Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind. Anthony Bourdain
I recently travelled to Cuba to attend the wedding celebration of a very close friend. It was my first proper solo trip. When I travelled in the past to new countries, although I would fly alone, I’d meet up with people when I arrived at my destination. This time, I was alone for almost all of my time in Cuba. The different native language was another twist for me as it has been more than 10 years since I’d spoken regularly Spanish and I knew that I had forgotten quite a bit.
I love the quote above as it’s a pretty accurate description of my experience of solo travel. This trip stretched me personally more so than any other trip and although there were pains (stretching hurts) I’m stronger for it. The timing was also interesting as it was shortly after my 21 Day Daniel Fast so it was an incredibly quick transition to an extremely different environment. Being thrown out of my comfort zone and normal routine was certainly eye-opening and revealed areas in my life that I need to work on but also served to reinforce other areas where I am experiencing growth.
As I reflect on the trip, I’m encouraged by the ways I experienced God’s love bringing light to the dark patches. Even as I look around my bedroom, the souvenirs I have in different spots bring a smile to my face as they remind me of the good times on the trip.
So where do I start? In any order, here are my key takeaways from this solo trip:
His strength in my weakness
It was God & me in a new and very different environment. With very little that was familiar for me, I had no choice but to lean on Him completely.
Being me & embracing my place
God reinforced this for me in an embarrassing but humorous way. The shape that He gave me fits perfectly in the space He designed for me. I needed to stop trying to be a round peg in a square hole.
God ALWAYS provides
In spite of me and the mistakes/errors I made, God came through and provided what I needed each time.
Getting very comfortable with being uncomfortable
This is a given of travelling to a new place but it was more noticeable in Cuba especially in Havana as a solo traveller. However, I was still grateful for the time I had to explore a bit of Havana.
The blessing of disconnection
This took some time to get used to given the world that we live in. However, not being connected online all the time was refreshing. It allowed me to take a step back, pause and spend some time in my head thinking & processing rather than assimilating content.
Pausing to learn from mistakes then moving forward
I tend to replay these types of events multiple times in my head. This one was a process for me. Due to the environment, I found that I often had to keep moving on as new situations were presented quite quickly. So I took the time to ensure that I learnt the lesson to avoid repeating the error but I didn’t dwell on the mistake.
Travelling solo means getting to know the real you
So what were some of the highlights of the trip? Here are three:
My friend’s wedding
This was my first experience of a Cuban wedding and I enjoyed lots of the unique cultural elements included. I was blessed to be present and to celebrate my friend’s special day with her and her husband.
La Loma de La Cruz
I climbed 460+ steps to reach the top of the “Hill of the Cross” with 360 views of the city of Holguin. It was a great workout and I enjoyed the views & breeze at the summit.
It was great to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment again where I had no choice but to speak Spanish. However, it was also difficult trying to understand the new accent and what people were saying. Nevertheless, the positives outweighed the frustrations as I really enjoyed the interactions I had with the locals especially those that sold souvenirs and crafts. They are very talented.
This trip was not an easy one for me compared to my other travels. However, on this side of it, the trip is one for which I am truly thankful. I have learnt so much and it has provided clarity in certain areas of my life. Even as I have gained, my prayer is that through my interactions with those I met, as the quote says I was able to leave something good behind.
How has travel caused you to grow?
✞ Are You Really In?