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I’d like to introduce a long-winded story, told over a series of posts, about a girl on her first solo adventure and the lessons she learned along the way.

Ten years ago, I was finishing up my semester at the University of Waterloo. I was planning a semester abroad to commence in February. Going back to that moment, I remember the excitement of the unknown, and the naive courage of a Canadian country girl who was privileged enough to believe that nothing bad happens when you travel.

Of course, I was wrong.

I set out for Hawaii not knowing what to expect. All I really wanted was to break up that flight to Australia, and while I had the time to spare, I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to see a place I had only ever dreamed of. I hopped onto a plane after only half hearing my dad’s last words of wisdom: “Be safe, and pour your own drinks”. 12.5 hours and a stopover in Atlanta later, I arrived in Honolulu around nine p.m. local time.

Unfortunately, my suitcase did not.

Thankfully, I followed my mother’s advice and used a day pack as a carryon, and stocked it with underwear, swimsuits, beach shoes and some basic toiletries. Makes almost a week without luggage much more bearable!

Lesson 1: Pack extra essentials in your carryon.

I checked into a hostel just a few blocks from the beach and had a great first night’s sleep. It’s funny what you remember about people, places and events while you travel. I remember waking up to the news that Heath Ledger had died.

Getting up early that morning, I decided to do what is now routine for me when I travel: take a walk to explore my surroundings. It was a gorgeous winter morning. Quiet. Mild. Rainbow in the sky. I was in awe.

After a quick trip around town, I decided to make my way to the beach. Little did I know, that decision would change my trip. I struck up a conversation with a pair of guys who were also en route to the beach. They came from the American West coast, and were at the tail end of their trip. It was they who were outgoing enough to strike up a conversation with a mother and daughter duo from Oregon.

First day in Hawaii – note the jacket on the beach! #Amateur. Photo: She Sees the World

We spent the entire day relaxing on the beach – looking up a Diamond Head, admiring the surfers, enjoying a cocktail and soaking up the sunshine. The boys suggested a catamaran cruise. I went. Little did I know, I am terribly seasick.

Long story short, the Captain was very kind, and thanked me for being discreet while being sick. Needless to say, that evening was a write off.

On of the few photos I have from our catamaran excursion. Photo: She Sees the World

The following morning, the 5 of us went for breakfast. The boys were leaving. I don’t even remember their names, but I am so lucky to have met them, because I spent the next week hanging out with the mother-daughter duo I met through them. Shopping at Ala Moana mall, taking a rented Jeep for a spin to find a secluded lagoon, walking through lava flows, nights on the town. They also invited me to stay in their hotel room with them. When I asked her why, the mother said “because I would want someone to take care of my daughter if she were travelling alone”.

I’ve never forgotten those words, or the time spent with those girls.

Lesson 2: Talk to people. You never know when you will meet a likeminded, kind person to spend some time with.

Travelling solo is never really travelling “alone” unless you set that intention. Putting yourself out there can be a little bit scary, but while you’re outside of your comfort zone anyway, why not??

Lesson 3: Take risks. Try new things. Explore.

Making friends on the beach. Photo: She Sees the World

Stay tuned for more lessons from my first solo adventure!


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