Photo: Alice Hutchinson
1. We’re much braver than the average woman.
When the night bus from Recife to Porto de Galinhas in Brazil turned onto a dirt road, I assumed we were taking a shortcut. When it stopped and the door opened to let in two armed men, whatever courage I possessed instantly vanished. In the end nothing happened; it was a misunderstanding. But I feel like I had a good reason to be scared.
And then in Cabo Verde I spent days running from one of my biggest terrors — cockroaches! The episode made me feel like the most ridiculously fearful woman in the universe. Bravery? Mine’s as good as anyone else’s when in a safe and comfortable place.
2. We’re total extroverts.
I’d just met Joanna in a hostel in Nice when she invited me to go with her on a helicopter tour over Côte d’Azur. A prize she’d won in some contest. I accepted her offer right away. In the helicopter, a famous actor took a seat right in front of us, and my travel companion spent the whole time attempting to seduce him. I couldn’t take my eyes from the window, totally ashamed, wishing I’d never met her.
The worst came after the helicopter landed. The actor approached me, offered me his business card, and invited me for a coffee. I blushed so hard Joanna — unaware of what had just happened — thought I wasn’t feeling well. I got out of there as fast as I could and never saw either of them again.
I always have a hard time dealing with embarrassing situations, and that’s something that hasn’t improved a bit over the years, regardless of how many solo travel experiences I’ve accumulated.
3. We’ve got a shit ton of money.
I was between jobs, with only enough money for two more months. It was the middle of winter in my hometown of Lisbon — cold and rainy. Bored and home in the middle of the day, I started surfing the internet, daydreaming about tropical beaches, craving sunny days. I stumbled on a special offer for a flight to Havana. I figured if I only had money for two more months, I might as well spend that time in a country with a lower cost of living than Portugal and make my budget last a little longer.
The week after I was in Cuba, and when I finally came home, I was happy, tan, and totally broke but fully motivated for the next phase of my life. Being short on money has never been an excuse to keep me home.
4. We’re incredibly strong willed.
On the day before my flight from Los Angeles to London, I met a group of young people who invited me to join them on a trip to San Francisco. They’d leave in two days, so I had only 48 hours to make up my mind. I’d wanted to visit SF since forever, but I was missing home, and London was closer to Lisbon. On the other hand, London was easier for me to visit anytime, and it’d be much harder to get to SF in the future.
I couldn’t make a decision. I made lists of pros and cons, I restructured my budget, I tried to feel out my deepest desires. Still, I didn’t know what to do, and my potential travel companions ended up leaving without me. To this day, I’ve never been to San Francisco.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only time when doubts overwhelmed me. More than once, I’ve stayed home instead of traveling simply because I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go.
5. We handle loneliness well.
I once spent a few days camping and hiking in Portugal’s Lousã Mountains. It was springtime, the landscape was breathtaking, and the weather was perfect. But on the first morning, right after I woke up, a question popped into my mind: What was I doing there alone? Why wasn’t I back home with my friends, doing whatever they were doing?
I felt tempted to pack my things and leave. But I didn’t. I spent the next three days hiking, and crying at every footstep. I’d been smacked by a good case of loneliness. I never regretted my decision to stay, though.
Sometimes a sunset, a swim in the ocean, or the smell of a meal conjures that feeling of loneliness in me. But it’s never strong enough to make me give up on my way of traveling the world.