Ah, the solo female traveler. The brave, bold and the crazy -for- thinking- you- could- step foot- into- the- world- on- your- own- traveler. I spent 2 months traveling from Guatemala to Cuba! Wowza. All I can say is — be ready. Prepare yourself for a whirlwind of challenges. Proceed with deep, thorough research on the country you’re traveling to.
Be ready to get pulled in by a rush of unfamiliarity, to adapt, to let go of ego, to fight, surrender and for it to challenge all that you’ve ever known. Pain and repression have been dwelling in women’s consciousness since the dawn of time and now it feels like it’s finally being brought into the light. It shines brightly on women stepping into their power and now…we’re surfing this wave of women empowerment baby! Sometimes, I look back and think, holy cow I did that! And the best thing about it? I met so many incredible women who had a similar internal yearning. This yearning to be heard, to roar, to fight. I didn’t expect to meet half as many women as I did along this journey and I’m so grateful because of it. I will say, life likes to show you things that you would rather not face within yourself. But, there’s life, and then there’s YOU, and the only way out of it is through it. Here, are a few things I discovered…
You’re never alone, only as alone as you choose to be
The anxiety shot out of the roof, weeks before this trip. The fear of loneliness had settled in, and questioning my decision to travel solo was something I couldn’t shake. It turns out, you’re never alone! You cross paths with people from all walks of life. Some with similar stories and others traveling for completely different reasons. More often than not, they’re traveling solo too and completely in it with you! Any normal human would say, “Be selective, choose wisely.” (absolutely) You know, that superpower gut thing you can do? Your instincts? Yeah, use it! You’ll need it. But above all, don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with people. Besides, this is where the journey feels the richest and full when you’ve immersed yourself in the stories and lives of the people you’ll meet along your journey.
This is Molly (from Indiana) Luisa (from Brazil), Camilla (from France) three beautiful, strong solo travelers I met at my hostel in Havana. I’ll never forget our nights in Havana together! (majority time dancing and dealing with solo female burdens together)
During my 18 hour layover in Mexico City. The traveler next to me? Well, his layover was 18 hours too, so we decided to stick it out together. This guy was filled with solo adventurer experience and was kind enough to show me the ropes. (he’s from Paris!!) We spent the entire night, wrestling with airport security, (they tried kicking us out countless times) tossing and turning on cold marble floors and praying that we would wake up in time for our next flight.
Martha and Rosy, the kind women that took me in on a night I had planned to stay overnight at the airport. We ended up stopping by a restaurant owned by Rosy’s son, where we shared stories and delicious tacos!
Let go of any expectations
This journey was half filled with expectations and half free flowing. Half to prove to others that I was capable of such a thing and the other, for me and only me. I left the validation partly in the hands of the people around me. This, left me in a perpetual war with myself that I knew I would lose…coming to terms with this is difficult in itself but entirely freeing. The vision may not turn out exactly the way you want it to, it’ll go a complete 180! My journey did. Release any expectations that you have on a certain outcome, how a journey “should” be, what it “needs” to look like. Cut out the expectations, let go, allow and don’t be afraid to step outside of yourself. Surrender to the journey and process, allow it to move you where it needs to. This is where your true story begins.
Not everything is meant for deep understanding
I spoke with a Journalist in Cuba on how the country left me with unanswered questions. Frustrated, that even after the weeks I spent there, I never came to a full grasp of the place. He then said to me, “Perhaps, Cuba wasn’t meant for you to understand” and it was as if all the scrambled lines and dots had finally connected. A rush of clarity hit me! Perhaps, none of it was meant to be truly understood but to be felt and enjoyed. This one was hard to accept because the yearning to understand is a HUGE drive within me. As I came to terms with this, the acceptance slowly trickled down into other parts of my life. I started focusing on the internal element that always felt misunderstood, always felt the need for people to understand, truly understand. We all feel a version of that in this life. Perhaps, like Cuba…not everything is meant to be truly understood, including me. We are in no obligation to make people understand — I’ve found freedom in this.
Be open to re-discovering lessons of the past
You may learn things that you hadn’t expected you would or even go through a space of re-discovering a lesson that you kept tucked away. You know, that feeling you get when you take out an old 20 crinkled dollar bill that you’ve forgotten you left in your denim jeans, and think, “Oh sweet, I have this?!” Yeah, that was me more than half of the time on this journey. It brought out this fire within that I forgot existed. This yearning to create, to dance, sing, to express all that I am in this lifetime. I realized this in the way I was drawn to music that swirled beneath my feet, the tiny dancers that wandered along streets and the unmistakable fire that was begging me to take a look further…
Wherever you are, there you are
This was a big one for me. It doesn’t matter what incredible places you travel to or who you’re with, you’ll always be there with every element of yourself. Often times, parts of yourself that you’re terrified to face. These “outside” things will never be enough to tune out what you’re feeling at your core. Walking the streets of Havana, I was shouted at with, “Chee-na, Chee-na, Chee-na!” (in Cuba’s slightly aggressive way) None of the locals I spoke to believed I was American. This one hit me like a truck, talk about feeling like a fish out of water. And diving deeper into it…these moments led to the discovery of my identity issues that I kept buried inside.
A feeling of displacement that brought me back to elementary school in Oregon. (I was one of the only Asians in my all White classroom) I wrestled this feeling many times along my journey in Cuba, it even led to one of those I-can’t-breathe-someone-please-hold-me-cries. Those moments were nothing short of “excruciatingly painful” but because of it, I’m able to wholeheartedly embrace those parts a bit more now. Look at yourself for a moment and really see what’s going on as emotions resurface. See yourself for what these things really are.
Push through the unpopular parts, the emotions that you’re scared to face, the sheltered elements you’ve shied away from. Allow it to be the gateway to your freedom. This is about fighting and surrendering to the process, realizing that sometimes life gives you not of what you hoped for but of things that your deepest most honest self needed to see…
Traveling solo was nowhere near anything that I expected. It was real! And I don’t say that with a doubt in my mind that it was everything I needed. And, not in the way that you expect it to be difficult –the “missed flights” or my “leaking roof” or even the deep gut wrenching sickness that hit me the last day I was in Guatemala…nope, none of that! It forced me to take a look at myself…truly see all parts I had been neglecting. I’ve finally stepped out of that fog and now in clear air with a lot more to learn and a heart that’s ready for more challenges. I needed to see what it was like in there, to fully appreciate what clarity looks like the moment it steps back into your life.
To the women, I’ve met, thank you for your courage, strength, and willingness to be bold…thanks so much for reading! ❣️
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