26 March 2015 by Anna Staford
Meet our travel expert Manu, the owner of my1stimpressions blog. She's an adventurous young woman who has lived in Norway, London and Amsterdam. She has already travelled to numerous destionations scattered around various continents. We've asked Manu to share her insight on living the life of travelling and taking spontaneous solo trips. Luckily, Manu gladly agreed to help.
I always have an idea of how I am going to move when travelling, but I usually don’t plan any single detail of my trip. Before setting off for a new destination I like to discover a bit what I am going to see, read about the culture, their habits, their food, listen to their music. I try to make a general itinerary in order not to feel lost but I leave it totally open so that anything planned can change quickly according to local advice, on site discoveries, personal preferences. I don’t like to plan ahead. I don’t like to book trips and tours in advance and I don’t like to follow tourist guides. Travelling is a personal journey that you shape according to what happen the moment you are there. I love talking to people, listen to their advice, ask them what their favourite spot it, where they eat, what they drink, investigate where the out of tourist path sites are. I like taking the time for this. Then when I am ready I can start discovering.
The advantages are many. First of all there is the discovery and connection with your inner self. There is no better way to understand who you are than travelling alone. On those lonely long days on the road, you learn to listen to your inner voice, that makes you stronger.
Travelling alone enhance your senses and your social attitude, too. As you are alone you are much more open to those you meet and everyone, every conversation, every moment spent with people becomes an opportunity to discover something new, every person met on the road gain much more value as they become someone to share a precious moment with, a mate, company on your loneliness on the road. When you travel alone you always find yourself sharing some great moments and memories with amazing people, an evening at the pub, in a hostel, on the road; with some of them you share few days together, with some others you keep going together for a while, and most of the time you gain friendship for a lifetime.
Yes, it happened once. I had lost both my cards, I was at the airport on the way back home and they delayed my flight of 12 hours, so I missed the connection flight and I had to buy a new ticket. At the airport, during the long waiting hours, I started to talk to a Chilean lady who was on my same delayed flight. There was a strong empathy between us. It happened that as well as the flight delay, they also lost her suitcases on the previous flight, so I helped her with the lost and found bureaucracy in English. When I discovered I had lost my cards, I was really worried. I tried to call home but nobody replied. I didn’t know what to do, I had to ask for help. So I talked to her about it and she was so kind and grateful for the help I had previously given her than she didn’t hesitate a moment to pay the ticket cost’s for me. At the end it all ended up good. Just the moment we were going to make the payment, a very good friend called me to check when I was arriving home and when she heard of the situation she bought me a ticket online. But I will never forget that lady and her kindness.
I am not a hotel person at all. If I had to go to the other side of the world to have a shower in my room and watch tv from my bed I’d rather just stay at home. I prefer to stay with locals when possible, and in this couch-surfing is a great way to experience local life, get to know new people and learn from it. Camping is another of my favourite kinds of accommodation, I am in with nature and of course if I am not alone. Otherwise hostels. It always happened to meet interesting people in hostels, fellow travellers who often become friends for a lifetime.
Like everyone else, I have a bucket list of places I want to see. But I never follow it. My bucket list is there. I know now or then I will tick some of those places off, but when I choose my next destination it is about something inside that tells me it is now time to go and discover that place, and not my bucket list. Some places call you. It is where your soul longs for in that particular moment of your life. That’s why wherever I go I am always happy as that is exactly the place where I was supposed to be in that moment of my life.
The contact with locals and with nature is definitely my biggest source of impressions and emotions. I don’t usually like traveling to big cities. They make me feel lost. Maybe that’s why I have never been in places like Paris or New York. Big cities are for me stop-overs. It is instead in the small world of the human being that I find myself more comfortable, there where people smile at you, they notice your presence, they ask you who you are, they share with you advice, a meal, a smile. This is what it has an impact on my trip and on my memory of it. And it usually becomes part of my travel stories for the rest of my life.
The craziest thing I did while traveling was definitely crossing Africa on a truck, from Iceland to Cape Town. 7 months of adventures and personal growth in the most remote areas of the world, camping every night and living among the poorest, learning from them how to live life fully and appreciate every little things we have and we give for granted. Compared to that, every other adventure looks pale.
Traveling is easier if done with a lot of money, but not necessarily the best and most probably not even the funniest. Traveling is not about money. It is about feelings. Sometimes people ask me if I have a lot of money for traveling so much and so often. I always tell them I don’t have a lot of money at all, but I have a lot of freedom and maybe courage.
It is from a song of Red Hot Chilly Peppers: “The more I see, the less I know, the more I like to let it go…”.
Standing in front of Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. It was like standing in front of the world creation, everything is untouched over there as it was at the beginning of time. The place is so sacred that you don’t feel like talking when you are in front of it. It is like being in a natural temple where Mother Nature allows you to feel the creation She made.
And when a huge piece of ice just fell off the glacier in front of me after I had been patiently waiting for it alone for 4 hours, I felt a connection with that place. It was like if the Glacier had started to know and trust me, and had decided I was finally ready to see the unbelievable.
Then In have the tons of unforgettable sunsets seen on the road, the view of the moon rising on the desert, falling stars contemplated next to the ocean, a night storm in the Patagonian pampas, eating with the hands with Africans, dancing tribal dances with Pygmees in the rain forests of Cameroon, camping at the Lofoten islands on the Polar Circle, staring at the Northern lights in Iceland, skydiving in New Zealand. Too much to tell it all in few lines.
My 1st impressions don’t need to be right or wrong. They are based on feelings, on the purest feeling I get when I meet something new. With the experience I have learnt how to trust them and most of all how to enjoy them. They are the best part of my travels. There is nothing like the first walk in a new place, when something that at first appears like a black and white movie slowly gets coloured through your senses, through the smells of food in the streets, the noise of people and cars along the roads, the human contacts of people’s smiling, the sight of the world surrounding you. And so it happens that when you suddenly don’t expect it, that place has already become yours.
I have been hoping to settle down almost in all the places I have been living and traveling. But now I know probably it will never happen, cause mine is a traveller soul. It has been a long process of discovering and knowing myself. I don’t want to stress this anymore. If one day I will find the place where I really feel like I want to settle down and stay for the rest of my life I will, if not I will keep looking for it and in the meanwhile I will keep travelling.
We thank Manu for sharing her amazing experience with us and we wish her to discover many more places and have many more first impressions in the future. She is a true inspiration for every wanderluster out there who dreams about living their life traveller.