A few months back, I made the decision to backpack solo. (A backpacker is basically a cheap traveler) Now, this would not be my first solo trip but it would be the first time I travel through 5 African countries with a just a camera, a laptop and a backpack big enough to fit a baby inside.
Most people, family, friends and people I met along the way out of concern and sheer curiosity made the following statements that I have since decided to debunk in this post:
1. 'You think this is a lifetime experience? One day someone will get you pregnant and you will settle down'
I think this has to be the funniest comment for me hands down. Why are people this way?
Myth: Mothers do not have time to travel
Reality: I may not be a mother but I sure do know lots of mothers that travel with their children. I may not know how they do it but it's definitely a thing I look forward to in future.
2.'Do you really travel alone? Who takes your pictures then?'
Myth: You have to travel with someone to get take cool pictures of you.
Reality: That one person might back out last minute then what? Cancel all your plans? That can never be me. If you want cool pictures ask people with cameras, most likely they are travelers too and will want you to take pictures of them as well.
If you do not like engaging strangers, you can opt to carry a tripod and use a self -timer to capture those fantastic memories.
My favorite trick is to ask people with children, they will not run away and leave their kids behind, ha-ha!
3.'I cannot believe it. Your partner lets you travel alone?'
This came from a young Singaporean man I met when we had gone swimming at the devils pool. Now, everyone was in a group or coupled up. He was there with his girlfriend too and I guess he felt the need to ask why I was solo. He went on to add, 'I can never let allow my younger sisters or my girlfriend to travel alone.'' The fact that he said allow though. Ha-ha!
Myth: Women are not supposed to travel on their own, especially those in serious commitments.
Reality: Solo travel is for everyone and anyone interested in it. What if your partner does not like to travel? We are in the 21st century so I do not see what's this about women not being 'allowed' to travel on their own? What's this? The 12th Century?
4.'You do realize this is a white people's thing?
This came from a Malawian I Met in Lilongwe. He said he had never met an African woman backpacking. He went on to add, 'Look around you Rioba, everyone in this hostel is white, in case you had missed it.'
It's true that most backpacker's hostels I stayed in had mostly white people. Sometimes I would be the only black person. It would be so hard to miss me, what with my Melanin radiating throughout. Ha-ha. Some became my friends, some asked me if I spoke English and others just stared at me.
Myth: backpacking is a white people's thing
Reality: Traveling is for anyone and everyone interested. If you cannot find a group to travel with, go alone. And should anyone stare at you or find you weird? Make the world your runway and shine!! No seriously though. SHINE!
5.'Why are you traveling alone? Are you going through some sort of quarter life crisis?'
Myth: You are going through something or in search of something or are in some sort of life crisis
Reality: Not everyone travelling is starring in 'Eat, Pray, Love'. Some travelers want to experience the feeling of living in foreign cities; others want to know what it's like to be part of a different culture, others go for the food and beaches. Some want to hike up the Mountains like Kilimanjaro or the Himalayas. Simple! Age, heart breaks and soul searching for do not usually have anything to do with travel.
6.'How much money do you make to afford to travel?'
This comment came from a close friend of mine accompanied with 'Were you part of the squad that hacked KCB bank recently?'
Myth: You need to be paid lots of money to afford to travel. If not, you need rich parents or a rich 'sponsor' or brands to work with.
Reality: While the above is the case for some travelers, none of the above applies to most travelers.
First of all, most of us are budget travelers, call us stingy even. The idea is to always look for cheap flights, cheap accommodation, cheap travel destinations, ideally, cheap everything to afford to survive on the road.
I know several travelers give up a lot of things to save up for their travels. They rearrange their lives and make travel a lifestyle.
7.'Wow! You are so brave. Are you not scared? Will you be safe?'
Obviously this is a genuine concern and to be fair I was sort of a nervous wreck when I hit the road. I even contemplated carrying a pepper spray or a gadget for protection such as a Taser. The fact that last year I was in Zimbabwe during the coup did not help my case.
Myth: Travel, especially for women is not safe.
Reality: Most places in the world are not safe. For real, the CBD of Nairobi is like Gotham city.
The bottom line is you cannot stay locked up in the house because there are big bad wolves out there so as to speak.
If you decide to travel alone, you are not supposed to let everyone know you are on your own. The smart thing is to always trust your instincts, meet people in public places and avoid roaming in the dark. You realize these are the same principles we apply in our day to day lives. Nothing changes, the world has people with bad intentions, but also there are also great hearts and beautiful minds too.
8.'How many leave days do you have? Must be a lot?'
Myth: You require lots of leave days to travel
Reality: A lot of free time would be nice but not everyone can afford that. The trick is to plan your leave days strategically at the beginning of the year. By strategic I mean, booking leave around less busy days at work or around public holidays.
9.'Are you crazy? You won't be bored and lonely?'
I will go the Sheldon way and say, 'No, I am not crazy, my mom had me tested.'
Myth: You need to travel with a group of people to have fun
Reality: A lot of factors come in to play when planning a trip with a group of people and most times people do not make it. It comes down to you either traveling alone or not traveling at all.
Traveling solo is not everyone's cup of tea but best believe I have had some of my best experiences of my life through solo travel.
Linda Matama, one of my favorite traveler from Kenya likes to say 'A lot of things scare me, but I do them anyway.
Imagine not seeing this beautiful world because you are scared?
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