A solo travel adventure completely changed my life

THEMBI SKELE LIVES IN WESTDENE WITH HER PARTNER, GRAHAM. SHE’S AN ENTREPRENEUR

Although I’ve travelled quite extensively, I never imagined I’d travel on my own in South America. I knew that it would take a lot of bravery to do a big, solo international trip to a continent I’d never been to, and I just didn’t have the guts. Or so I thought… In 2015 I had a really difficult year, both personally and professionally, and I needed the space to think. I really wanted to take time out to see the world, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it on my own.

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For a long time I’d wanted to go to South America as I’d always been drawn to the continent’s ancient spirituality. With my life in upheaval, I decided to pack my bags. I couldn’t wait to meet new people, learn new languages, and push myself out of my comfort zone. My partner was nervous about me going off on my own – especially because of the Zika virus – but I knew it was something that I had to do. I worked for myself, so I just needed to put my business on hold, but I planned to be away for over three months.

The night before I left, I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking I’d made a huge mistake – I’d just randomly chosen a few places on a map, and I had no idea what to expect! But once I got on the plane, my nerves subsided – and a sense of adventure set in. My first stop was Brazil. I had no idea where to stay, so I’d booked accommodation through Airbnb, purely on the grounds that the person spoke English – but it turned out they were using Google Translate! Fear now replaced the sense of adventure, but I knew that I couldn’t give up so soon. I visited eleven states in Brazil, then moved onto other countries, including Chile and Uruguay, then finally, Bolivia.

And there were challenges: I had to deal with altitude sickness, and I found out my dad was seriously ill, halfway across the world. I was desperate to go home and be with him – it was a difficult decision but I chose to stay, and thankfully he pulled through. There were amazing moments, too: I met new people, and with every obstacle that I faced – and overcame – I thought, ‘I can’t believe I did that!’ I captured the experience on my blog and since then, the travel bug has bitten me – this year, I’m planning an epic car trip through Africa. My solo trip taught me so much – it made me dig deep and I’m proud of what I did; I now feel I can do anything that I set my mind to doing.

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