My travel nightmare

Travel nightmare in Africa

(Now you can actually listen to the blog post if you prefer!)

Visa Issues

Traveling can easily become a nightmare, especially when visa issues arise and you are all alone in a new country. When I reached my sixth month of traveling I was ready to throw in the towel and go back home. Every kind of disaster imaginable had happened during these first months. Not counting how it all started, I had been so ill and physically weakened, I had lost my passport and visa in a country where I was completely unknown, spent ten weeks at a hostel not being able to do anything but worry and question all of my life decisions that had led me here. Furthermore, I had lost a ton of money and all of my confidence. What a f*cking mess.

 

During my ten week isolation and passiveness period, locked inside a hostel, somebody reminded me that I chose to be here in this situation. I wanted to tell that person to take their philosophy and shove it up somewhere… I had not left my whole life behind only to lie down and do nothing, or had I? I could feel my two sides struggling within, the one who told me to rest and trust the process versus the one who got anxiety from the non-existent plan and all the very much existing problems. Those ten weeks were the hardest. Sitting in the unknown. Not knowing when or if it would be resolved. Not being able to judge the severity of the situation I was in. No joke, that period almost crushed me. Any and every bad habit or toxic coping mechanism that I have ever embodied at some point in my life resurfaced all at once. I will spare you the desperation expressed on my diary pages, let’s just say that if I ever wanted to try some shadow work, the timing was God given.

 

When something finally did happen to resolve my situation it was me, I was the thing that happened. I woke up one day, powered by a wholly wrath that I’d never felt before, and told everyone that we are fixing this today. Within 12 hours I had my passport back in my hands and after 24 hours I was back in Mozambique waiting for the bus to take me to Tofo. I cried with relief. It was empowering to know I was the one who saved me, but I also felt silly for letting it take me so long. Maybe that was the lesson of my 10 week isolation. That I am the power, the enabler, the destroyer, the creator of everything that exists in my reality, the good just as the bad. I don’t know, now that I have passed my 1 year mark traveling I can see how important those 10 weeks were, but I did beg the Gods to be done with the hard lessons for a while.

Traveling can easily become a nightmare, especially when visa issues arise and you are all alone in a new country. When I reached my sixth month of traveling I was ready to throw in the towel and go back home. Every kind of disaster imaginable had happened during these first months. Not counting how it all started, I had been so ill and physically weakened, I had lost my passport and visa in a country where I was completely unknown, spent ten weeks at a hostel not being able to do anything but worry and question all of my life decisions that had led me here. Furthermore, I had lost a ton of money and all of my confidence. What a f*cking mess.

 

During my ten week isolation and passiveness period, locked inside a hostel, somebody reminded me that I chose to be here in this situation. I wanted to tell that person to take their philosophy and shove it up somewhere… I had not left my whole life behind only to lie down and do nothing, or had I? I could feel my two sides struggling within, the one who told me to rest and trust the process versus the one who got anxiety from the non-existent plan and all the very much existing problems. Those ten weeks were the hardest. Sitting in the unknown. Not knowing when or if it would be resolved. Not being able to judge the severity of the situation I was in. No joke, that period almost crushed me. Any and every bad habit or toxic coping mechanism that I have ever embodied at some point in my life resurfaced all at once. I will spare you the desperation expressed on my diary pages, let’s just say that if I ever wanted to try some shadow work, the timing was God given.

 

When something finally did happen to resolve my situation it was me, I was the thing that happened. I woke up one day, powered by a wholly wrath that I’d never felt before, and told everyone that we are fixing this today. Within 12 hours I had my passport back in my hands and after 24 hours I was back in Mozambique waiting for the bus to take me to Tofo. I cried with relief. It was empowering to know I was the one who saved me, but I also felt silly for letting it take me so long. Maybe that was the lesson of my 10 week isolation. That I am the power, the enabler, the destroyer, the creator of everything that exists in my reality, the good just as the bad. I don’t know, now that I have passed my 1 year mark traveling I can see how important those 10 weeks were, but I did beg the Gods to be done with the hard lessons for a while.

Travel nightmare
Travel nightmare in Africa

Existential crisis in Paradise

Alas, the Gods did not listen, the hard lessons continued. I had been invited to Tofo, a sea side village in the middle of the Mozambican coast, to cover a retreat. A sponsor of the retreat had heard of my blog, seen my work and wanted me to “do something” there. Very diffuse but I was eager and willing. Payment, who needs that when there is an opportunity at hand! That should have been my warning signal to myself. When I get to the retreat it turns out the organisers have not been informed and does not want me there. Oh my goodness. To say that I died a little bit on the inside is an understatement. The humiliation of it all! To have sat 12 hours in a sweaty minibus in order to go work for free in a context where I’m not even wanted. Yohh.

 

I felt like the biggest failure on the planet. I was proper pissed at the sponsor who had invited me but mostly I was angry with myself. Dreams are such a vulnerable space to be in and I had not done my due diligence to ensure the soft reception of them once I put them into the world. It was a horrible lesson to learn but I decided to see it as such, otherwise the missed opportunity would have crushed me. Always get the approval of the main organizer, always get everything on paper, don’t work for free.

 

As awful as the experience was, it triggered a lot of things that I am now grateful for. It made me realize that I had something I wanted to offer the world. From having no clue of what I wanted to do in life, to feeling a genuine joy and curiosity to try my own ideas out. To take up space for real. To be seen and heard. It also made me remember that I LOVE a good day party. And that shame dies when you dare to speak and address whatever it is to an empathetic listener. I decided then and there to give myself grace. What I mean by that is that I started to accept that I have no control over the lessons life has in store for me or how messy it is going to be… but I can make every effort to give myself grace, chose what brings me joy and bring out the beauty in the small, everyday steps.

 

It can sound silly and fluffy but I am telling you, it has made all of the difference. I started taking soft walks in the morning thinking that moving in the physical might eventually catalyze the energetic movement in my life that I was envisioning. After my third week in Tofo my body started running. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the beach dogs that had kept me company every morning on my walks. They are called the Ambassadors of  Tofo and are huge dogs that run around freely. Not all of them are kind so I would recommend you to be intuitive and attentive when you interact with them.

Come rain, come shine, always woman first

Traveling solo as a woman is the absolute best decision I have taken in my life. I did my first solo trip when I had just turned 20 years old and was accepted to do an internship in South Africa. Solo traveling makes or breaks you I believe. For me it has forced me to be comfortable in the unknown but it has also made me more confident and assertive in what I believe in. Solo traveling as a woman has disproved and busted so many of my fears, prejudices and internalised definitions about myself and the world that doesn’t actually serve me.

 

Solo traveling has in many ways set me free in how I identify and relate to myself. But it has also shown me how very gendered the world is. Solo traveling as a woman can in many ways be exhausting. I have become hyper vigilant whenever interacting with authority like the local police. Too many times the fear of rape has crossed my mind when I get stoped in the middle of the night by an officer who first takes my passport and then asks for my number in the same sentence. The power abuse in this situation is completely ignored by the officer who sees no problem in asking for a bribe, a date and accusing me of a crime while cheekily asking for a kiss and if you have a local boyfriend yet.

 

Tofo was probably the epitome of this phenomenon where my gender is a problem. So much so that I almost called this blog post “Two months in paradise, a hostile experience”. Here it wasn’t the police harassing me but the local boys and young men. April is low tourist season in Tofo and perhaps that can help explain the intensity and amount of unsolicited, quiet aggressive pursuits of  attention from what is locally known as “Beach boys”. The term is (derogatorily) used to describe the group of young, local men who work or associate themselves with tourists. They either meet the tourists’ as instructors, guides or bartenders. Or they hang around on the beach trying to get lucky. Common trait is that they use their personal relationships with tourists for economic gain.

Travel issues visa nightmare
Trouble traveling

Some people call it prostitution. Others call it capitalism and life. However you may define it, I hated it. The amount of attention, the demand to give, respond, finance, never ended in Tofo. It got exhausting to go out in the evenings because of the amount of No’s I had to say. And how firm I had to be. It is not just that it takes a lot of energy to navigate, or that I am always having to fight my impulse to be a good, nice girl instead of being rude when necessary. It is the fact that underneath the gendering roles we play in the mundane, is the pressence of violence.

 

One night I got a call from another female traveler. We had met a few times in Maputo and had decided to meet up when we were both in Tofo. “Julia I am so sorry to call you at this hour I just don’t know what to do!” The panic in her voice was evident. She tells me how she had followed a drunk girl home but how her boyfriend now was insisting that the drunk girl should go home with him. “I can’t do it Julia. She is so drunk and he is scary. He got mad when I said I was taking her home, saying I need to watch myself here, that he knows everyone here…” The fear is present. I swear under my breath. Just a few hours earlier we had been dancing and drinking under the stars together and now she was filled with fear.


I rushed to the owner of my hotel and explained the situation. She allowed me to borrow the truck and one of the staff members to go look for my friend. After 15 minutes of driving out into the darkness we find the two girls carefully looking out from a gate. They are so grateful and relieved and my friend cannot stop thanking me. We ride back to her hotel on the backside of the truck looking up at the stars. I take her hand, squeezing it tightly as she apologizes profusely for interrupting me and feeling like she did something silly out of nothing. “Always call.” I look her dead in the eyes and say it again. “Don’t feel stupid. You’d feel really stupid if you were dead. Always call.” She nods, a bit baffled by my serious answer. But that is how I felt.

 

After dropping them off at their hotel and waving goodnight it hits me, who would I call if I needed to? In South Africa I have a solid network of women who love me and who would drive out in the middle of nowhere if I needed it. They have done it before. Here, I am very much alone. Looking over at the driver, I am reminded again that I, in many ways, exist at the mercy of others. Coming from a hyper individual society, this insight is therapeutic on many levels but as a woman, it is terrifying. I cannot allow myself to forget, I am always a woman first. As if the world would allow me to forget. 

5 thoughts on “My travel nightmare”

  1. Pingback: Live music in Maputo - The global entity

  2. Monica Andersson

    Jag har lyssnat. Tyckte mkt om att höra dig läsa avsnittet. Kanske för känslan att ha dig nära 😊💗 Men jag tror oxå att jag gillade det av andra skäl.
    Väldigt fint avsnitt oxå. Viktigt innehåll 🌺🌺

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *