I walk out of the train, with my luggage in hand and take a deep breath. For a second I observe the unfamiliar faces, who briefly glance at me but keep in their pace. I observe mannerisms and allow myself to be engulfed by the self-apparent contrasts currently illuminated- a foreigner black women in an unfamiliar place. I inhale with each breath of the new, foreign signs, foreign sounds, monuments and little shops that will eventually become markers and significant points of recognition during my stay. I inhale, the sun, the forlorn and begin to walk to my place of stay, the place that for one week or more will be my home as I explore my new playground.
“So how do you do it? I mean I just can’t fathom how you just pack up and go?”. This is a question and reaction that I have started to become acclimated with, yet still, gives me a jolting feeling of "whoa" paralleled with "wow I guess I do that”(a jolt also goes through my bank account as I’m reminded Sallie Mae is not phased by my constant excursions). But honestly, to answer the aforementioned question, I have realized it's not really a how but more of a "why". And in turn, those "why’s" create my how, my drive, and fuel to be fearless.
My first why: Trust
When you choose to travel solo you are learning to trust yourself without needing to seek approval of others. You are strengthening that intuition, that compass, that voice inside you that deciphers safe from harm; that steers you to a path of unexpected events that could only be properly characterized as bliss. It's that warning shot (oh, I’ve had plenty)to not repeat that same dumb mistake. Personally, I consider it the quiet voice of God and learning to trust that he is continuously guiding me to beauty and abundance. With that being said, I always start off my trips with the affirmation that “I am taken care of and will be lead to the right people” as will be lead to the right people...
Moreover, trusting myself became imperative for me. I usually was the friend, sister, and a person seeking validation and approval to make my next move. I felt I needed a crutch to make my decisions paralleled with a plethora of encouragement. Not to get psychoanalytical, but diving into the unknown has always been scary for me and this is where the beauty of solo travel has created a niche in my life. It fuels me to face the very things I was apprehensive to do; embrace the unknown and trust myself while doing it.
My second why: Self Care
Speaking of trust, the first event prior to me traveling solo, that let me know I was capable of trusting myself and became the catalyst for my first solo trip (Rome, February 2017) was the relationship I was involved in during 2016. It was toxic and I felt I was losing myself constantly trying to seek the approval of my partner at the time. In a desperate attempt to Hold on to whatever self-preservation I had left, I booked a trip to Italy. I can clearly remember my exes words: "you are going to book a trip instead of buying a ticket to visit me?!". I quietly replied "yes". And to this day that was one of the most empowering "yes's" of my life. The relationship soon crumbled after, but I had a trip to look forward to and it was absolutely transformative. Hopefully you the reader- are still with me and haven’t ghosted me yet. This leads me to my second "why"-self-care.
Not only was I investing in the relationship I was in, I had developed a habit of making time and effort for others before myself. Quite frankly, I was cheap with my personal time. Couple that with my career that requires me to put others before myself, without question, of course, I needed to find time for me to invest in me so I could be the best version of myself. This decision to travel and more importantly travel alone required solitude to regenerate, to heal, to reflect and challenge myself to grow. I implore anyone who wants to solo travel to do it unapologetically. You are bound to get remarks that question your level of selfishness for not extending the invite to others, however, I have always viewed solo travel as a love letter to myself that I am worth the distance and I am worth the journey.
My last why: My Blackness
At last, I bring you the reader to my last "why"- my blackness.
Despite obstacles, I have faced as a black woman I have still defied statistics and stereotypes and have been blessed with the privilege of being able to travel. With that said I want to continue to defy odds and show that black woman do travel. We love learning of cultures in the embracing new experiences. We are not the single story often portrayed on television. We are multifaceted and I want to illuminate that in my travels.
All in all, I hope that whoever reads this reflects on the amount of care they are giving to themselves and reflect on their fears whether it is: loneliness, fear of the unknown, and lack of money. Fear not, instead see travel as another way to face those fears, to reflect and invest and grow because you are worth it. Happy travels!
BY: Tolitha Henry