I started planning a gap year which I hoped to take after 6th form, at 18, where I hoped to work for a few months and then travel to multiple countries for a 6month period. Unfortunately this idea did not receive much support from my African parents, and I went directly to university. I then planned for a trip directly after university, but was informed that finding a job should be my top priority. Although it took me about 6months to find a job, I was once again unable to fulfil my travel plans.
After my training contract, between jobs, I gave myself a strategic five week break, where I decided to finally visit the first country that was on my travel list – Thailand. As it was such short notice, I could not find anyone who would join me, but I resolved that this would not be another reason I did not go. I jumped on a flight to Bangkok, arriving in country with a hotel booking for a two night stay, and as the traveller I aspired to be, decided to figure out the rest as I went along.
The top 10 lessons I learnt from this experience:
1. If we can perceive it, we can achieve it – visiting Thailand was just a dream for so many years. Having that warm humid Thai air engulf me as I walked out of the airport was a dream come true.
2. We can learn a lot from cultures that are different from us – I loved how friendly and helpful many Thai people were
3. The media rarely gives a full picture of places – sometimes the media has a tendency of showing a narrative of certain parts of the world. The reality can be more complex and surprisingly so. I was surprised how modernised many parts of Thailand are.
4. Flexibility enables us to take advantage of unexpected opportunities – having loose plans enabled me to connect with a group of travellers who took me out and taught me how to drive a scooter which enhanced my mobility around Thailand, and now – in other places around Asia.
5. There are good people everywhere in the world – Thai people are some of the friendliest and happiest people I have had the pleasure of seeing
6.It’s ok to have dreams that are different from the people around you. Your kinda people will come along during your pursuit – once I was on the road I met so many other people that were also travelling solo who had been doing it for longer and had many tales to tell from far flung destinations
7. Going out of one’s comfort zone has the possibility of expanding the zone itself– once I started talking to strangers, it became easier to connect with new people.
8. What we consider ‘normal’ is context and place dependent – one can try a number of creepy crawlies such as spiders, scorpions, snakes, worms and cockroaches in Thailand
9. Trust your instincts – our 6th sense has a way of letting us know when something smells fishy. It is then up to us to listen or ignore it.
10. Things are not always as they appear – I visited Tiger Kingdom and had photos taken with some of the tigers there. From the outside it looks like the scariest thing one could do – the reality is these tigers are not only domesticated, they are also heavily sedated and therefore the risk of harm is very low.
Comment below to share where you went on your first solo trip and top take away from the experience.