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Showing Your Unique Light Traveling Alone – Qiana Martin

Chizoba

TravSolo aims to inspire through authentic storytelling, by sharing real travel experiences

What are your thoughts of traveling solo?

It forces me to immerse myself in the local culture. It also opens me up to the possibilities of meeting people and doing all sorts of things. Sometimes if you’re in a group or if you’re with your bestie or your boyfriend then it is like you’re so focused on making sure they have a good time and that you can stay in your comfort zone.

What goes through your mind when you travel by yourself with so much stuff, whether you are on the plane or heading towards your accommodation?

I find that I literally turn off my sensitivity radar for so many things because I’m a person of color, American and a female. So there is a lot of things you need to be cognizant of when you’re traveling outside the United States: the perceptions of you as an American, being able to blend in, and being a woman of color. So I always have a heightened sense of awareness. I like to do a lot of prep work in advance to make sure that I understand the neighborhood, understand the places that I’m going to be staying even if I’m winging it. Once I get there I kind of know the lay of the land, kind of know what some people’s perceptions are, of the place that I’m going to my destination and that I have safeguards in place, be it that I’m leaving certain information with people back here in the United States or that we have certain check processes and protocols. I do this so people know that if they haven’t heard from me within a certain period of time to kind of alert somebody else in the chain. Another thing I do is also register with the embassy website to make sure that if there are any notifications that I need to receive, while I am abroad in that particular location, that I could receive those in the event that something happens in my foreign destination.

When & where did you take your first trip alone?

First one huh? Let me think. I’ve been traveling on my own for a while. I would say, internationally, the first place that I went to was the Bahamas a few years back. I did a training down there and I’ve been there once before with a friend. This time around I was going there to train and everything was squared with my hotel but I accidentally left my credit card in the United States and even though the hotel room was paid for they would not let me check in. Fortunately, I actually knew someone there locally and they were able to upfront me the cash until I was able to get the cash back to them. On that particular island the mail wasn’t going to come until Monday, while I had to check in to my room Friday. Business was already done for the day so that was a pretty wild situation because I didn’t have copies of my documents in place where somebody could just fax over a copy of the front and back of my card. That really would have helped the situation and just allowed me to have a seamless process where I would not have need to get anyone else involved.

It does work out and you just have to really take three deep breaths so you can get enough oxygen to your brain, so that you could think clearly before you panic. Then from there you start to figure out ‘OK, what is my next best step?’

“One thing I could tell women about travel is that we’re all ambassadors in some form or fashion. As more people get to meet us more people get to see the unique light that is you”

What was the most let down travel experience you have had thus far?

I’ll say that sometimes you can forget that in the midst of being in such a beautiful place, be it Rio or Colombia, where I did some training there, that you are somehow immune from the realities of what is going on in that culture. So for instance I know I travel by myself so I like to hire a chaperone or hang with other players if I need to go somewhere. We went to a birthday party for our trainer at night and it was in the same neighborhood where we train; I was kind of debating about going just because I really didn’t feel up to it. But I gave them my word and I was like ‘it is his birthday I will go’, so they put me in the cab with my friend I train with who is on the Men’s National Soccer Team. We went about two corners and then the police pulled us over. As an American, as a woman, as a woman of color, you’re in a neighborhood that you don’t know although you’re with someone you do know when you encounter police and do not know what is going to happen next. You do not know whether it is going to be upstanding member of law enforcement or something else is going to happen. They asked me a lot of questions: “Why are you here? You’re American in Colombia? They looked at my passport which is why it is always important to carry a copy sometimes. So they looked through my stamps and saw that I have been in other places but the cab driver had something going on that we didn’t know about. I think he had drugs in his car and they looked under the hood of the car. They asked us “Do you guys have drugs?”, I was told them I literally have no drugs, then they took the car and the driver while we were left to walk to the next corner to try and find another cab. My first instinct was to get out of here and you have to make sure you’re calm enough that you don’t do anything that makes you look questionable — so that was a pretty scary moment.

So you have to be mindful, especially if you are going out at night. I usually take care of a lot of my business in the daytime because there’s a lot to see and do in these places, especially if the current landscape might be a little treacherous in certain areas.

Visualizing everything working out in my favor works for me because it is in this situation that you have to really rally yourself and not feel you have no control in this situation but what you can control is how you feel in this moment.

Do you have any fond moment meeting a traveler or local?

I have a lot of people that I’ve met along the way. One of the people that stands out quite a bit and every now and then I would send out a care package to this young lady. I cannot remember her name but she lives in Glasgow, Scotland, which was my first stop during the time that I was there during the 2012 Olympics and after. She helped me to understand how to book train tickets to be able to go out throughout the country. They do not have access to a lot of peanut butter, so she said she absolutely loves Peanut Butter Reese’s, Peanut butter Snickers which she did not know at the time because she didn’t have access to it (laughing). So every now and then I’ll send her a chocolate care package that includes treats with peanut butter in it.

Plan to travel solo again soon?

I love South America, so I’m going to keep working my way around the continent.

What is the biggest risk you have ever taken on a trip?

Living my dream. I think a lot of people underestimate what it takes to live your dream whatever it is and it can be something as small as singing for people in Times Square, because you’re afraid of the perception of others or going someplace that maybe someone in your family or in your country has never been. Oftentimes, we’re beholden to what other people think of us. Women are very communal and we care about what others think and so I think the greatest risk you can take is pursuing your dream to travel somewhere by yourself or travel for a period of time. The reward is so life-giving and beneficial for you to take that chance on yourself to live. You don’t have to do it overnight abd everything happened in baby steps. Find a place you want to go and don’t think about the price. Just find a place you want to go & construct a plan to go.

What advice might you give women:

Thinking of taking their first solo trip ?

You have the opportunity to learn so much about yourself. You just don’t know what that choice to take your flight to Mexico City or Barcelona in that you end up sitting beside someone who needs to meet you because you’re going to share something with them, that they could not have received from anyone else. One thing I could tell women about travel is that we’re all ambassadors in some form or fashion. As more people get to meet us more people get to see the unique light that is you — so it is a win-win for everyone. Oftentimes, people have met me and said “You know I have a certain perception about you Americans” and I always believe You are like me, we’re both humans. Yes we identify and grew up in different countries but we both have dreams and goals. Sometimes we’re both misunderstood but if we have a common bond, for me it is soccer, you can learn that we’ve had some familiar situations or we’ve had some similar obstacles and this is how I have overcome them. Then, you can learn from me and I can learn from you.

What about those afraid of being on their own?

I think you have to find little things that you can step out on every day. I’ll share this with you — I still have the fear sometimes of stepping outside to go and get something to eat. I am afraid that if I say something incorrectly, because I’m nervous, they’re going to actually know ‘Oh my goodness! She’s a strange arrow’ as they say in Brazil, meaning she is a foreigner, she’s an American or whatever else they’ve got to perceive about me. So for me necessity has forced me to move past my fears. You are in the middle of a country and you need to eat, you need to check in somewhere. You just have to try little things every day to get you out of your comfort zone.

If you were writing a book about personal travel story, what three words would you use for the title? Similar to Eat. Pray. Love.

For my personal story I would say. Manifesting. Soccer. Dreams

Thank you for reading!

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By Chizoba Anyaoha


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