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Solo-Travel puts YOU first

Bula ladies, my name is Miri Rhys and I am humbled to share my experience as a solo-travel enthusiast.

Solo-travel is one of the best things you can do for character and confidence building, particularly as a woman. It forces you out of your comfort zone and makes you face and overcome situations that you might otherwise find challenging or daunting because you have no one else to rely on but yourself. Sometimes I tell myself to ‘Get lost on purpose’, not in a way that will put myself in danger but in a way that will challenge me to go and speak to locals, ask for directions or try something new. I have travelled to at least 30 countries now, with many still on my list that I work towards with anticipation.

Here's a tad bit more about my background. I am a 30 something year old, working and living in Cardiff, Wales. I was born and raised in Suva to a Welsh father from Dowlais in the south Wales valleys and an iTaukei mother, my beautiful marama ni colo from the village of Nasele, Waidina (Waimaro), in the province of Naitasiri. I currently work in children and youth services in Cardiff and my professional background has largely been in law, local government and international development.

What ignited my love for travel?

I come from a travel obsessed family and it has always been a part of my life since as far back as I can remember. I was probably only two years old when my parents took me on my first trip abroad to New Zealand. A year or so later they took me to Wales to meet my father’s family for the first time. It would seem I was already being taught to get accustomed to flights and long-haul ones from a very early age!

My first solo trip overseas was when I was fourteen, again to New Zealand to visit my aunt. It wasn’t entirely solo though, because being a minor, I was required to receive assistance from a flight attendant on my journey. However, the experience gave me considerable confidence in how to navigate and familiarise myself with the whole airports process, something that can be quite stressful and daunting even for the most seasoned traveller.

Fast forward to a seventeen-year-old me, after completing my Foundation Course at USP in Suva, I was sent to Wales for a gap year where I found my first job and where the travel flame was further ignited. My father took me on the flight to Wales but once we got there, I was to stay with my older sister for a year to basically learn how to be independent in a foreign country, that although I had familial roots, I hadn’t been brought up in.

Kind of like if a Fijian child brought up here in the UK was sent to live in Fiji for a year, just my situation was the reverse. This was my father basically teaching me to get out of my little comfortable bubble, which for my whole life up until that point had been Fiji, and now I had to branch out and see how the big fast world really worked. I guess this is where the ‘solo’ bit of the solo-travelling first started. Anyway, by the time I returned to Fiji at the end of that gap year, apart from having learnt how to live on my own without my parents, make my own money and fend for myself, I’d also managed to visit many local places around the UK, familiarise myself with this western culture and made two trips abroad, one to Ireland and the other to South Africa. All in those 12 months away before returning to Viti.

The fact my parents even met being from opposite sides of the globe is pinnacle to the theme of this story. For if it had not been for my father’s initial love of travel, he would never have made it to Fiji or met my mother.

Considering the times and place he grew up; my father was a unique thinker and individual. He came from an industrial town in south Wales where the expected occupation and projected route for any young man was to go work in the coal mines. However, my father always had other broader plans in mind and chose to train as a teacher (in English and History) instead, an occupation that would take him to parts of the world people in his hometown would never have even dreamed of visiting. His teaching post first took him to the continent of Africa where he spent well over a decade teaching across – Zambia, Swaziland (now Eswatini), South Africa and Libya. He later taught in Brunei in southeast Asia and even had a short stint in Jamaica until he finally found himself in Fiji working on education programmes throughout the South Pacific region.

The rest is history as once he met my mother, he stayed for thirty years, that is the effect highland women have I suppose. My father sadly passed away back in 2012, but all the stories and travels he did in his lifetime had a considerable influence on me.

When I lived in Fiji, I was also very fortunate to have worked in one of the Commonwealth offices based in Suva where our programmes were implemented in multiple Pacific Island countries and so required a lot of regional and international travel. I was grateful for this job because it enabled me to see and work in a lot of the South Pacific particularly all the Commonwealth countries in Melanesia – Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea (including Bougainville) and Vanuatu.

In 2016, my younger sister and I moved back to Wales permanently. Well for me it was only meant to be a few months, but then I found a permanent job and just decided to stay. Because we had a Welsh father, that meant we already had inherited British citizenship through him at birth so were lucky that we could find work and settle without any immigration delays. Within the first year I was back, I took full advantage of the fact that I now lived in Europe and how easy it would be to travel to so many countries from the UK together with the multitude of options, travels deals and tours now available. This was as opposed to living in Fiji where it takes a great deal of time (and money) to get to anywhere due to our geographical location in the middle of the South Pacific.

Travelling on a Budget

Travel doesn’t need to be expensive and many of my travels have been on a shoestring budget where I look for cheap flights or travel at off peak times of the year. I often make my own itinerary and will maybe choose at least one paid ultimate activity that I really want to do or see on my list, but most of the time I will look for free activities and build around that. It really doesn’t have to cost you an arm or a leg. The many friends I made on my travels is something that I treasure the most. You meet so many people of different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds on your travels. It gives you a better understanding and appreciation of the diversity of the world we live in. And if you keep in touch, you always have a home away from home with the international family you build on your travels.

I have travelled to at least 30 countries now, with many still on my list. The pandemic had halted my travelling for the last few years but that doesn’t mean I stopped completely. My adventures are not limited to international travel, and I also go on many local adventures. Exploring your own towns and cities is equally fascinating. Particularly living in the United Kingdom which is rich in history and never has a shortage of interesting places to visit. Many people travel from all over the world to visit the British Isles, yet we live here and can do the same and for much cheaper too! Ok we don’t always have the best weather but that really shouldn’t be an excuse to be honest.

For me living in Wales, this small country is never short of beautiful natural scenery, having both mountains and stunning coastlines there is always somewhere to go hike, or a new beach to visit, river or waterfalls to go swim in. Wales is also very rich in history and has many legends and places with magical and mystical back stories. Let’s not forget the many castles and ruins, I am an avid history enthusiast and castle hunter, so Wales is an absolute treasure trove for me.

Solo-Travel Puts You First

Whilst I enjoy travelling for the adventure and experiences, I also do it as a form of self-care and character building. Because most of my travels are done solo, I use the time as an opportunity to reflect on where I am at that particular point in my life and it is literally just ‘me time’ for the duration of my stay because all the time is being spent on me, myself and I.

Being a solo female traveller is an elevation of this self-care because as a woman it forces you out of your comfort zone and also pushes you to do things you probably would ordinarily wait for someone else to do first or on your behalf. I’m not married (yet), but I can imagine if I was to travel with a partner I would most likely (this is me personally based on my own personality) depend on him to do a lot of the talking, mostly because as a child I was quite introverted and shy and naturally wouldn’t be the one to do the asking.

BUT this is not an option when you’re solo travelling. You have no one else to depend on but yourself. Solo travel helped me get out of my shell and gave me more confidence in terms of speaking to strangers sometimes having to attempt this in a foreign language and basically thinking on my toes. It is a great way to build self-esteem and self-confidence and plus you’re alone anyway so no one can laugh or make fun of you if you make a mistake.

As a female travelling alone, you obviously take more precautions, but they are the same precautions you would take in your daily routine in your hometowns anyway. Unfortunately, it’s just part and parcel of being a woman in the world we live in but that shouldn’t hinder you from trying out this travel gig solo.

All in all, I would say to go and travel to at least one place on your own. Just for your own self-care and reflection. Spend some time exploring a place you’ve never been to whilst also exploring and reflecting on yourself and where you are in life. I promise you will come back feeling refreshed and with a lot of mental clarity.

Travel is almost like a reset button; it relieves the burn out and ignites the enthusiasm and motivation for life again. And the bonus is that you’re also adding new memories and experiences to the pages of your life story to one day share and inspire your children with, just like my father did with me.

Travel is to spread your life across the world. Photograph everything for the memories and to share and conjure up inspiration within your children. For me, it’s also to let them know that their aunt/mum didn’t stay put in one place for long.

As I continue my solo-adventures, you can follow me via Instagram on: @gyalfrmviti

Thank you for reading and I hope this story helps you to just book the trip for you!

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