There’s a lot of assumptions about the average solo traveler; we’re fearless in our endeavors, loners at heart, and lovers of adventure, right? While all of these things may very well be true, there’s more to our mentality than people think. While others admire our independence, sometimes we long for the day when our friends get serious enough to travel with us. Even though we love the ability to change our plans without the approval of a group, there are times we wish for the luxury of splitting the cost between other people. To most, the solo traveler is thought to have a completely different level of autonomy, but we, too, cycle through our fair share of concerning thoughts much like those who only travel with friends and family.

‘Hmm, can I afford that?’
Imagine being halfway across the world with two friends and no money. Now imagine how nerve-racking this is if you are halfway across the world by yourself with empty pockets. Yeah. Traveling in a pack definitely has it’s financial perks. You have someone to spot you (hopefully) if you can’t fit the bill, and if it just so happens that all of you are broke, well hell, at least you’re broke together. As a solo traveler, I’m all for outlandish fun and spontaneity, but I definitely don’t have an endless supply of cash. I make sure to have somewhat of an idea of how my money will divide throughout the duration of the trip so I don’t end up penniless halfway through.

‘How safe is (insert activity) in (destination of travel). Let me see what Google says…’

At fist thought, bungee jumping or trying Ayahuasca in Peru sounded like music to the ears of my inner dare devil (don’t tell my mama that, though), but the last thing I wanted was to wake up in a ditch by myself with a pounding headache in the middle of Lima after a night trying psychedelics. There are so many scams and faulty regulations that tourist face while abroad, and I usually weigh the dangers of doing an activity solo as appose to having a travel partner. If I come to the conclusion that it’s too risky to try without someone to account for me, I 86 it. I luh my life, I can’t have folks flying across the world to come look for me.

‘Should I talk to those people. Hmm, well they seem kinda… Ooo, wait, they just smiled at me. “Hi, I’m Olivia…”
Me and my friendly ass. Or maybe it’s the excitement of being in a whole new environment other than my own. Whatever the case, it’s human nature to want to merge with others in some form or fashion, and solo traveling gives me this sudden urge to show my extroverted side. It’s pretty dope making friends with people from all over the world.

(Gasps) ‘A Black person!’ (fights urge to wave estatically)

Now, this one is specifically for the solo, Black traveler, (or for any Black traveler especially if you’re in another country where you are no where near the majority. I firmly believe Black people all around the world are connected by spirit. Each time I saw a Black person in Thailand, we exchanged that unspoken, universal, “I-see-you, boy-am-I-glad-to-see-you, stay-Black, keep-your-head-up, we’re-in-this-thing-together type of smiles/looks.

‘Please…please don’t run off with my camera.’

When you don’t have a friend to snap photos for you,  there’s not a lot of options other then to ask a stranger (unless you have a selfie stick of course, but we want the full body picture and the background, right?) Each time I give my camera to a stranger for a photo opp, I was hoping they didn’t hit a 4-flat and take off with my goods. Sounds silly, but hey…

‘Wait, am I at the right place? Oh God, I think I’m lost.’
When I think about it, it’s kind of fun being lost with close friends. Being lost by yourself? Not so much at first. This happened to me in Bangkok when I tried to take the bus to the zoo and ended up in the middle of some random market with a dead phone. (I am the QUEEN of letting my phone die at the most critical moments.) I tried asking around for directions, but speaking Thai isn’t exactly my strong suit. So then I thought to myself…

‘Eff it. I’m here, anyway. I’ll just explore.’

It turns out, I ended up at Bangkok’s Chuthuchak Weekend Market where I bought the most awesome souvenirs and food. Most of the time, I’m not rigid with my plans unless I absolutely want to do something. I go with the flow, so whether I get to my destination or I end up somewhere else, I like to think of it as a part of a bigger plan.

‘Man, I wish (name of loved one) was here to see this with me.’

Traveling solo is fun, no doubt, but there are many times throughout the trip where I see something that reminds me of a friend or a family member. Almost everywhere I went in Thailand reminded me of Nigeria, and I kept wishing my mom was with me to experience it. I watched a live Muay Thai fight, and even though I was beyond hype the whole time, I kept thinking about how cool it would’ve been if my cousins were there watching it with me.

I have to say, traveling one deep really isn’t as scary as people make it out to be. I wander around unknown countries with wide eyes, bouncing through the streets like a kid on the first day of a new school year. Honestly, I think others fear for me more than I fear for myself, but I, too, have some concerns around going alone. The possible dangers of being a tourist in a foreign country do run across my mind because I think it’s important to be aware of them. I don’t let those fears or “what-ifs” hold me back, though. Besides, without a friend or family member to fall on socially, I am forced to be fully engulfed in and attuned to the beauty of the world around me. And that’s the joy I find in exploring the world solo.

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September 17, 2016

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