Back in February 2019, I took a trip to Sal, Cape Verde.
It was there I connected with two solo female travellers. One of them from Germany who had been travelling for the past few weeks around nearby islands and the other from the UK who just wanted to get away from the winter.
During the tour where I met them, I recall waiting for the girl from Germany to come out of her accommodation in the middle of nowhere.
My first thoughts were, “Woah, that’s interesting! She’s alone here, in Cape Verde!” She approached the car with a single backpack that carried everything she needed, eating fresh bread and was completely alone.
When we later started a conversation, she told me that she often gets a similar reaction, I don’t even know how to describe it… perhaps, shock? whilst on the road. The British solo traveller shared the same sentiment.
Over our lunch break on the tour, I delved into more questions where these two women continued to share stories of their adventures – both good and bad. The good stories were inspiring and full of adventure! The bad worried me but they boldly stated how it didn’t deter them from travelling alone. Obviously, there were lessons to be learned, but it didn’t break their spirit.
As I listened, I couldn’t believe it, they seemingly were enjoying themselves, didn’t seem lonely and were doing whatever they wanted. I remember admiring them greatly!
“I want to do it one day,” I thought.
But thoughts come and go 🤷🏻♀️ I was convinced that this was one of those instances that would just go. But no…it continued to linger for a while.
I continued to have some absolutely wonderful adventures wandering in two throughout 2019, I look back at those memories with a very grateful heart.
After meeting these women, I shared this Instagram post with some of my initial thoughts on encountering them. It’s amusing looking back at it given my life now.
WTF…You, as a solo traveller, is that a joke? 😶
Hilariously, this is a real reaction I’ve had from family and close friends.
The reason is that I’m a naturally anxious person AND even more of an anxious traveller. The stress of being at the right place, at the right time, the constant fear of forgetting things, things going wrong…the list goes on.
Don’t even get me started on the first trip I took after the long break from the pandemic! That was another level of how bad my anxiety can get when travelling.
My previous travel partners can probably attest to that level I described. Reflecting on this point, I can imagine how annoying it might have been as I obsessed over every tiny detail.
These days, I’m definitely a solid 10% more chill 🍹
Even getting on the train from Sheffield to the airport on the first day of my solo adventure scared the shit out of me. Every step further away from my comfort zone, I doubted myself with countless moments of “nope, this is stupid. I’m not going to do this, I’ll just go back home.”
…even when I was already flying. 🤦🏻♀️
This feeling intensified when I landed in Valencia, and I couldn’t find my ride to my hotel and then my taxi driver was not able to find the hotel so dropped me off in the general area.
I vividly remember being on a call with a friend who kept reassuring me that it’ll be OK as I panicked into thinking this was all a terrible idea and that this is why I always need someone to be with me… A silly spiral.
Luckily, the hotel staff were also looking for me because I was the last person to check in that day and I found my way.
That is probably microscopically insignificant to others, but to me, it was one of the many events that led to an internal change (which is still ongoing! ✨) Throughout my journey, I’ve had many of these events happen but it became a game of adapting to them.
The pros and cons ✅🚫
I want to sit here and write about how wonderful everything has been since travelling solo, but that’s not real life. This is real life.
- 💅 Everything on your own terms: what do you want to do today? Guess what! You can do it! You don’t need to ask for permission or wait around, you can just do it. The best experience for me is eating alone means you can take your time or finish up quickly – just don’t drink wine too quickly, it goes to your head faster (personal experience 😵) How freeing is that?
- 🤠 Exploring alone also means you can spend your time people-watching and observing your surroundings without the need to maintain a conversation… Just taking it all in!
- 💜 YOU LEARN SO MUCH ABOUT YOURSELF! I personally have started to love my own company and finally understand why people like hanging out with me 🤪
- ✨ There is always an opportunity to meet new people without feeling worried about stressing the other person out with your extraverted energy
- 📷 You become better at taking selfies
- 🎠 Taking photos of you in cool places with you in the picture is much more difficult! But the plus side is that you can do this.
- 🎺 Although peace and quiet are nice, I do like to process my surroundings by talking about them with someone. If you’re like me, the plus side is that you can do this instead.
- 😶🌫️ It can be lonely sometimes, especially as social creatures wanting to share special moments with others but I did find that it encouraged me to create more opportunities to meet new people.
- 👁 Safety is always a concern whilst running around solo, maybe more so than when travelling in groups. I take several actions to help me feel safe, but generally just being vigilant and sensible has been enough. Tip: trust your gut, always!
My solo travel experience and learnings 🛸
Typing that feels surreal! I almost don’t believe myself even though I have photos to prove it. 😆
Every single day presented an opportunity to not only explore an unfamiliar place but also to learn something about myself (and I DID! So much!)
The biggest learning for me was the realisation that I’m actually pretty good at connecting with people. This might seem very obvious to others, but I only really saw it when I found myself making friends with strangers and building mutual trust quickly.
Whilst I naturally found myself surrounded by some great folks on the road, there were moments of being completely alone. Those were the moments I needed to process big life spirals and…there were a lot! But it was in the days of silence that I also learned how much connecting with others is an important part of my life’s why.
I lost that in the pandemic and had so much pent-up energy to connect. Maybe that is why I was genuinely captivated by all the people I met, and they also found me at the very least chaotic and interesting. 😝
Fun fact: most of these friends I made on the road are people I still maintain a relationship with even when I’m not physically there. My view on relationships, in general, has drastically changed since this period of my life but that is a whole separate blog post, maybe one for next time! 👀
Another learning was the realisation that even though there is a lot of bad out there, there is also a lot of good. Growing up with a more fearful stance of the world probably led me to become more anxious about everything. With every trip, I’ve slowly been moving away from that view and it’s so freeing!
As three is the magic number, my third learning is that… I can fucking do anything I want, even big scary things like this! It just takes one single step.
What next? 🌄
The plan is to keep solo travelling and embracing a digital nomad lifestyle.
Misery is the easiest option.– “That’s just life” blog post
Unfortunately in a post-Brexit world, this is a bit more difficult, especially with movement around Europe. Adapting to the 90-day in, 90-day out rule has been interesting so far, but something I don’t want to do forever. With that said, I’m planning to try this a few more times before committing to a longer-term stay somewhere.
When people comment on how I’m “glowing”, I respond with “do you want to know the secret?”
They lean in and say, “Absolutely, tell us!”
I say, “Freedom”
Although the details of the future are blurry and feel very uncertain and unstable, I’ve proven to myself yet again that sometimes taking big leaps of faith makes me better and can be the thing that improves my life and overall happiness. The latter has certainly been the case!
Eventually, as I continue to write my story, this arc will make more and more sense in future chapters. I’m sure of it! 🔭
🧲 The title of this blog post is a lyric I love from this song I’ve been overplaying recently.