As the Easter break comes to a close and my two weeks in Barcelona has nearly ended, I honestly can’t believe that it is nearly May. This year is flying past!
At the end of each month I now write a monthly update with my travel updates, new things that are happening with Girl about the Globe and any lessons learned during the month. So here’s my monthly update for April:
This month I travelled back to Africa to fulfil the last part of my Africa trip and meet a friend. If you haven’t read my African story yet you can read it here). I flew into Angola in Central Africa and then onto Sao Tome & Principe, an island off the coast of Gabon. Being in Africa surrounded by Portuguese speakers was definitely a first for me and after a challenging few weeks in West Africa it was nice to experience a different side of Africa and learn more about this region.
If you haven’t heard of Sao Tome, then you are completely forgiven. This small island is its own country and is a producer of chocolate and coffee (which I definitely recommend). I also met an entrepreneur who distributes coconut oil from the island.
The country mainly draws Portuguese tourists (due to the language) but if you are looking for somewhere a bit different then I recommend spending some time here. The south of the island is incredibly lush and reminds me of Dominica in the Caribbean. It’s easy to reach with direct flights from Lisbon and I’ll be writing a guide on this little country soon.
I haven't spoken much about my 6.5 weeks in West Africa, except one post on Lessons Learn in West Africa which probably came across as a bit negative. Going back to Africa taught me this month’s lesson… there is always a positive.
There’s no denying that I found West Africa challenging. As an experienced traveller I hadn’t pre-empted the culture shock of travelling to this region. But although I struggled with many aspects of the trip, I have also found many positives:
1. One huge positive from my first Africa trip was that it gave me the time and clarity to think about my brand. With no Wifi comes the chance to really get clarity and I realised the importance of having a technology detox and completely switching off.
2. I have lots of material for stories. Although the places that I went to weren’t the mainstream ’10 Things To Do in Togo’ I have plenty of stories about staying in an old asylum centre, dancing with villagers and taking part in my first (and probably last) voodoo ceremony. These experiences are priceless and I now appreciate every wonderful moment.
3. My trip opened my eyes to tourism. Seeing children holding out their hands and asking for gifts made me re-question our role as tourists/travellers. Being an advocate of conscious travel I have realised the need for in-depth information about each country we visit and that the world doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all ethical approach.
4. As life is unpredictable, so is travel. Things don’t go to plan in normal life and we are constantly having to adjust so why would travel be any different? It’s not about what happens, it’s about the way that we deal with what happens. Whether we see them as inconveniences or simply as lessons that we need to overcome. The more challenging the experience, the bigger the transformation. Growing and evolving as a person isn’t comfortable. We need to get used to being uncomfortable if we are open to change.
5. I met some amazing solo travellers during my trip. Booking myself into a hostel in Ghana at the end of my overland tour I met some inspiring women who helped me with material for my upcoming articles. Sharing our experiences as solo travellers will help me write about how it really is to travel to this region as a Western woman and how important it is to share our stories to help each other.
6. As much as I preferred this trip when I was alone, I can now see the positives of the group tour that I took. Having previously travelled through South Africa on the most amazing overland camping trip I had set the precedent for camping trips. But just because it wasn’t the right camping trip for me didn’t mean that it wasn’t a good company. It just didn’t fit my needs. Again, it has given me more material to be able to write a comparison chart for overland companies and the pros and cons of each one.
Returning to Africa this month helped me to appreciate Africa more. Both Angola and Sao Tome surprised me and I felt more comfortable arriving in this region. If we have a thirst for the world then we need to be open to what we perceive. After all, how can we appreciate the good moments when we haven’t experienced the bad? (or what we perceive as bad).
So here are my takeaways from April;
- Give yourself a proper break to switch off. When you go on your next solo trip turn off your phone and allow yourself time to really soak in the culture.
- Try not to have any expectations from a country.
- Each company or tour is different and there are so many variables to a trip from group dynamics to the change of itinerary or the tour leader that you just need to go with it and remember to make the most of each moment.
- Give somewhere a second chance. You may find that you enjoy it!
- We can learn so much from other cultures if we are open to them. Instead of comparing it’s important to ask questions and find out why things are a certain way. Our cultural differences are a blessing and help to make us a diverse planet of human beings.
In regards to Girl about the Globe I am making lots of changes to the site to make it easier for you to use as well as working on a brand new product (which is huge!) All to be revealed very soon…
I hope you had a wonderful April. I’d love to hear where you spent April or any lessons you have learned. Comment below x
Lisa I love the part about our growth being uncomfortable. Such a great lesson. You are an inspiration. Thank you for all that you do x
Thanks so much Maria x