Things I Learned About Myself By Traveling To Africa Alone

Rachael Phillips
6 min readAug 19, 2022

In the summer of 2019, I wanted to travel to a far off land! A place that was new to me, as well as wonderful and exciting!

I searched for friends and family that would accompany me on this trip and quickly came to the conclusion that I would go it alone.

Not that no one wanted to go, it was more of an issue that either they couldn’t travel or they couldn’t afford to travel. So either way, I had to choose a location that would be safe for a young, single woman to travel to by herself.

I spent some time searching for my final destination. I finally settled on the country of Botswana. According to different sources, this was a relatively safe place to visit for a single woman. I also would satisfy some bucket list items; traveling to a new continent (Africa), going on a real African Safari (mainly to see my favorite animal: Elephants) and traveling far on my own. I was ready for the planning phase of my new adventure!

From there I decided to use a travel website to help me book everything. This made it easier for me to go on this journey. I used, which had different packages of trips to various destinations. I chose a 6 days, 5 nights Zimbabwe and Botswana trip! They booked the places to stay, my excursions and car travel for roughly $5k. I did have to purchase my flights separately, which cost me an additional $2k through just fly.

After all the booking was done, I was READY!!!

I won’t bore you with all the details of my trip, however, I will say there were specific highlights and lessons that I learned from this experience of traveling by myself.

  1. Letting go is the hardest part of anything in life:

In Zimbabwe, I decided to go white water rafting down the Zambezi River. I had gone white water rafting once before, years earlier, but the rapids were small and tranquil. I was not expecting this river to be anything different. Boy, was I wrong?!?! This was quite the opposite! Not only was it intense, but during two separate rapids, I had fallen out of the raft and thought I would drown!

The first time I fell out, waves would crash into my face making it challenging to breath. I panicked a bit, but eventually got help from the kayakers back to my boat. They continuously yelled at me not to panic… essentially to let go of control and wait to be helped.

The second incident, everyone fell out, but I got sucked under the boat and stuck for a good 10–15 seconds. I repeatedly told myself not to panic and just let go. I literally thought “this is how I die! Peace life, it was nice knowing you!”. In that moment, I had to let go of all I knew and hope to God I would return to the surface before I ran out of air. Eventually I moved myself out from under the boat and popped up to the surface.

Letting go of that control was the hardest part of this experience for me. After this trip, I took that lesson and used it in every aspect of my life. From almost drowning in a river on vacation, to relationships, and everything in between.

Picture of me falling out of the raft the first time! My hand and foot are circled in red!

2. Follow Your Heart:

I took this trip during an odd time in my life where I wasn’t sure about the relationship that I was in. It was an on-again/off-again relationship that had been going on for years. I constantly was questioning it and felt confused about whether this was the relationship I wanted to be in. My trip to Africa gave me a little perspective on this from the story I heard about Dr. Livingstone.

Me confused about my life choices

In the 1800s, a Scottish explorer and missionary named Dr. David Livingstone traveled to Africa and discovered Victoria Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world! For many years, roughly 3 decades, he traversed the continent to explore and spread his mission. During this time, however, Europeans were not known to survive more than 6 months in Africa. Therefore, when another explorer and journalist of Welsh-American decent, Henry M. Stanley, found him after he had been missing for more than four years, he greeted him with “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”

The greatest part of this story isn’t necessarily the part where he got lost and found again, it was more about what happened after he died. He fell in love with Africa while traveling and made arrangements after his death to bury his body in Scotland, but his heart in Africa. He knew his heart belonged to Africa and that is where he wanted to keep it.

It was a beautiful message to me that no matter what in life, we should follow our heart. I took this into affect in my own life and although I didn’t make a big change for another year, I did finally make an official decision to leave the confusing and painful relationship I was in.

Me in front of the Livingstone Statue: Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

3. Nothing is Perfect:

There was a time in my life where I had a VERY black and white view of things. It was either good or bad, happy or sad, this or that. I didn’t think in greys or even color, just yes or no thinking. Going to Africa on my own taught me how to shift this perspective.

When traveling alone, I figured out so many things about myself. I realized what I love about traveling alone and what I don’t love about traveling alone.

What I love about Traveling Alone: You meet new people you wouldn’t normally meet, you go at your own pace, you get to know yourself and you are aware of your thoughts

What I don’t love about Traveling Alone: You can get lonely, you can feel unsafe in certain situations, you don’t get to share some fun moments with loved ones and you are aware of your thoughts

Going on a large trip on my own was a wonderful experience and an adventure that I will cherish forever! It did however teach me that nothing is perfect and life is many shades of grey, not black or white. This is a lesson that I take with me every day. When I start to catch myself being too extreme or one sided, I try to remember that things are not perfect and that there is good and bad in every experience and everything.

Me at Victoria Falls!

Going to Africa alone taught me many things, but the main takeaways from this trip were letting go of things that no longer served me, trusting my instincts (a.k.a. following my heart) and realizing that nothing is perfect.

If you ever get the chance to go on a large trip alone, I highly recommend it! You learn so many things about yourself while exploring the world! It was a trip that I will always cherish and hold a special place in my heart! I hope this article inspired you to get out there and explore different parts of the world and learn more about the world around you and yourself!

If you enjoyed reading this article, check out my other articles such as: Organizing Images in Windows Using Python, How I Paid Off $62k of Debt in a Year, Fuzzy Matching using the RecordLinkage Module in Python and 1000 Followers Challenge! Thank you for reading and I hope to connect with you sometime!