If there’s something unnerving about going out on a limb, it is the fact that you are doing so alone.
Perhaps in many cultures, the African one included, a woman just doesn’t venture out. She is endeared to and defined by communal relationship; ‘mother-to’, ‘daughter-of’, ‘sister-to’, ‘wife-to’ and so forth. When you do travel alone, to far-flung continents, without necessarily being sent there for work, nor an invitation to visit from a resident in the location, you are regarded with perplexity.
As a black woman solo traveller to Phuket and Phi Phi island, I recieved as expected, very crazy reactions. The most weird was on a boat and shared bus to Phi Phi island from Phuket and back.
While at the boarding area at Don Mueang International Airport – Bangkok, I was accosted by a smartly suited Thai lady. I thought she was an airport offical as she asked me in the sweetest voice, where I was going and how long I intended to stay. (You gotta hand it to the Thais, they have mastery of customer service relations).
“Three days only?” she asked somehow surprised.
“Yes, I will spend only three days in Phuket,” I confirmed.
“Well then,.. we have a package for you that will make your stay pleasant,” she responded, while gently leading me by the elbow to the tourism desk, which was located in close proximity to where she stood.
In retrospect, I’m glad she approached me, as I had no plan whatsoever. I was actually banking on an ex-school mate living in Phuket, whom I hoped would be available to jump into my programme, or better still, create one for me. Thanks to the tour official, I had a full-day plan on the Phi Phi islands..a plan that included a boat ride, snorkeling, feeding monkeys and a nice buffet lunch. Well, we did all that, but sadly we didn’t feed any monkeys. Once I arrived on the island, the reactions were crazy. One notably, being made the object of attention; something that turned grown-ass men into giggling whispering twerps.
I got invites to go out, to join guys on beach towns like Pattaya…which was really strange since I was already at Phi Phi island and at the end of the day I would be back in Phuket, another island. I declined all these rushed requests, for the simple reason that I felt these guys viewed me as an exotic ebony femme-fatale in search of some wild kinky adventure.
To an extent, solo trips are great. The downside is that you keep on asking people to help you take pictures of you. Another downside, you never know where danger is lurking, so you avoid any places that would place you in a position of vulnerability.
The upside is that going solo gives you the space to make new friends (as long as they are not giggling whispering twerps), they give you the freedom to follow your own timetable, and observe and interact with people more as you step out of your comfort zone. Some of the most valuable information of a region was gotten just by talking to people who are based there.
Have you ever gone on a solo trip to a far-flung location, and what were your experiences?