My overall experience as a Solo Female Traveller

I started to write this post just after my first solo trip to Europe. I’ve now come back to it, 2 years later and after 8 months of solo travel around Central and South America. I’ve grown so much in that time so lets see whether 2020 Nay was right or still had a lot of learning to do.

2020 me: It’s not as difficult as you think it will be to make friends. I’m so much more confident than I thought I was. When you’re put in the situation, you will crack on with it and it really isn’t as daunting as you thought it’d be.
2022 me: I can’t agree more. I’d be inclined to now rephrase the term making friends and call it making acquaintances. It’s so easy to get chatting to someone, become surface level friends and spend a day or two travelling around together. But it’s usually pretty clear from the get go who’s going to be a good friend and who you’ll probably never see again.
Sometimes you just don’t want to do things alone so you’ll do it with someone without really wanting to spend too much time with them and there will also be days where you don’t want to make friends and that’s totally ok, you just keep yourself to yourself and carry on.
But there are also the people who you may not stay in touch with forever, but they’re special and have a big impact on you and your journey. There are also some friends you’ll make who mean everything to you and you can no longer imagine life without – they’re special and not so common, but it happens for sure.
Looking back at my confidence level when I first started travelling is wild. I’ve done a lot of growing and learning in other ways which has contributed to my confidence levels, but I can confidently say, the more you travel, the more your confidence will grow. You realise that you don’t have the time to not just go for things or talk to people. And more often than not, you’re all in the same boat so it’s more a game of who’s going to say hi first.

2020 me: You definitely don’t need everything you think you will – pack the clothes you want and then half it.
2022 me: A heavy bag is not fun – granted I’ve got pretty used to it now and I can definitely manage a heavy bag when I have to, but if you can help it, your life will be so much easier if you pack light and people won’t look at you like you’re insane when they try to lift a bag that weighs a tonne.
If you’re unsure if you’ll wear something, or if it’s something you don’t wear at home, but think ‘It’ll be a great opportunity to wear that whilst travelling’ you’re lying to yourself. Don’t pack it. Pack the things you know you love to wear, things that are comfortable and versatile.
A good rule of thumb is to take things that you won’t be heartbroken over if they get lost, ruined or stolen. These things happen and most likely something will get ruined in the wash, so anything precious – probably best to leave at home.

2020 me: Don’t get too attached to the friends you make, you’ll probably never see them again. But you may also make friends for life.
2022 me: Briefly touching on this one above, I think you learn to know who’s going to be long term and who’s not. And honestly you probably won’t see many people again, unless you see them along the way of the same trip. If you really bond with someone and it’s mutual, you can make sure that you see each other again. It’s always nice to have the option to visit some new countries and have people to stay with!

2020 me: Always turn around. As you’re walking, you take in so much beautiful stuff in front of you, but if you don’t turn around every once in a while you can miss another perspective of what’s there – I feel like there might be something philosophical in there somewhere but who knows.
2022 me: Damn I love this one and I still don’t always do this! The more I see, experience and have delved into my inner self, the more I practice being present in my day-to-day doings, and appreciating the beauty in every thing and moment is part of my re-wired brain. But I do love the way I phrased that – go 2020 Nay.

2020 me: Some people are strange and will ask you to borrow your flip flops – never say yes (who tf does that) this literally happened twice.
2022 me: This one honestly went straight over my head and I have no recollection of what this was in reference to. However, if someone asked me for my flipflops now – context dependant, I’d probably give them away. I’ve seen a lot of how the world isn’t as easy on some and opportunities for what we (western society) see as a standard way of living doesn’t come as easy to many people and places around the world. So a cheap pair of flip-flops to me, are so much more to someone else. My travel budget is tight and I really don’t have a lot of money in my pocket, but if I really needed it I can get money from friends and family. A lot of people don’t have that luxury so where I can, I will always give a little to those who need it.
That may not have been the context of the original comment, but that’s where my heart took me.

It’s funny to think and look back on when I first started out my travels – so much has changed and I’ve grown so much as a person. Travel is truly amazing for expanding your awareness and deepening your perspective on life.

It’s Not All Sunshine and Beaches

If you take the things you see on the internet as real life, you’d think that pretty much everyone is living the absolute perfect life with no troubles, no upsets and always having the best time. In reality this is far, far from the truth in most, if not all cases.

Especially when it comes to travel, I think it’s super important to be transparent and make it clear that although my Instagram may look like a collection of beautiful landscapes, pretty buildings and fun times, whilst these are some of the real and amazing experiences captured on camera – there are so many instances of the opposite nature which aren’t captured, because lets be honest, when I’m lay in bed crying, my first thought isn’t ‘I want to remember this moment, take a picture of me!’.

So this leads me to my honest update of things that haven’t gone so well in my last 7 months of travelling Central America.

Stolen Phone
Surprisingly, this one didn’t overly bother me at the time and still doesn’t particularly phase me. The most annoying fact was that I lost my phone number, and let me tell you trying to access accounts without your number is not an easy feat.
On a beach, out of hours, with 2 friends and a bottle of rum was the recipe for an amazing night. Singing, dancing under the stars with not a care in the world will forever remain to be one of my travel highlights.
I’m an extremely cautious person and not the most trusting of people I don’t know, and this has unfortunately reaffirmed these feelings. When you’re on a huge beach and a random lone person asks if they can hang their hammock right behind you, (when there are about 1,000 other spots that they could hang it) its a little bit suspicious right?
The beginning of this encounter didn’t sit right with me, so generally I kept my distance and continued to just enjoy my night. Unfortunately these kinds of people are opportunists and will put in 4 hours of work to be friendly, watch you closely, let your guard slip and take advantage in those 2 minutes you take your eye off the ball.
More than anything, I’m grateful that he took my phone when he had the chance and things didn’t get ugly. You never know what desperation will cause a person to do, and I can only imagine putting in 4 hours ‘work’ to leave with nothing wasn’t particularly an option for this guy.

Broken ears
I’m usually an extremely risk adverse person and will avoid doing things which could potentially result in injury. A prime example of this being jumping off a 15m platform into a lake.
I know people do this kind of thing all the time and are absolutely fine, but jumping into deep water with absolutely no experience of jumping off anything other than the side of the pool didn’t seem like a good idea to me. And honestly, kind of proved myself right with this one. As fun and exhilarating as it was so say f*#k it and launch myself off said 15m platform, it completely killed me off for about 32 hours afterwards.
My ears were filled with water post jump and once I’d cleared them I thought all was fine and I was now just a bad ass who jumped off a massive platform. Boy was I wrong, I did not feel so bad ass when I was balling my eyes out in pain just a few hours later.

Mid Volcano Hike Panic Attack

I knew hiking up Volcan Acatenango was going to be a difficult feat, especially for someone who isn’t the most fond of walking in the first place. For me, around the half way mark, panic set in. I was finding it so hard and knew the next half wasn’t going to get any easier, and all I wanted to do was give up. But giving up would mean what? Sitting on my own until people came back down the next morning, or walking back down all that way on my own?
Really, the only other option was to carry on and that terrified me just as much. So naturally I had a nice little panic attack (always fun), composed myself, popped my headphones in, and carried on. I definitely didn’t plan on crying so much on the side of a volcano, but I can’t thank the tour guides enough for being so supportive – I genuinely wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.

Broken Phone
Apparently phones and humidity don’t work so well together and my phone decided that it’s charging port wouldn’t function in such weather. It spent a week in a bag of rice whilst I enjoyed life with no phone, but that helped for all of 5 minutes. So the temporary solution ended up being purchasing a wireless charger – just one of many unexpected costs – but the only sure fire fix was to not be in a humid climate. And then all of this became redundant anyway when it got stolen and I had to get a new one. I don’t know if phones bought in Costa Rica don’t face this issue because they’re made different (?) but so far so good!

Missed Flights
Technically this wasn’t so much a missed flight, but more an incorrect flight, but this one killed my soul. What originally cost £60 to fly – a great deal – ended up costing over £300. Between my friend and I, we managed to book the flight in the wrong month without realising until we arrived at the airport ready to leave. With non-refundable accommodation booked, it meant we either took the loss on accommodation and paid for a longer transport option, or took a bit of a bigger loss and bought the last 2 seats on the only other flight option that day. Either way it was going to be an expensive mess up and I definitely had to take a while to mourn the loss of such a big amount of money.
But a reminder – money comes and goes, but memories stay forever.

Second Degree Burns
Apparently regular taxis aren’t used so much in some areas of Colombia and the most effective way to get around is my moto taxi. Now motorbikes aren’t my favourite things, and jumping on the back of a random one to get from A-B really isn’t my idea of fun. But needs must and it was only a 5 minute journey.
The journey itself was fine, I kind of just closed my eyes and hoped for the best (longest 5 minutes ever by the way) but getting off the bike at the other end was apparently the most difficult part. I wanted to get off so fast my logic went out the window and I tried to get off from the wrong side, meaning I burnt my leg on the exhaust.
A pretty common injury, but DAMN did that hurt for the next week, and when I accidentally popped the blister getting off a bunkbed… lets just say it made a mess. Gross.

Bug Bites

In short, bugs think I’m delicious. Mosquitos, no-see-ums, sand-flies, wasps (how you can be attractive to these I don’t know, but it feels this way for sure) and I’m convinced at one point a spider. I’ve had some serious coverings of bug bites in 7 months and I’ve got plentiful scars to show for it.

Being open about these things aren’t to shine a bad light on travel or Central America, as all of these things could happen literally anywhere in the world. But to be open and honest that travel really isn’t all sunshine and beaches, and that you have to expect that somewhere along the line, things won’t go to plan and in some way you’ll lose out or want to cry (or quite possibly both at the same time) but it’s all part of the fun of travelling, part of the adventure.

I’m In My 20s, Put on Weight, and I’m OK About It

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet, well I will try anyway. I just want to share my newfound outlook on weight gain in your early/mid 20s, because it’s actually quite common.

This last year has been hard for everyone in some way shape or form, and every struggle, no matter how small, is valid.

My ‘panoramic’ experience has been filled with ups and downs, of which we don’t need to get into, but a byproduct of all the happenings of the last year and a bit has been weight gain.

Now, as well as broadening my waist size, I have broadened my mindset. And when it comes to weight gain at this age, the one thing that has helped me hold my head high is the following:

I’ve simply grown into my woman’s body.

I would/have found myself constantly looking at pictures from my first years at university, wishing I still looked like I did back then. What I failed to remember however, is that at those points in time i was still ONLY 18. When you finally turn 18 you think yes, this is it, i’m officially an adult. But in reality you can do all of the things adults do but are you really an adult? No not really, especially in terms of body development and especially as a female.

In your 20s more often than not you’ll go through a ‘Second Puberty’ and its TOTALLY NORMAL!! I honestly didn’t know this, but it makes a whole lot of sense. A lot of women begin to really grow into their curves, your metabolism can slow down a little, life changes and your responsibilities increase. You’re not the 18 year old with very few responsibilities anymore and it’s just a part of life, but it’s so easy to forget that life was so different back when you were 18 and the only constant in these different lives that you see, is yourself. Which makes it so easy to focus on how you looked back then compared to now.

Looking at my life and bringing myself back to the fact that i’m growing up, i’ve become a woman and i’m not a girl anymore brings me comfort, confidence and happiness. And as long as i’m comfortable in my own body, happy in the life i’m living and confident in the choices I make, I don’t see ANY issue whatsoever about putting on a little weight.

This is it.

So I’m currently at the airport, checked in, bag dropped and ready to embark on my first (hopefully of many) solo trip. In complete honesty, I’m freaking out a little. I feel so ready to cry but I don’t think it’s with sadness or being scared, I think it’s the excitement just not sure how to get out. 

I’ve sat myself in a corner, wiped down all the surfaces around me (no corona virus here thanks) and the following is an insight into the whole mix of emotions that are currently running through my head:

  • I need to stop the tears, I’m not sad, I’m excited!
  • That bacon sandwich was rubbish;
  • Why doesn’t this airport have a Spoons!? 
  • I can’t believe I’m actually doing this, I’m so proud of myself.
  • I really hope that baby I can hear screaming isn’t on my flight.
  • This is going to be an adventure of a lifetime, what the hell, I’m so excited.
  • Oop gate information is up! 
  • Is it too soon to start eating the sweets I have for the plane ( I’m going with no).
  • How much is too much hand sanitiser??
  • Oh God, more crying babies.
  • I hope I’m sat next to someone nice on the plane, actually who am I kidding, I’ll be asleep before we take off, it doesn’t matter! 

Ahh, that’s it, I’m boarding… Wish me luck!! 

It’s Not As Easy As You Hoped It Would Be.

When you’re going through the education system you have this cliché idea of what your road map is going to look like from here on out. It’s all bright and hopeful, you finish High School, go to College go through the stresses of getting into University and then once you graduate thats it – career time. It’s when you think your life starts. You get a job, you start to work hard to save for a mortgage so you’re able to have dinner parties with friends, begin to accelerate your career and work up the ‘ladder’ and be a REAL grown up.

The reality of all of this, is that when most people come out of university you’re in your early twenties. This was the case for me anyway (and i’m not saying how it went for me is how it goes for everyone) but I know I’m not the only one who’s felt the ways I’ve felt over the past 2 years and I feel like more people should be open about it.

So, my experience. Aside from the odd stress melt down, University was the best 3 years of my life. I made friends, I had fun (admittedly, sometimes too much), I learnt a lot and I met my man. It was a blast.

Then that all finished and I was so excited, I had an amazing job lined up, I got to explore where my career was going to take me and I was ‘growing up’. My life was on track to be just how I imagined it was going to be and I would be following that path on my road map.

It all started wonderfully, I was so absorbed in my job (which I absolutely loved) but about a year in something just didn’t feel right. When I took time to take a step back and really look at the bigger picture it wasn’t all I thought it was going to be.

If I had the chance to go back and talk to my younger self, my advise would be ‘Don’t Rush’. There is no real rush in life, your life is really all you have and you need to make the most of your time on this planet. It’s SO cliché but it’s SO true. It’s always a constant competition, whether thats with other people or with yourself. We strive to get the best grades, and the best jobs so everyone will be proud and impressed with what you’ve achieved. But a lot of the time along the way in doing that you lose yourself, you lose the aim to truly find what YOU want in life and you find that you’re doing what you think you’re expected to do.

At this point in time, I can say the full time job I had is something I want a career in and I can imagine that being the rest of my life – but, I haven’t had the opportunity to go out and actually test that, see what else is out there and find out if that’s what I really want to do.

If I stayed on the road I was on, I can see the great career I would have had, but I know that in the back of my mind I would be wondering. Wondering what else was out there, wondering if this wasn’t actually what i’m supposed to be doing. There’s a whole world out there and people will tell you that you can end up travelling with work, or travel when your older. But it wouldn’t be the same as it will be if I do it now, to be truly free.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m a baby, I have so much time ahead of me and there is no need to feel like I need to settle down and ‘grow up’ right now.

I’ve taken a detour and what lies ahead of me right now, looks so different to what I thought it would and honestly that scares the sh*t out of me. But I am so excited to go and do as much as I can and try as much as I can and meet as many new people as I can and do all of these things. So if and when I do get back on that road, I won’t feel lost, I’ll know that I’ve been out and tried and tested the world before I decide it’s time to settle down, not because It’s what other people are doing or anyone expects me to do it, but because I know it’s time.