*Shuku – shooketh, terrified, shook one, scared ting, p*ssyole etc…
Wherever you go, travel far and wide.
Rarely do I pass up an opportunity to leave my life behind and travel somewhere that isn’t even remotely like London. Such is the case with my birthday, having travelled away for every birthday since I was 22, I saw no reason to halt the tradition – although bringing in my 26th year would be slightly different. While ordinarily I’m armed with a group of my best friends, a boyfriend and disposable cameras to capture the day in all its glory, this year it was time for a new tradition.
On a total whim, I booked a ticket to my favourite country in the world just a week before I flewed myself out. Unsure of what I’d actually do on my day of birth, I figured that if I was at least back home, I’d feel all the more secure about a day I often dread. And let me just say this, Barbados, though you’re not like a real human being I would totally let you hit it.
What I learned, though I’d travelled alone before, was that travelling alone needn’t be a terrifying experience, despite it often feeling that way when you’re a woman. We’re routinely told to be careful of the men we encounter on our travels, to cover ourselves up in case of predators and overall to be safe of our wellbeing and belongings, but throwing caution to the wind is something we seldom do when abroad.
The truth is, there is absolutely nothing more refreshing than hopping on a plane (on your own), drinking red wine on the plane (on your own), getting transport from the airport to your accommodation (on your own), eating out (on your own), navigating the streets (on your own) and making new friends abroad. This is all because you’re forced to get along with yourself, to fill the moments that would ordinarily be chocked full of idle chatter with your friends, with lone tasks. Admittedly there were moments where I was so deep in self-discovery that I’d missed the window for a last minute dip in the sea, or last call at the bar (which is a total lie because I never ever miss the last call).
What I do know is that I learned so much about myself on this trip and as a result, my self-confidence skyrocketed. It’s difficult to know who you are at home when you’re wading through everyone else’s large successes on the net, but to truly step away from it all on your own and assess who you are, what you want from life and who you want to be, that’s when you’re truly at peace. Well, when I felt I was.
Though I can’t quite say that I’m all that I should be on 23rd January, I will admit that I’m even an inch closer to who I hope to become. As cliche as it sounds, solo travelling truly is a ‘find yourself,’ bewildering experience. Making new friends, challenging yourself to learn new routes, foods and words is an interesting experience, to say the least. Sure, I may have been to my home country more than once and immediately felt at home as soon as I’ve done so, but I’ve never quite navigated it on my lonesome. This likely means I’m an official adult now and will soon be a chaperone to my own friends when they hope to experience Bajan culture.
Granted making friends was probably the most difficult part of my overall experience, it’s infinitely easier to make male friends in the Caribbean. Likely because they’re imagining what you look like naked as they pile you with free food and drinks, but beyond that, this was my first time actively navigating a conversation away from sex and relationships. Without the awkward ‘lol, this isn’t my dish’ dialogue I was able to truly be separate myself from those conversations and actually make new friendships. Sure, men still pursued and made advances, but I made it clear and known that I was only in it for the free drinks and that my days of dating and holiday romances were long behind me, pimping my friends via FaceTime instead. Making friends in the right places was key in the overall travelling alone experience as it saved me a shit tonne of money and a new place to frequent once I returned. Come to think of it, the only downside to travelling on your tod is not having someone to take your photos, or worse, having someone to take your photos and not listening to your advice on angles, composition and an unnecessary use of the portrait feature on your iPhone.
All of my counterparts thought me crazy to have travelled solo on my birthday, seeing as I usually drag everyone to another country to celebrate ‘me’, but this time around I didn’t need my safety blankets. Metaphorically speaking, I was ready to burn, and rightly so under the scorching Barbados sun. I had long grown tired of waiting for everyone’s yeses and decided to be selfish in my decision making just once.
Eating, sunbathing and reading alone is all the more cleansing when you’re reminded to put yourself first. Something I’d struggled to do for at least the last year and a half of my life. Unafraid to hurt anyone’s feelings this time around, I continued to do what was best for me and lived my life to the fullest.
Though I’m probably not well versed enough to speak on the matter, my advice would absolutely be not to wait for anyone when it’s time to celebrate you. Long gone are the days of feeling like crap to appease others, on a day designated for your enjoyment. Here’s to many more years of celebrating your day of birth with the most important person in your life… YOU! And blud, don’t be shook to travel on your own.