My name is Gabrielle, I am a travel nurse in a travel health clinic and a blogger. I did my first solo travel when I was 18 years old, I was waiting to turn that age to be able to travel for the first time. I celebrated my birthday on May 22nd and two days later I was on the plane, much to my parents’ dismay! I left with a friend in Western Canada. The following year, I wanted to go to Europe with an old friend, who ended up cancelling a month before the departure. This is the moment where I had to choose between leaving alone or stopping myself from travelling because I had no one to go with. I didn’t hesitate for long. I think this is the moment in my life where I decided that I wouldn’t wait for anyone to travel!
Ecuador was a big revelation. Ayampe (Ecuador), where I surf a lot, it is an amazing surfing spot! In Asia, if I only could choose one, it would be Malaysia.
Malaysia, because I didn’t know what to expect at all. I had no preconceptions about this country. I arrived there during Ramadan, I didn’t know how my trip would go during this time. I was really impressed by the kindness of people and their welcoming. People are what touched me the most during my stay, the landscapes are gorgeous, but it is really their welcoming which marked me the most. India as well, but I wasn’t alone. I knew what people who go there love or hate, I knew it is a colourful, intense country, but I was still surprised, and still had cultural shock after cultural shock. Even after a month and a half, a lot of things were still surprising me. I would love to go back!
Since I have been travelling alone for a few years, there is less this “challenge” aspect, but I remember my first solo trip, when I came to the airport to go home, I thought “Wow, I really did all of that on my own?”. What a source of pride! It gave me confidence in myself, I was proud, and I still am, to have been able to manage everything by myself to this degree! Travelling solo also allows one to develop good adaptation skills, because we are on our own, so one learns to trust oneself.
Clearly it gave me confidence in myself, I am a lot more confident in my skills and capabilities. I think I can do (almost) everything I want!
I think it is a mix of all these experiences. When I left for Nepal on my own, which was three years ago now, I went solo hiking with a Nepalese guide. It is where I really saw all the wealth that travelling alone could bring me. I wasn’t staying in the popular accommodations, I was immersed in the local population. It’s not like a tour group, where the contact with locals isn’t the same at all. I had amazing discussions with locals, thanks to the guide who was translating, with women, with people who had suffered from the 2015 earthquake…This is really the trip which touched me, and it would have been very different if I hadn’t been on my own, I wouldn’t have had this privileged contact with the locals. I think that locals in general are less open to big tour groups than to solo travellers, which is understandable. I find that it brings me more benefit to have this contact with the local population, to see how they live and behave, I am more immersed. When we are alone, we need human contact, to communicate, to bond, something that we need a lot less when we travel accompanied.
I think it depends on how one views life in general! Everything can be dangerous, according to some points of view. I can very well have an accident on the highway while I’m going to work. It’s the same thing when I travel, I can be confronted to problems, but like everywhere. There are risks, but if one prepares well, if one respects certain things, when it’s done right, meaning when one adapts, in terms of clothing or behaviour, I don’t think it is dangerous. For example, in Malaysia, there is a dress code to respect, and it was Ramadan, so I was the one that needed to adapt.
I think we must talk about it! We need to spread the word, to show that others do it! This is what I try to do with my blog, and what you guys at NomadHer are trying to do with your app. I find it awful that some women still tell me that I am brave to travel solo, that they would never dare to do so. But why? You don’t want to travel because you’re on your own? Why wait for someone? To sum it up, I think we must talk about it as much as possible.
My trip in Panama. I wouldn’t be able to explain what happened, but it wasn’t working! I had one problem and stroke of bad luck after the other, nothing was going well! I kept missing buses; I had a severe allergic reaction when I got stung by a spider; when I arrived I learnt that two tourists had gone missing and that the entire country was in turmoil, which was very stressing; I arrived in a street where I saw armed men fighting…Misadventures, every day! In the end I became anxious and didn’t enjoy the trip. It didn't change my way of travelling but after that I went to Costa Rica, where I had already been several times, and which I know well, because I needed a trip that would go well.
First thing, adapt. I travel to discover a new place, to experience and see new things and to immerse myself in a new culture. To me, this is the very essence of travelling, and I don’t really understand those who don’t try to fit their destination when they are abroad. Henceforth, a logical following is to adapt one’s clothes, don’t wear a mini skirt because it’s 35°C (95 °F) if you are in a country that would see it as provocative. When I hesitate about what is appropriate to wear or not to wear, I observe the local women. Then, preparation. I don’t really prepare my itineraries, but I prepare a lot the cultural aspects, I know in broad outlines what I want to see and do. I take the time to read and inform myself, and I’m a travel nurse, so I stay alert on what is happening in other countries. Even governments’ recommendations, which can be alarmist, give a peep of what is happening or what can be complicated to deal with in other countries.
Also, look confident, even when you're not! Having a map of the city wide open and a lost look can make you look vulnerable. When walking around, look like you know where you're going, even if you don't!
Finally, you must be able to listen to yourself and to say no. It sometimes happened to me to have an entire program planned for a day and to think, waking up in the morning, “I’m not feeling it, I don’t want to” and to do something else entirely. You must follow your rhythm and your instinct and must listen to yourself. Travelling must be enjoyable!
I can’t choose one! Maybe Malaysia, because I met a lot of locals very curious to see me travelling alone, which allowed me to have a lot of contact with other women.
Don’t hesitate to go! If you want to do it, if the desire is there, you must listen to yourself and go! At least try, and don’t limit yourself because you’re on your own!
More about NomadHer :
NomadHer is an app for female globetrotters to encourage solo travelling safely. NomadHer has a vision of empowering women through travelling.
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