The emotions of a solo traveler

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The most common side effect of traveling

The most common side effect of traveling is definitely the constant deep thoughts and never ending reflections. Goodness. Travelling solo can be a daunting task, especially when shit hits the fan. For me, nothing dramatic is up, I’ve just been in my feelings lately. Not necessarily the good ones. I wake up crying, the tiniest thing sets me off and I am exhausted all the time.

Parallel to that, I am currently also showing tendencies of zero bullshit tolerance. Or rather, I have this unyielding need to set boundaries in a way I’ve never felt before. I can’t let even the smallest thing slide. This side of my personality completely surprised me. I am used to letting my people pleasing needs get the better of my boundary setting abilities… but for the past two weeks I am setting boundaries left and right without any hesitation or censorship. It feels both incredibly thrilling, even empowering, can it really be this easy?? But it also feels super uncomfortable as I am sure not everybody likes this side of me. And who am I if I am not liked..? Free?

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Free and human perhaps. In many ways I recognise this grumpier, more firm and secure self from my childhood. A core self that I somewhere along the way in life got used to hiding, feeling shame over, minimising. As empowering as it is to (re)discover aspects of yourself I can’t get over how uncomfortable I feel. All of my feelings are right at the surface for everyone to see and endure. I feel powerless and naked, like my whole inner being is on display for everyone. Staying in a dorm with 10 other women, at a hostel which is constantly buzzing with people and energies from all over the world, is overwhelming right now. And yet, in a space where there is nowhere to hide, I can only surrender to reality. For the past two weeks, I am learning to navigate this new hyper emotional state I am in.

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Sisterhood and hostel life

To my surprise, I have during these weeks been blessed by the uncompromising, unwavering sisterhood of women. Despite being my least charming self, women here at the hostel have gathered in something best described as a protective circle around me. It is the small things, the hand on my back, the looking into my eyes, the inclusion in the everyday routine that has started to take shape here at the backpackers. I started crying when Hadiyah  one morning told me she was cooking breakfast for me. For her it was such a simple thing, for me, who’s been struggling with appetite for too long, for me – it was everything. 

We are a handful of women who are staying at Curiocity for a month or more. Everyone from different parts of the world, with different journeys, reasons and ways of being. I don’t know if they sense my vulnerability or if they actively see the wreck I am and can’t help but reach out a hand… It doesn’t matter. I am absolutely amazed by the sisterhood and care I feel right now.

Last weekend was also spent in the company of strong women. I went to Pretoria yet again to reunite with my old Pietermaritzburg gang: Lerato and Sine. I feel such an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude every time we meet or talk. That we are able to meet like this, years, lives and continents apart, and yet despite this – truly meet. Not just see each other but appreciate, celebrate and lift each other up, wherever we are in our lives. As I sit back and watch these women shining in their light, I conclude that it is a luxury and privilege to be a part of womens’ lives. There is nothing more enriching! The weekend in Pretoria was naturally filled with laughter, a lot of catching up, drinks and adventures. I think I am truly blessed! It would have been so easy to feel lonely on a journey like this, especially considering how everything started… but no, instead these women, known and strangers, show up and give me from their abundance. Yes, I am blessed. I feel held, by the universe and the very women present in my life.

Future: dreams, doubts and purpose

Once I got back from Pretoria to Johannesburg, it hit me. This could be my life. I mean, this is obviously my life right now but this, having access to these amazing people on a regular basis, that could actually be my reality. If I make it. Make what, I am not sure of at all. When I was in Pretoria, I took the opportunity to do a visit at the Swedish Embassy. A family friend is currently stationed there and she was happy to show me around. It felt surreal walking those corridors, saying hello to titles I once dreamed of becoming. Now, I am not so sure anymore. Ever since I saw the finish line of my university studies I have been feeling claustrophobic at the thought of a nine-to-five job. I wonder if that truly is the only way to achieve economic stability. Or are we entering a new era where we are allowed to exist outside of those hamster wheel norms?

Thousand upon thousand of thoughts are going through my head. A lot of doubt as well about the journey I’ve decided to embark on. But I’m also realising that my hyper sensitivity right now is affecting everything. In a weird way I feel like I am two people, one is the emotional mess and the other one is the one observing the emotional state I am in. The observer feels calm, I know at my core that everything is the way it is supposed to be.

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