Three Reasons Every Professional Homegirl Should Take On A Solo Travel Adventure
I never thought I’d be a solo-travel kind of girl. I grew up quite sheltered, and when it came to travelling, especially on international trips, I was not allowed to explore alone. My first real international vacation was in Jamaica. I was 19 at the time, and the trip included super-supervision. I was limited to exploring the cruise ship we came on, group excursions with family members, and sneak visits to the onboard casino.
“Don’t talk to any strangers and don’t go anywhere, even the bathroom, without a partner. It’s dangerous. You could get kidnapped, solicited...anything could happen,” I was told.
Later in life, I’d read stories and see amazing photos of women taking on the world alone---deciding not to give in to stereotypes or not to wait around for a bae or a travel buddy to find the time or money to take a trip---and I wanted to try it for myself.
It would be more than 12 years, dozens of 5-star group business trips, and several (still) super-supervised family vacays before I’d finally get the courage to travel all by myself.
This past May, I was presented an awesome opportunity to experience the food, culture, and entrepreneurship life as a consultant and freelancer in a small coastal Jamaican town called Savanna-la-mar. I’d never even heard of the place considering most of the people I knew from Jamaica grew up in more well-known tourist locales like Ocho Rios, Kingston, or Montego Bay. I couldn’t miss out---my lodging was covered and I’d be expanding my business contacts and experience---so I confirmed my plans, raised more funds to take care of remaining expenses, tied up loose ends in the States, and hopped on a plane to began my 30-day solo adventure.
It was the best experience of my life to date, and I regretted not taking a solo trip sooner. I’d urge all my professional homegirls reading this to push your own boundaries and embark on a solo trek. Here’s why:
You’ll learn unique lessons on self-discipline, self-confidence, and self-awareness. I knew that since I was traveling alone, I was the only one truly responsible for me. Though I met friends along the way and had an amazing host, I could not always rely on a fellow traveler or local to remind me when to wake up (the time there was an hour ahead of what I’m used to) or how far $1,000 Jamaican dollars would go. I had to research on my own, make a few mistakes, budget accordingly and tap into common sense. I also did not have the distraction of a travel group or other tourists, so I could really focus on me---what truly makes me happy, healthy and whole. I bathe outdoors at Venture River without inhibition, wore my natural curls without feeling self-conscious, and tried authentic dishes like goat-head soup (also known as mannish water) and sweet-potato pudding, a delicious dessert that reminded me of a cross between sweet-potato pie and bread pudding. I walked barefoot in grass where goats and chickens ran freely, and I wore bikinis, crop tops and flip flops without having the extra scrutiny or pressure to look vacation-fab. All of this did wonders for my confidence, and I no longer sweat the small stuff so much in my personal and professional life.
You’ll develop stronger communications, business, and networking skills. I had to adapt to challenges (like monsoon-like rains, flash floods, and random power outages) with emotional intelligence. I also had to rely on my instincts more and utilize my networking skills to get directions, learn about the culture and make new friends while alone. Before this trip, I wasn’t one to just approach a stranger to spark up a conversation, and I liked to stick to my network and the comfort of working from home, which can become isolating. I also use to lean heavily on others to troubleshoot issues with technology or fix things. Now I’m more capable of rolling with the punches of life with ease, discuss more diverse subjects as great conversation icebreakers, and have more patience with technical issues. I also had to be a negotiator because sometimes when a shop owner or local found out you were from the U.S., they’d hike up prices on things. (Gotta love a hustler.) Above all, I became a better listener. Though I have family and friends from Jamaica, the accents of some of the people I met in rural areas can be a bit thicker. People love to chitchat, and it helps to be able to relate simply by being a great listener
You’ll enjoy the enlightenment and peace of alone time. When there’s a power outage you can’t control or things move a bit slower than you’re used to, you’re forced to deal with yourself and your thoughts. You’re forced to get to know the authentic you. This was the best part of the trip for me. Building up a client base, pitching stories, constantly adhering to deadline after deadline, and juggling financial responsibilities on an up-and-down freelance income had been wearing me down mentally. Having that peace---that silence---that only a solo trip can bring was invigorating and helped me recharge. I wasn’t obligated to adjust to other people’s’ preferences, issues or obligations like I’d usually have to on a group trip and I could be the sole boss of how the trip would go, what I would do, and when.
Don’t get me wrong. A good girls’ trip, baecation, or family vacay is awesome, but I urge all professional homegirls to take at least one solo trip this year, whether it’s a stay in a nearby town you’ve never been to or a 30-day international adventure. A solo trip saved my life, and I’m sure it will enrich yours.
Written by Janell Hazelwood
Chief Content Curator & Media Strategist, The BossMoves