This was not my first time travelling alone but was the first time out of Europe. As a female solo traveller in Kenya, it was both exciting and scary, a very dear experience for me.
Getting to Kenya
I’ve always wanted to travel the world and I thought I will probably afford it when I retire, but it actually happened sooner. Much sooner. Long story short, after graduation I got a nice and cosy corporate job, which allowed me to save money for trips and kept me sitting at a desk and daydream about them.
I had these thoughts of quitting my job and going to volunteer in Africa or somewhere remote, where I will make a difference (since my job was so meaningless and boring). A good friend advised me to take a 2-week break and go volunteer in Africa, and if I really love it, to plan it further. I’m so happy I listened to her.
I planned my trip with a local friend who I met during my studies and I went to Kenya for 2 weeks in October 2013. I did my vaccinations, booked the flights and accommodation for the first week and wrote down the things I want to do.
No cultural shock (yet)
I arrived in Nairobi and met my friend, who showed me around nice and touristy parts of the city. Me thinking, wow, this is nice, I don’t feel the culture shock, I could probably live here.
I went to an elephant orphanage, where at a certain time were feeding the elephants and leaving them to play in the “pool”, under the eyes of the tourists. They also explain a bit about the orphanage and how they raise the elephants, it was all very exciting to see and learn. Then I went to a giraffe centre, where I fed giraffes and realized they are one of my favourite animals. This is pretty much what I remember of Nairobi.
Safari – one of the best experiences
Next, I went to a 3-day safari to Tsavo National Park, one of the best memories I have. I went with the safari twice a day, early morning and evening. The first time I went, I felt it’s too much beauty and my eyes cannot capture it, I didn’t know where to focus first. It looked like on tv, but real! And so much more beautiful. It always makes me smile when I remember the feeling.
I stayed at a hotel on pillars, in the middle of the park, where I could observe the animals even between safaris. Oh, and I brought the wrong charger for my camera, so the battery went down even before going to the safari.
The first week is almost over, now heading to the coast. On my way, I’ve seen poor villages, and “mountains” of garbage and people living on top of them. I couldn’t imagine that before, or even if I could picture it, it’s always shocking to confirm it’s real. Then I got to Mombasa, where the driver stopped to fuel and I was looking around and thinking that if the driver left me there, I would be scared to death. It was very crowded and people looking very different, anything could happen to me and nobody would know. I felt very insignificant and without any security.
I went to a volunteers hostel in Mtwapa, a village close to Mombasa, where I was intending to volunteer with an orphanage for 1 week. There I stayed in a tree house, for about 7$ a night, I thought it was very cool. Until it rained. I woke up in the middle of the night because it was raining on my face. Light rain, but enough to be uncomfortable. And I also had a tree housemate, she was a Canadian 19 years old (I was 24), a female solo traveller in Kenya as well, who had volunteered and travelled alone here, made local friends and had no worry about anything. And I was so scared just looking at a crowd! She and the other volunteers I met here made me feel I don’t have any reasons to be scared and their stories were fascinating.
The next day I went to the orphanage I was going to volunteer to and talked to one of the teachers there, saw the school and the kids. Couldn’t do it. I was so sad, because of what I learned about from the teacher, the kids, but also because I realized it’s not something I can do. And yes, maybe my boring job back home is suitable for me and I should accept that. It took me a while though.
Since I got a free week all of a sudden, I enjoyed some reading, the ocean, and the mangrove forest right beside the hostel. I explored the village and got to know a few more locals and their stories. I also went back to Mombasa to visit the city and didn’t seem scary at all. Even went to the market (the most crowded place) and enjoyed it, tried new fruits, bought some spices. And it made me think it was all a perception. How I feel it reflects on how I see everything around me.
Did you like this story? I wrote a longer article about solo travel and loneliness.