Upon graduating from high school, I took my first trip on my own to New York. Of course, at age 15, I was tagged an unaccompanied minor and the flight attendants were in charge of getting me to my destination and into the hands of my family members. I felt like this was one step to adulthood for some reason. I was travelling on my own without my parents or sibling. This in and of itself may seem a bit scary, but it was exciting to me and was the beginning of several exciting solo trips.
In 2007, I met a friend online. I guess we developed a friendship and we wanted to get to know each other a bit more. Of course I had to make sure he wasn’t a murderer, so I tried to do as many background checks as possible. I decided to do the bold step to visit him in Florida. I was travelling on my own to visit a friend. NOT a family member, not a childhood friend, but a person I had met ONLINE!! I was excited! I was travelling from Jamaica to visit a friend. Of course, my family was a bit concerned, but I assured them that I would be fine.
I found it easy checking in with the airline agents, then going through security and immigration. I purchased relevant magazines and chocolate before waiting at the gate assigned for my flight to Fort Lauderdale. There were all types of people at the airport travelling. Many looked seasoned, a few looked nervous (maybe terrified of flying), others were trying to get their kids to stay put while they figured out their gate number. Others were getting angry because their flight was delayed or an airline agent said or did something that ticked them off. I felt like an observer — like a fly on the wall. This was my first time, and traveling solo made me feel like I was getting the opportunity to see the world, to see a different culture, to experience new people, to share ideas, to gain a world of possibilities. On being called by the agent to enter the plane, I found my seat and started praying. God, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know you are with me. Be with the pilot, be with the crew, and LORD, nuh mek di plane crash!! And so, with butterflies in my stomach, I began my journey.
I’ve travelled several times since then. Most times I’m calm and try to go with the flow. Other times I’m running late and trying to figure out how to run without looking like a maniac. Each time I travel, I try to dress comfortably. It’s not fun running in uncomfortable heels while trying to be the first in the long, winding immigration line. I always try to travel light, just in case there is a delay. I don’t like heavy bags, and since I don’t have anyone travelling with me, I pack almost everything in my checked-in luggage. My essentials for my carry-on are makeup, comb, a pen, sunglasses, credit cards and passport. If it’s cold, I bring a shawl. Very, very light.
I’ve taken the bus from New York to Washington D.C. a couple of times. When I first started this trip, I found it quite different from what I was used to in Jamaica. Everyone had a laptop, tablet, iPod or iPhone. Imagine so many electronics on a bus from Kingston to Spanish Town — this was quite different. Earphones were stuck in almost everyone’s ears. No one spoke. No loud music or preachers on this bus! I did feel a bit lonely at first, but the view was absolutely amazing, and so for four hours I looked out the window. No noise, no distraction, just me and Mother Nature.
I’ve learned to plan my adventures beforehand. I usually Google the places I wish to visit and check directions, admission fees, etc. I usually search ‘Things to do in ……’ Based on my interests, I’ll write down the places I wish to visit. If I have friends in the area already, I’ll contact them and see if they want to join me on the journey. Even though my friends are locals, most times they have never been to that particular spot. They’ve heard of it but never actually took the time out of their schedules to travel. We’re so busy making money that we sometimes fail to see the beauty in our own neighborhood.
But even if i don’t have company of friends, I’m not afraid to go out on my own and take the train or a local bus. I know I have to be careful since there are all types of crazy people out there. But I try to act like a local sometimes. I observe my surroundings and act like I’ve done this a dozen times, even though it may actually be my first time. When I go on tours, I usually meet up with other solo travellers. It’s always nice to meet new people. Friendships form ever so often when you have a common interest.
I love travelling, and I never forget to capture the moments. I have tons of photos stored on my laptop! I usually ask people to take a photo of me while I’m at an event. They are always happy to take a photo of the tourist!
Visiting new places, experiencing a new culture, meeting new friends, observing everything this beautiful world has to offer — this is my adventure, and as I continue to travel solo, I know I’ll enjoy every minute of it.