Creatives in Focus
This week, I had a “Creatives in Focus” interview with Cornelia Afouda on solo travelling. She has inspired me to push past my boundaries. Grab a cup of tea and let us see how you can experience the world on your own terms through solo travelling.
Vicky: Please tell me about yourself?
Cornelia: Hi, my name is Cornelia Afouda and I am 21 years old. I currently work in the healthcare sector. In my spare time, I love reading, watching movies and solo travelling. Street art is a big interest of mine when I go travelling.
Vicky: How did you begin solo travel and how did you gain the confidence to do so?
Cornelia: I began solo travelling after a close family member passed away. We had planned to take a trip to Paris to celebrate my birthday but kept putting it off. After they passed it felt natural that I take the trip, as a sort of memorial. Paris was always close to their heart. There was a lot of planning beforehand and the first night was kind of hard, but I went to places she recommended to go and did a lot of things she wanted to do. Looking back, I probably spent a bit too much money, but it was worth it. I did not really find it scary, I just went for it. There was no one I wanted to experience Paris for the first time with than her, so it did not feel right going on this trip with anyone else. As soon as I came back, I felt like I needed to solo travel again.
Vicky: Are they any solo travellers or travel bloggers that influence you?
Cornelia: Apart from my one social media account, I am not very active on social media. Before I started doing this I was not following any influencer. Earlier this year, I joined a closed group for solo female travellers. It is made up of amazing girls from all around the world. It has been a good support system and very informative when planning a trip and travelling. The ladies on here have inspired me to broaden my horizons, they all inspire me. No, I have not been inspired by any social media influencers.
Vicky: What were the views of your friends and family when you started solo travelling?
Cornelia: For my first trip, my family already knew about my plans to travel to Paris, so they were happy and supportive for me to go. They thought that after that trip that would be it, so did I. Then I came back, and soon began plans for Iceland. I could tell they were surprised, but they also knew how much I had enjoyed the first trip. They have been supportive of my travels, making sure I do my research and I can be easily reached via phone. Funny enough, one of my family members was planning a solo trip down to England and I found myself worrying about their safety. I then realised how it must feel for my family and friends, but I make extra efforts to be safe and very reachable, so they can check in on me.
Vicky: How do you save up for your trips?
Cornelia: I fund my trips myself, I always save 20% of my income and it is not easy especially near Christmas and birthdays but I know that 20% sacrifice is helping my future.
Vicky: How do you plan your trips?
Cornelia: I seem to randomly crave a country, for instance, Iceland. I try to book my accommodation and flights at the same time in the same month, 6 months before travel. If I cannot afford to, or I am unsure where I want to stay, I just book the flights. Booking 6 months ahead gives me time to save and pay myself back, giving myself money to book and budget for the trip. I then start to make a Pinterest board and I just pin up interesting things I find about the city or country e.g. street art. I search Trip Advisor for reviews of place places I want to eat at and before you know it, I have lots of information to make an itinerary. My Lonely Planet magazines are also a huge help. I really break down every day, so with each trip, I gain experience in saving and spending.
On my first day of travelling, I always do something that same night and I call it “the city illuminated”. I walk around or get a bus because cities are beautiful at night and generally less touristy. If I choose a city break I do not necessarily restrain myself to that one city. I look for places outside the city I would like to see, I consider the costs, transport, spending money. For me, you cannot solo travel and not be organised.
Vicky: What are the favourite places you have visited?
Cornelia: Iceland, Norway, Italy and Paris, each for various reasons. I am really into cold climate places at the moment, everything looks so beautiful under a blanket of snow!!! So, I enjoyed Iceland and Norway for their natural beauty. My longest trip was Italy. It was a wonderful experience and I felt particularly proud of myself when I came home, I learned a lot about what I am capable of. Paris was my first solo trip and had sentimental value, so will always be special.
Vicky: What are the best places for solo travel?
Cornelia: I really want to embark on some international solo travel. Right now, I am really craving Japan, I have read a lot about the country and the culture. They have the cherry blossom season in the spring and I would really like to experience it. I have also read that it is one of the safest places for female solo travellers.
Vicky: Are they any countries you are itching to travel to?
Cornelia: Australia and New Zealand, have surrounding islands and on the outskirts of some cities they have less light pollution, so you can star gaze. There are opportunities for water sports and fascinating wildlife which makes me eager to visit these countries. Other places I would like to visit include Morocco, Egypt, Jamaica and authentic Africa.
Vicky: Do you have to be an extrovert to solo travel? How do you make friends while solo travelling?
Cornelia: Not necessarily, I am not an extrovert, I have stayed in hostels (female only dorms) and met different people. When I travel I find myself being free, talking and laughing with people I met. Maybe because I am with or meet people that are in the same boat as me. You can link up with other groups or travel with a company. For instance, I have travelled with G Adventures. I met so many interesting people who I still keep in touch with.
Vicky: How do you connect with locals in every country you travel?
Cornelia: I think it is polite to learn the basics of the language, even just a hello and a smile. I do not want to be a tourist, I want to be a traveller because some may be rude and ignorant. I also make sure I dress respectively to respect the culture.
Vicky: Have you ever felt lonely on a trip?
Cornelia: Yes, I have, but it is always fleeting. If I find I want to be around people last minute, then I just book myself onto a free walking tour. SANDEMANs do great free tours. This way I get to be around people and learn something. I am alone when I want to be.
Vicky: Do you think being a Woman of Colour brings challenges when solo travelling?
Cornelia: Yes, I think so, I have not met anyone that has been openly prejudice or offensive. But when I went to certain places like Iceland I hardly saw people of my ethnicity. However, I do not have not issue with this. It may also sometimes be me being more conscious that I am a black woman in a foreign country.
Vicky: Do you consider solo travelling dangerous for women or both sexes?
Cornelia: I believe it can be dangerous for both sexes but more for women. It sucks but women have to be more careful. I think it is important not be ignorant of cultural practices when you travel, try to respect cultural practices, be vigilant especially when you are less experienced with solo travel. Female only dorms, if you are staying in hostels, are a clever idea. I always make sure I have the emergency number of the country I am in and I put it on speed dial on my phone, just in case I need it. Initially, I was very worried about going out at night, but now I do what I am comfortable with. Personally, I choose not to drink alcohol if go out alone at night.
Vicky: How do you take pictures if you are on your own?
Cornelia: I am not a selfie person but when I am travelling I am a selfie person. I have a wireless remote to take pictures with my camera. I also ask people to take photos of me.
Vicky: What have you learnt from solo travelling?
Cornelia: I have learned how confident I can be, to rely on and trust myself. I have learnt not to judge a book by its cover, I have met amazing people while travelling who I may not have socialised with at home. Travelling is a way for me to discover myself and give myself permission to do the things I love.
Vicky: What advice would you give to someone who is about to embark on their first solo adventure?
Cornelia: I would recommend starting off with three to four-day trips depending on availability and funds. Travel somewhere close to home; the truth is some people may not like the solo travel experience. Make sure you travel to a safe location and always have a little more money than you expect to spend. Chances are you will have a wonderful time and will be proud of yourself when you go back home. I think everyone should try solo travelling at least once in their lives.
“I think everyone should try solo travelling at least once in their lives“