Travelling Alone for the First Time

“Some journeys in life can only be travelled alone.”

Ken Poirot


It’s been 2 weeks since I got back from my trip to Kenya and what an experience it was.

For those of you who don’t know, I was born in Kenya then moved to London when I was 5 years old. Since then, I’ve travelled back a hand full of times (three to be exact) and each time I’ve either travelled with my family or K. So for my fourth time back I decided to try it on my own.

My cousin passed away last year in a fire at his apartment in New York and this year was the 1-year anniversary of his death. He was laid to rest in Kenya but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to his funeral so my family and I thought it would be good for me to go this year. To be honest I don’t do well with death. I mean who does? I’ve never lost someone as close to me before so gathering for his anniversary was a much better reason to go to Kenya. In a strange way it made it easier to deal with his death.

A small group of friends and family gathered at my uncle’s home for a short but sweet memorial service. My uncles home is so beautiful! It was the first time I’d been there and couldn’t get over how huge it was. Equipped with everything you need for a vacation home. Huge rooms with en-suite bathrooms, a mini golf course, a movie room and a huge back yard with an area to plant something beautiful or edible (or both). The house even has a bar inside which my uncle named after himself of course. You’d have to be a billionaire to own a home like it in the U.K. It was lovely!

The gathering was a nice opportunity to see some of my other family members whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. I won’t lie it felt strange. Usually I’d be with my mum during a family visit to Kenya. My mum would carry the conversation (trying to remind me who is who) whilst I sat back and listened. Unfortunately, my mind would wander after a few minutes of struggling to keep up with the conversation.

You see, my Swahili isn’t the best. Actually, who am I kidding it sucks and my Kikuyu is even worse. I can barely understand it and trying to speak it only leads to embarrassment. We usually laugh about it but it’s something that’s always bothered me. I’d love to change that but often wonder if it’s too late. How many people my age living outside of Kenya even speak Kikuyu to each other? Will the next generation living in a diaspora even speak Kikuyu? That’s a topic for another post.

After a few days at my uncle’s home it was time to head back to Nairobi for my next adventure – Mombasa. I have a friend who lives there after getting married last year and I couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to see her before returning safely back to London. In my attempt to keep this post short I’ll save the details of what we got up to whilst in Mombasa for my next post.

Why am I sharing this?

Though travelling with family and friends can be a wonderful and incredibly rewarding experience, I believe it’s important to travel alone at least once in your life. Especially when it comes to travelling “back home”. I use the term back home loosely as I’m not sure if Kenya is really more than just a place I was born. My inability to speak my mother tongue fluently and the fact that I didn’t remember a lot of the people or placed there reminded me just how far removed I am from Kenya. Is it really my home? Those 5 years I lived in Kenya seem so vague to me that I almost feel like a fraud calling it my home.

And that’s what travelling on your own does. When you venture out into the world on your own, it allows you to face up to who you are, what you’re about and what matters to you. It teaches you things about yourself you didn’t know and forces you to grow up a little.

Though I was staying with family and friends, the fact that I was able to plan my own trip and get myself there and back alone safely (without losing anything) was important for me. It not only boosted my confidence in my own abilities but also helped me create vivid memories of Kenya because I was present in every moment, not just a by-stander. Most importantly my family back in Kenya was able to meet the 25 year old young woman I’ve become without my mother holding my hand.

I used to think I could never go back to Kenya to live there, but after travelling on my own I can see it being possible. Someday…

Whatever your motivations are for travelling I want to encourage you to try it alone even just once. It doesn’t have to be a completely new place, it’s about creating new experiences and new memories even in the places you’ve already been to. Life is too short and unpredictable to not seek out new experiences and make the most of the time we have now.

It’s never too late to build new memories in old places.

Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share with you the things I got up to on my trip to Mombasa. From feeding giraffes to eating Japanese food and waxing!

In the meantime, please feel free to leave your thoughts, comments and questions below.

What was your experience travelling alone for the first time? Where did you go? What did you learn?

Lydia x

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