This week’s Wander Woman is Tess, talking about her amazing solo adventures in Namibia Africa! She touches my heart for wanting to travel to become a better person all-round. I’m all for that! Let’s see what she’s been up to!
1.Who are you, what do you do and what is your awesome blog about?
Hi! My name is Tess, I’m 30 years young and I blog over at A Life Full of Serendipity. As the name suggests, I’m completely enamoured with serendipitous discoveries. I find the best moments in life happen when you look for something and end up with something that turns out to be so much better. This goes for love, work and of course, travel! Leading a life full of serendipity is awesome!
On my travels I prefer to just get lost somewhere and see what happens, as opposed to planning every detail. My favourite thing is to speak to locals and listen to their stories and learn about their lives. With every encounter, I learn something about myself. To me, there is nothing more enriching than leaving a place a better person than when I first arrived. This is what I try to document on my blog as much as I can, to encourage others to jet off and find what they didn’t expect. I really want to tell you about Namibia Africa today!
2.How long have you been travelling? Where have you been, how was Namibia Africa and what are your future travel plans?
My first time on a plane was when I was 8 months old on a trip to Portugal – my mother’s birth country. The first time I travelled solo was when I was 17 to Queensland, Australia. I pretty much ran away from home to learn English for seven weeks. I was a rebellious teenager – even if somewhat a bit of a nerdy one! But apart from learning a new language, I wanted to see the world and I chose the destination that was the furthest away from my home in Switzerland. I desperately wanted to see kangaroos and koalas!
Ever since then, I’ve been travelling as much as I can. At the age of 21, I was travelling solo in Namibia for several months – I even ended up living there for three years as I loved the country so much! Other than that, I’ve travelled a lot in Europe and Asia. I’ve spent a few months travelling New Zealand not too long ago – which was spectacular! And this year, I’m hoping to make it to Central and South America.
3.Travelling solo can have some amazing benefits: what are they for you?
Travelling solo, for me, is therapeutic. It cracks you open by forcing you out of your comfort zone in a way that you least expect it. Then, it opens your eyes and ultimately, your mind. And before you know it, you don’t recognise yourself any more. Travelling solo shapes you – it brings out the worst and the best in you – somewhere, there in the middle, lies who you really are. I believe you don’t get to that place if you live a sheltered experience in a traditional sense (by, for instance, working 12 to 16 hours a day within a confined space with no natural sun light – as I have done in the past before dedicating my life to travel).
Since I’ve started travelling solo, I have become more confident, more sociable, more tolerant and more patient – in essence, I’m becoming more and more the (better) person I want to be. I have learnt so much about myself and the world. Above all else, I’ve learnt valuable life skills that I didn’t learn at University or in my career.
4.What countries do you recommend for female travellers just starting out?
Travelling solo in Namibia Africa taught me that there is no ‘ideal’ place to ease yourself into. I thought, at the time, that it was a bit reckless to travel to Namibia all by myself. I even camped, in secluded camp sites, with no cellphone reception! The truth is, I felt safer there than in some parts of London or Paris. So, I think I’d say just go where you always dreamt of going and make it work. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else…
I think my best advice I can give to female travellers, wherever they may go, is to give that new solo-travelling experience (which can be intense sometimes), two to three weeks. Travelling is like a habit – and if you don’t allow yourself to get used to it, and quit before you even tried, you could miss out on incredible experiences! The same applies to getting used to a country. When I first arrived in Namibia Africa, I hated it…the rest is history. Basically, it boils down to this: Don’t let fear dictate any decision in your life!
5.How do you stay safe on the road? Do you have any tips for happy travels?
Before I travel to a new country, I make sure to inform myself about the do’s and dont’s. Firstly, because I don’t want to attract too much attention and be safe, but also because I don’t want to offend the locals. For instance, in some parts of India, showing too much skin is seen as inappropriately provocative – so, I would make sure to cover up as much as I could. Always remember, you are a guest in someone else’s country and what is ‘normal’ in your country may not be for another culture.
As for travel gadgets: I always travel with a travel door alarm. I absolutely love this little device. If someone was to break into your room, rest assured, the whole compound would be awake. It definitely makes me sleep better at night! Other than that, I just follow commonsensical safety advice that you can find in any Lonely Planet. I also make sure to never get drunk when I know I need to get ‘home’ by myself.
Lastly, and most importantly, I absolutely 100% always recommend, especially if you travel long-term, to have good travel insurance. It may cost a lot but you don’t want to find yourself in the situation where you have to fork out a lot of money for a totally unexpected unfortunate incident. And this goes for more than falling ill. I made the mistake to not have travel insurance that would cover for cancelled flights and activities – when my father passed away unexpectedly, and I had to cancel my trip as a result, I lost one hell of a lot of money. As you can imagine, I really didn’t care in this particular case, but, in hindsight, it would have been wise to be better prepared. Lesson learnt.
6.What is the one thing in your backpack that every girl needs whilst travelling?
I absolutely love my pareo (beach sarong)! There are so many awesome things you can do with it! You can wear it as a dress, shirt, shorts, skirt, shawl, bandana etc. I swear, it’s the must have clothing item in every girls backpack! No matter where you are – you’ll always be ready for an unexpected party or sightseeing trip and always look amazing! Plus, if you spontaneously decide to visit temples or holy grounds, you can use it to cover yourself up. Genius!
7.Has there ever been a time where you thought ‘”#%*!”? What happened and what did you do about it?
I’m the Queen of #%*!, trust me! I’m an utter and total wandering disaster. It’s actually a miracle that I still travel on my own as I’m totally not suited for it. I get lost everywhere I go, I lose my luggage all the time, I get ill in practically every country I visit…But thankfully I’ve almost developed a Zen-like calmness about these situations – it’s another awesome thing that travelling solo teaches you: you learn to suck it up and just deal with troublesome incidents. Sooner or later you are tougher than the chicks from Destiny’s Child’s in the ‘Survivor’ music clip!
Once, I fell ill with pneumonia while trekking in Nepal. I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with no medical assistance in sight. Thankfully I had an awesome first-aid kit with lots of useful meds, but I soon realised, that I needed to see a Doctor as soon as possible. Long story short, I got the medical help I needed and recovered pretty swiftly. Of course, I was worried – but I found that as long as you focus on a ‘solution’ as opposed to the ‘problem’, you’ll always find a way to get the help you need. Deep breath in, adjust that crown, and show the world what you’re made of!
8.Is there anywhere you want to travel solo as a woman but feel you can’t?
I travelled to India for five weeks but mostly not alone. And I was glad I didn’t. I felt travelling with a male companion made the experience much more enjoyable for me. Having said that, I really do want to push myself and give India another try and go by myself. I think I would be just fine. Sometimes we create barriers in our minds because of the negative things we read in the press – but the reality is a different one. So, I don’t really feel there is a country I feel I couldn’t travel on my own to. Well…yes…of course, I wouldn’t travel to war-torn countries with anybody – let alone by myself. Other than that, I think if you inform yourself adequately and follow some guidelines, and most importantly, keep an open mind, I think you can travel pretty much everywhere solo as a woman.
9.What travel experience are you most proud of?
Packing my bags as a young 20-something-year-old to go travelling solo in Namibia Africa! I literally travelled all over the country, by myself, with my tent and camping equipment and the car I had borrowed from my lover – anywaaaay….
Let me tell you, Namibia Africa is probably the most beautiful country I have ever been to (and lived in). Photographs don’t do the place justice. You have to see it with your own eyes. It’s spectacular! Sometimes I would drive for 7 hours before seeing any people – that’s how big this country is. And then, when you least expect it, you have to slow down, because an elephant family is crossing the road…need I say more?
10.What one piece of golden advice would you give to a solo female traveller?
Just GO and kick fear in the butt! Travelling solo is the most rewarding experience ever – you’ll see spectacular places, meet like-minded people that are as fierce and adventurous as you are…and I mean…you only freaking live once, right!? Go out there and see the world. And don’t let anybody ever tell you that travelling is expensive. Normal life is. Travelling isn’t. Plus, you can always somehow make it work. In fact, you can make anything work, if you just put your mind to it! Go forth…the World awaits you!
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