I can honestly say that I’ve never considered traveling by myself. Not only did the idea scare me, I just didn’t see the point. I believed that the whole point of going on a trip is to share that experience with someone. I don’t even know what changed my mind. Maybe it’s getting older or just being more comfortable by myself. I think it might’ve been last year when I was going on trips non-stop with my friends and family that I would find myself craving a moment of solace. I knew I was ready for my first solo trip after my sister left Capetown and I had three days by myself. I could’ve easily spent those three days with my cousin but nothing great comes out of comfort zones.
My cousin recommended that I check out Victoria Falls In Zambia because you only need a night there to see the falls. I was easily convinced because it’s one of the Natural Wonders of the World and it’s the largest waterfall in the world. So after I changed my flight and reserved a safari tent at Maramba River Lodge, I was off on my first solo trip! To get to Livingstone Zambia, I took two flights from Capetown flying through Johannesburg. I had daydreams of me sitting by the river, writing in my journal and reflecting on my time in Capetown and other daydreams. I definitely had that experience but to my surprise, I spent most of my time talking to the staff who are locals from Livingstone (the town where the lodge is located). I was so intrigued by their stories and similarly they were with mine. They just couldn’t understand why a single woman would travel by herself to Africa no less.
Zambia felt like real Africa. Not that Capetown wasn’t real Africa but in comparison, Capetown is a modern and cosmopolitan city. The main attraction in Livingstone is Victoria Falls so everyone you meet asks you what you thought of the falls or asks you when you’re going to the falls. I went in March which is the best time to go because between February and May is when there’s the highest volume of water. The local name for Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya which means the smoke that thunders. During the high water season, you can see the spray plume of the falls from miles and miles away.
When you enter the national park, you get giddy because you can hear the falls way before you can see it. I was on the Zambia side of the falls. You can also go to the Zimbabwe side, but I would’ve had to get another visa and find a way to get there. I heard from several people who were staying at the same camp that the Zimbabwe side is better because you can see the whole expanse of the falls. Oh well, I was already on the Zambia side and on that side, there were a couple of trails to walk on, each of them giving you a different perspective of the falls. The first one I took was the trail directly across from the falls which I soon realized was more like the rainforest because I got drenched. I had to buy a poncho from a random dude for $2. Nobody told me before I went that I would get extremely wet while walking on this trail. The second surprise I encountered was seeing monkeys walk freely along the trail. The monkeys pretty much kept to themselves ignoring the humans. I’ve been to Niagara Falls and other famous waterfalls in the past, but Victoria Falls was on another level.
I also did another thing I’ve never done before besides travel alone; ride a helicopter. On my last morning in Africa before heading back home, I decided to splurge and take a helicopter ride over the falls. Not only was the ride so much fun but the views were incredible. You really don’t get a sense of just how massive these waterfalls are unless you see them from above. I got pretty emotional up there because I felt so lucky to have been able to see one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. I thought to myself, it would’ve been great to share that moment with someone. Not because I was lonely but because I wished all of my favorite people got to experience the same awe that I was feeling at the time. I think that’s why I love traveling so much; it stirs up so many feelings and senses inside of you.
I had a lot of time to think about my first solo trip on the way back home (about 20 hours). I think if I went to Victoria Falls with someone, I wouldn’t have been forced to talk to strangers or eat meals by myself (in a really romantic setting no less). Both of these things take a little bit of getting out of your comfort zone. What I found was that I was never really alone except when I went to bed. I think it was because I was an unassuming chick traveling by herself that I looked harmless to most people. Families would invite me to eat with them or offer to give me rides. Not sure if this would’ve been the same if I was a dude. I also didn’t have to be mindful of someone else’s desires or time table. I could wake up and do whatever I want and spend my day how I pleased. The best part about traveling solo for me was to get back to myself; to write in my journal, to reflect and to zen-out.
If you’ve been wanting to go on your dream trip and you can’t find anyone to go with you, I suggest you go ahead and plan your trip by yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to join you just so you can go on that trip. If you want to take your first solo trip but you’re scared, don’t be. You’ll find that there is a whole world full of solo travelers.