Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Solo Travel Numero Uno

So, South Africa is not the first place I’ve travelled.
Long long before this blog was born, I had a few other adventures.
Recently, I made a list of them all. Just the blog-worthy ones.

Eventually, I may be able to make it through that entire list.
Of course, if I keep having adventures, the list will never end. What a terrible problem to have.

The first time I ever went on vacation by myself I was pretty terrified.

I had no idea how I was going to entertain myself. Would I be able to meet people, or would I turn into a quivering puddle of shyness, unable to leave my room? It was a total mystery.

At the time, I had a list of things I thought it would be good for me to do.
Included on the list:
1. Go to a movie by myself
2. Eat dinner in a restaurant by myself
3. Sing karaoke

Clearly, travelling on one’s own, without having accomplished any of these, more particularly, number 2, could lead to endless amounts of trouble. Not a small amount of which could easily be caused by low blood sugar due to not eating.

At any rate, finding myself single again, and pretty unsure of myself, I thought a trip was in order. But where to go? What to do? How to control all the uncontrollable elements?

I marched into the local travel agency, and announced that I wanted to take a cruise. A cruise, I reasoned, had many elements already all thought out for me.
· Route planned out – check.
· Meals planned out – check
· Enforced contact with other people – check
· Endless planned activities to divert ones self – check.

The travel agent was less supportive. She explained that there aren’t so many other people in the world that like to go on cruises by themselves, and therefore, there typically aren’t instant roommates waiting for a sad girl from Canada to show up.

Her helpful suggestion: Club Med. Promising. Many of the same elements as a cruise, but no limit as to the number of single people that might also be around.

For an extra charge, I could have had my own room. I decided to chance it. My impression was that either I would luck out and get a room of my own, or, I’d end up with another single girl as a roommate Bingo – instant friend.

The day finally arrived, and I headed to the airport. One connection later, I was in Cancun, waiting for the transfer to the resort. One other girl about my age was on the transfer. Majella. Dutch. Seemed nice.

However, now completely overwhelmed, I clammed up, didn’t really talk to her, and slunk to my room, too intimidated to brave the restaurant for dinner. This was not shaping up well. At all.

(Although, I was somewhat buoyed by evidence of a roommate, which upon room entry revealed that she liked flowered cover-ups, romance novels, and had brought with her a rather large box of condoms. Interesting. Said roommate was nowhere to be found. Probably putting some of those condoms to good use.)

The next morning I managed to find the restaurant, and armed with a book, choked down some breakfast. I then headed for the beach.

So far, I was a little disappointed in my complete and utter shyness, but at least on the beach I could read one of the seven, yes seven, books I had brought with me.

A few hours later, and it was only 10:30. And I’ll be real honest – I was bored, and hungry.

Sitting on the beach all day, alone, and feeling sorry for myself, apparently is not one of my favourite activities. Shit. This boded poorly. This was going to be a long week.

A very short time later, I recognized Majella pulling up a chair next to me. We exchanged some small talk. And then……

“I’m pretty hungry.”

“Me too.”

“And bored. I don’t think I can sit on this beach for a whole week.”

“Geez me neither!”

“This is going to suck.”

And then – Majella proved to be one of the smartest most wonderful women in the world:

“I’ve already asked at the front desk about renting a car. It’s only $50 a day. I was thinking of exploring. Want to come?”

Hell yes!!

Those of you who know me will not be surprised to hear that starting the next day, Majella and I jumped into the little red manual transmission Ford, and drove into the jungle in search of Chichen Itza. No mobile phone. No map other than the tourist jobby that had big cartoon lines instead of roads.

That night we had dinner on the beach in some beater town.

The next day – back into the jungle to find Coba – an even more impressive Inca ruin. But you have to get past the truck-sized potholes first.

That night, snorkeling in the underwater caves unique to that area of Mexico.

On the third day, we set off for the north shore of the Yucatan peninsula to see flamingos.

Despite a week-long stop in Miami on the way, Majella had never seen flamingos, and we had a hot tip that there was a massive colony of them in a game reserve to the north.

Three hours drive later, we hit the first of the flood water. The road was flooded over, but not for more than 50 feet. Majella got out of the car, slipped off her sandals, and proceeded to wade in.

“This is how we used to do it when I lived in South Africa” she explained.

“Now you can see where it is shallow enough for the car to go.”

Following her footsteps closely, I drove the little car through.

On the road again, and through a couple of tiny towns that definitely aren’t on the tourist map, we hit the second flood.

This time, I jumped out.

Wading out to my ankles, my knees, then my thighs, I looked at the scenery on either side of the road.

Hmm. Swamp. Swamp. Swamp.


“Majella – is that swamp?”


“Do you think there are alligators in that swamp.”


“Do you think the alligators will know the difference between the swamp on this side of the road, the thigh-high water that I am standing in, and the swamp on the other side of the road?”

“Shit. You better get out of there right now.”

And so ended the flamingo expedition.

At the end of the week, I had learned a few things:
1. Club Med is not for me.
2. People turn up when and where you need them.
3. Travelling on your own is the very best way to meet those people.
4. You are always braver than you think you are, and if you’re not, give yourself a break.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


DavidHelenFi, originally uploaded by hkarrandjas.

Seem like cheating to put up a photo instead of a story?
my blog.