Okay so last year I did something
crazy different. It’s no secret to many of you that I quit my job, moved 5000 miles away from London and lived in Nicaragua by myself for a few months. As drastic as it seems, I never really thought of it as a big deal until I arrived. Hence the reason why I did very little prior research, about the implications of travelling by yourself for a long period of time. Now my situation was unique to most travellers in the sense that I was not travelling from place to place, but decided to make a ‘life for myself’ in the city of Leon. Now don’t get me wrong, there were many fun moments , but as much as I hate to admit it, at many times it seemed as if the bad outweighed the good. So to help you avoid making the same mistake as me before you jet set on your ones, or if your just curious to the idea of travelling alone, here are my personal 5 downsides of travelling alone.
You can experience a whole new type of boredom that you never knew existed
Okay let’s set the record straight. I love my own company, I really do. HOWEVER, when you have 12 weeks to be by yourself, there’s only so much of listening to your own voice one can take. The first 2 days didn’t help either as the choice of hostels in Masaya were not solo traveller friendly. I probably said about 10 sentences in 48 hours.
After that, it got more exciting as I was hostel hopping every 2 days, meeting new people every second that I was even spoilt for choice on what do to. However by the time I moved to my new home in Leon that changed. I didn’t know anybody and it seemed as if everyone knew everybody. It was the ‘new girl at school’ feeling. People were friendly at least, and I was lucky enough to be invited out a several times after work shifts. But on a day to day basis, at least for the first month, I was bored as f*ck.
So, if you’re thinking of doing solo travel, it’s best to be moving around and see lots different of places. Staying in the same place for a long period of time may not be so ideal. Once you’ve seen all the monuments, visited the local eateries, bars and clubs, what left is there to do?
Anyone wanna be my friend? Please?
Now, the previous problem numero uno is linked to problem number two. Part of the reason why I was bored was because it took a while to actually make any friends. My boredom made me I become obsessed with the idea that I needed friends, and I that i needed them NOW! Some of my all time lows include practically begging a friendly member of staff at the local ice cream parlour to hang out with me, and “jokingly” interrogating a girl that I had only met a week before of why she didn’t invite me to the beach. By the way, when I say friends, I’m specifically referring to the local people. Making foreign friends was a piece of cake. I met some pretty awesome Americans (there are so many Americans in Nicaragua). But I wanted to make Spanish speaking friends so I could practice, and because most of the American people I met where only in Leon for a limited time.
I would generally consider myself a pretty sociable person. Back home, I’ve never really had much of a problem meeting people. But when I began to think about it, I never really had to work hard to meet people due to the situations I was in. In secondary school, college, university and at work, you’re placed in environments where you were bound to meet people naturally. But what happens when you move to an entirely new place by yourself and you don’t know anyone. Let’s also add a language barrier on top of that scenario. That’s basically what I had to deal with.
I remember going to a park and sitting down by myself, watching other people talk to each other and feeling envious. It sounds silly, but I really was. To add fuel to the fire, I remember meeting a girl who told me she made some friends in that exact same park the previous day. Thus I started to wonder, what I am doing wrong? I’ve sat here for hours and I haven’t met anybody! I must look too intimidating!!! The days turned into weeks and I still hadn’t made any Nicaraguan friends.
Then I started to realise that in my own country, if I saw someone sitting alone, what are the chances that I am just gonna walk up to them and say “hi”. You can’t force friendship like that. Friendships take time and happen naturally. The more I stopped over thinking every action of how to meet people, the more I began to appreciate my time and meet people naturally. Moving abroad alone was the first time I realised that meeting people outside of work/educational settings can be tough. More often than not, especially if you’re a girl, the people who approach you for ‘friendship’ are creeps who certainly don’t want friendship!
But at one point, I was so desperate to make Spanish speaking friends so I could practice, I was talking to ABSOLUTELY anybody! This led to me ending up in some pretty dangerous and on some occasions, life threatening situations, that I’ll dwell into further in a later post. But for now let’s just say that, ‘a friend’ had invited me to his 28th birthday party and it turned out that I was the only dam person invited.
The likelihood of street harassment is off the roof when alone
I’m gonna keep this part short and sweet because I still have not come to terms with the psychological effects of being harassed by men on a daily basis. As a young black women, with big curly hair travelling in Nicaragua, I was the definition of the total opposite of the type of foreigner local men where used to seeing. Everywhere I went, I was hissed at, shouted at, and at times touched VERY inappropriately by random men. I noticed that the likelihood of attracting such unwanted attention was significantly less when I was in a big group, but almost unnoticeable when I was with a man. The whiter and taller the man, the easier is was for me to get by! Lets just say Leon would make a great place for someone to do an ethnographic Phd dissertation on misogynoir in Latin America.
Mental health is real
I wrote a diary on my phone to keep track of my daily thoughts. Each one of them sounding just a bit more depressing than the previous one. My mental health really suffered so much in Nicaragua. This is a combination of all the factors I’ve already discussed above. With the time difference making it difficult to have meaningful telephone conversations with friends at home, many times I was just left to delve into my thoughts myself, which became increasingly negative each day.
Nicaragua marked the beginning of my social anxiety, that became even worst when I moved to Spain. In short, this composed of me being extremely afraid to talk to strangers and walk alone in public. I even avoided talking to street vendors. Keeping your mental health stable whilst abroad is also a serious topic that deserves a post on its own.
You don’t have the luxury of choosing who you share a room with
I cannot stress enough how much this affected me. I’m an easy going person don’t get me wrong, but I cannot tolerate people who think that it is okay to be sharing a room with others and have sex with someone in that same room whilst others are sleeping. I knew my mental health wasn’t in the right place for the mere fact I didn’t say anything each time it happened. I endured countless nights of listening to a roommate having sex with another roommate.
I lived in shared accommodation provided by my WorkAway host for nearly 3 months. During this course of time I was rooming with all sorts. Some really nice, other down right two faced b*tches. There were two of them in particular who at first, my naive self had though we were all getting along pretty well. So well, that we all even tried to get body piercings done together (thank God the shop was closed!). Then they all suddenly decided to move out of my room in the middle of the night, and as far as I’m concerned convinced another new potential housemate to do the same.
I think that was my first mental breakdown. I felt as if I had no friends, my social anxiety was off the room, I was lonely and now at 2 am in the morning, all of the girls in my room had decided I wasn’t cool enough to live with and moved out into the room next door in the middle of the night!
If I had the been travelling with others I knew, I would’ve considered renting a flat as splitting the cost would be easier. But I didn’t have such a luxury. I battled all of these issues by myself. With that being said, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
In other words, I am certainly not writing this post to put anyone off from travelling abroad my oneself. In fact, I actually aim to encourage as many people to do it! It has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone and experienced many things that I had never thought I would ever experience. As tough as some of these times may have been, I have no regrets. It has really matured me to the woman I am today. I thank God for keeping me resilient throughout every moment.
Would I do it again though?
No. Once has been enough. I’m still trying to recover from all the sh*t I went through.