIV in east Africa and ended up living in the slums of Uganda.
Reflecting on his two year trip, he openly admits it was far from trouble-free.
However, he would happily move to Africa and is saving up once again to return to the continent where he now feels at home.
Dominic (36) explained: “We don’t know how lucky we are in the UK compared to people in some of the poorest countries in the world.
“I spent most of my time living in slums with locals, eating and drinking the same food and water as them.
“I experienced what it was like to have electricity and water shortages, went without a washing machine, flushing toilet, shower, fridge, cooker and TV.
“Instead I used a bucket of cold water and a bar of soap to wash myself, did hand washing in rivers, cooked with charcoal and used a pit latrine – a hole in the ground.
“But I enjoyed this simple way of living and even though I’m now back in the UK, my worldly possessions could still fit in the boot of my car – and I feel better for it.”
Initially, Dominic worked with an NGO teaching English in Ethiopia.
Within days of his arrival, though, he’d suffered his first piece of misfortune.
He recalled: “During a powercut, I fell through a storm drain cover, breaking my shin and ribs and causing a deep cut on my leg.
“It became badly infected and there were limited medical services available so I had to resort to treating myself and using a local pharmacy for medicine.”
Some may have been tempted to call it a day but Dominic was undeterred.
“I’d always wanted to go to Ethiopia as I was interested in the indigenous tribes so it didn’t put me off,” he said, “even though it took about 10 weeks to heal.”
After a few months, Dominic moved to Kenya.
Thanks to a contact made via the E Club Southern Scotland Rotary Club, he joined forces with Roll Out the Barrel, a charity which delivers mosquito nets, sanitary products and clean water projects in Kenya.
Living in the compound at Homa Bay proved to be an eye-opening experience.
He said: “There were two violent election riots in the town, with the police using bullets and tear gas.
“The town was on lock down and I ended up having malaria – luckily, I had the medicine with me.
“Life was pretty cheap there. A six month old baby was killed and kicked about the streets like a football and a woman in the hut round the cormer from me was raped.
“Bullets were also shot through my compound.”
But there were highs too.
“We took water filters and a barrel to transport water to Maasai Warriors who were walking 7km to collect water, not fit for drinking,” he said.
“While visiting a traditional birth attendant, a woman gave birth to a little boy and on hearing a white man (mzungo) was outside she asked for me to enter.
“She asked what my name was and called her son Dominic. I was speechless.”
After a year in Kenya, it was time to move on though.
He spent the last few months in Uganda, a country he fell in love with.
Dominic said: “Because I lived like the majority of the people in the slum, I felt like a part of the community and the gangs left me alone.
“I’ve got a lot of friends there now and I even met the King of the Pygmies!”
Dominic remains a Roll Out the Barrel trustee and advisor to the Sunflower Community Orphan Support Project, a charity he founded in Homa Bay.
He is now back at work in Colchester but is saving to return to Kenya and Uganda for a month later this year.
The Taddei clan are well known in the Borders, thanks to Dominic’s grandad Guido who owned the Cadora Cafe for around 60 years.
Dominic would also like to thank Pyramid Travel in Kelso for its support, which supplemented his own fundraising for the trip.
He added: “I contacted them explaining what I was doing and that I wanted to purchase direct from them, in the hope of a discount or to save on post and packaging.
“Instead, they gave me the mosquito repellent, anti bacterial soap and anti bacterial hand wash spray – free of charge. I was shocked but very grateful.
“I’d like to thank Pyramid Travel for its support.”