I came to Africa to let my mind wander. Sure, you may think a trip to Morocco, for this reason, is an unnecessary frivolity, but those of you who get it really get it. And yes, I am highly aware I could’ve gone anywhere else in the world, somewhere closer to Portugal perhaps, but it wouldn’t have been the same. I came to Africa, the sixth continent of what I hope will be a seven continent journey when all is said and done, in search of something not tangible: space. So, it’s probably no surprise when I tell you I flew solo on this one. No noisy roommates coming and going, no needing to coordinate showers and no pants necessary if desired.
After six months, you’ve come to realize how easy long term group travel isn’t. Even more challenging is finding space from 60+ other globe-trotting citizens of the world who you love dearly, but need time away from occasionally. I wanted uninterrupted time away to think about my life direction and see what came about when my mental capacity was freed up and had no distractions.
I didn’t know what, exactly, I would find or write about when I hopped my flight, but I could tell the feels were starting to bubble up to the surface. During my five days in Marrakech, I rode the waves of emotion as they came, welcomed the breakthrough moments, embraced the hard, but honest, questions I’ve been asking myself and uncovered more than I anticipated…
I NEED SPACE; IT’S MY THING
Most adults my age would cringe at the word roommate.
Yes, myself included. Going from living solo to sharing space with one, two or sometimes a handful of other semi-functioning adults, at what can feel like sleep away camp, can be a lot. Whether I’m at home or our shared co-work space, there’s always someone around, and for me, (spoiler alert) that’s really hard. Sometimes, it even makes me anxious, especially when people don’t get it.
Before leaving on this trip, I received a piece of advice from another fellow Remote Year traveler who said, “Without getting all Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul on you, you’re going to want, no, need to recalibrate quarterly. Do it, prioritize yourself, take space and do things your way. Make sure you make this trip yours.” It has been one of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve received for this trip, sadly, one that got tucked away.
It has taken me six months, and many attempts at a solo trip, to take one.
It seems like it should be an easy task, right? Wrong. Whether other people wanted to tag along on my trip, I evolved my plans to join theirs, or just scrapped my plans altogether because I didn’t have the time, money or insert any excuse you want here, it just didn’t happen. I neglected my well-being, despite knowing better, because it was easier to just go along with the plan. And that’s pretty freakin’ sad.
There’s a sense of accomplishment and an indescribable freeness that comes with being a female solo traveler. You pace your days and spend your money as you wish, and find culturally enriching experiences that are meaningful to you. Solo travel calls for a different level of awareness of your surroundings, and you become attentive to details and people you might not otherwise notice. To me, that’s the magical part about solo travel.
Finally, you are treated differently. I don’t mean that people will go out of their way because you’re alone, but there certainly is an intrigue factor, and you’re way more approachable solo than in a larger group. It’s a funny concept, but space also brings people together.
BUT WHAT ARE YOU ACTUALLY DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?
Every time I get asked this question, I respond the same way: I’M TRYING.
I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating some days are, and I never thought that building a business on the road would be this hard. Almost a decade ago, I asked a friend who owns an agency in LA what the best piece of business advice was that she could offer me, should I ever want to do my own thing. Her advice? Don’t. More times than I’d care to admit, I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, flip the vacation switch and deal with employment “at a later date.”
Yep. I get it. I really do. You see my Instagram and think, “Holy shit, she’s on a year-long vacation!” Nope. Still not a vacation. The sunset views and whimsical fun? That’s the sunny side of life. What takes place behind the scenes is an endless effort of building a business that can consume you if you let it. And, at times, I’ve let it – because of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of being unhappy. Fear of feeling that I didn’t try hard enough. Any person with basic common sense knows that, at least in the beginning stages, the word entrepreneur is synonymous with more hours, not less.
I sure as shit didn’t sign up to come home empty handed, either.
Imagine a lifestyle where you’re taking a call every six hours, across four time zones and three continents over a 24-hour period. You sleep in fragments, and you squeeze personal time and tasks into pockets of free time. Yes, there have been days where this has happened. The days of the week don’t hold meaning the way they used to: Saturday becomes a Monday, Tuesday becomes a Friday, and half the time, you have no idea what day it is because they all feel the same. There’s no such thing as a weekend, and every day is just a day. You make it mean what feels right to you. Exactly. I didn’t anticipate this is how my life would be, but so it goes. I don’t have any regrets about the wild nature of my schedule. It may not seem dreamy to you, but my schedule is mine to design and, for me, that makes it all worth it.
So, what am I actually doing with my life? I’m designing it.
MY HEART IS OPEN
It didn’t take long before the Medina of Marrakech made my head spin. I was in town all of a few hours, and I began having second thoughts of choosing Morocco as a safe place for a solo female adventure. I’d been called names and had obscenities yelled at me for not engaging with males on the street. I made my way to the center of the Medina and watched all the action around me. To say it was a sensory overload would have been an understatement. The first thought that came to my mind? I felt safer in Phnom Penh. Pretty sure those words have never been said by anyone in my group… or ever.
People racing by on motorbikes, monkeys running circles on leashes, snake charmers playing the fife, kids screaming, lights flashing, people approaching me to sell anything and everything…and it just didn’t stop. I felt like I was in the middle of a circus and the pace and intensity at which everything was happening was more than I could handle. So I did nothing. For a moment, I wanted to be anywhere else, and I let my eyes fill to the brim with tears of frustration. As hard as these first few hours were in Marrakech, I knew I didn’t want to live these big moments, good or bad, alone.
I realized that my heart is open, and I’m ready to love again.
I guess it has been for a while now, but I’ve been too busy to notice. It’s time for my mind to acknowledge what my heart’s been saying. I just didn’t think this moment would happen…like this, but then again, we don’t get to control the how, when or where. I suppose that’s why we call these things breakthrough moments. I’ve been at romantically lit street cafes in Belgrade, beaches with the best sunsets in Thailand and captivating lookout points in Portugal that will embed themselves in my mind for a lifetime – experiences that I’ve decided I now want, and am ready, to share.
SO, WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?
At this pace of life, anything can happen.
I’ve always considered six months to be an enormous amount of time – until now. Usually, I can’t wish time to move quickly enough. There’s so much yet that I have to do, in many different regards. I wish I could say with confidence that I know what comes next, but I don’t. I’m not sure whether I’ll end up in Minneapolis permanently, if I’ll meet someone on the back half of this trip or when my business will start booming.
I do anticipate that there will be hard days of wondering where I end up or what I do next as the number of remaining months on this trip gets smaller. What I can tell you is that I’m not sure that this nomadic life is for me, at least not twelve months at a time after this year. I don’t measure my happiness based on what I have or have not accomplished the last six months, nor will I consider myself a success or failure based on where I end up. I am where I am, and my path will unfold as it will, and for now, that is the best that I can do.