I had the privilege of meeting the wonderful and inspiring Brittany Hemming in Rwanda in 2012. She is a freelance web designer and editor and author of Stay Curious Darling. Brittany travelled solo from Nairobi to Cape Town overland, and I was eager to interview her about this amazing trip.
1. What inspired you to Travel Solo from Nairobi to Cape Town Overland?
I had been going to Rwanda every year (sometimes twice a year for 4 years). I had been to Africa so many times but I felt like I had not seen very much of it. I wanted to see more of the continent and experience different cultures in different countries.
2. What challenges did you Face along the way?
Hmm, well camping for 57 days is always a challenge. Sometimes it was freezing cold, like at lake Naivasha in Kenya or the highlands in Tanzania. Other times it was extremely hot, I got very sick from heat stroke in Malawi. I couldn’t stand up without blacking out, I couldn’t keep in food or water. It was not a very nice feeling.
On my way back from Cape Town to Kilgali I decided to take public buses by myself. I ran into a few problems. I had my bag stolen by a group of American girls who offered to watch my stuff while I ran to the bank to change money for my visa at the next border. I was also robbed in Dar Es Salaam which was a very scary experience and I am very lucky to have walked away from it.
But a bad experience was often followed by a good one. I’ve said this many times but side by side with the worst of humanity you often see the best. I am grateful to all of the amazing people who restored my faith in humanity along the way.
3. What was your favourite place on the trip and why?
Hmm thats a hard one. I loved Stone Town in Zanzibar. The history, the beautiful old buildings, the night market, the food, I could go on and on.
I also really loved Cape Town. I could 100% picture myself living there and I hope I get the opportunity to do so in the future. The vibe in Cape Town is something else. It’s hard to describe, but I will try my best to articulate it. Cape Town to me felt like inspiration. They city itself has a very artsy vibe and there is a feeling of change and advancement, empowerment in the air. It revitalized me. I didn’t want to leave.
4. How long did it take from Nairobi to Cape Town?
On the way down to Cape Town it took 57 days, but I spent a few days here and a few days there so I could have done it in less than that. Taking buses back up from Cape Town to Kigali took about 2.5 weeks, again I spent about 4 days in Livingstone, Zambia for Christmas and 4 days in Dar es Salaam for New Years.
5. Do you have any tips for other women wanting to make this Journey Solo?
Yes, Africa is not the big scary place that you see in the news. Most people are kind, loving, accepting and they are just going about their days living their lives. Be open to experiences, talk to the locals, learn from them. That’s the point of traveling isn’t it?
That being said, always trust your instincts, when something doesn’t feel right leave, don’t worry about being rude or offending people. If your gut is telling you the situation is wrong, get out as fast as you can.
6. What do you think you learnt the most during your Travels?
I’ve learnt that I am extremely lucky to have been born in Canada. I’ve learnt that the opportunities in my life that I’ve taken for granted other people are struggling for and may never have.
I’ve learned that a smile is a universal language and I’ve learned that being kind and patient gets you a lot further than being grumpy. I’ve learned that you have to accept situations you can’t change and move on. And I’ve learned that kindness knows no bounds, it translates through cultures, gender, race and religion. There are good and bad people everywhere in this world, but I would still like to believe that most people are inherently good.
7. Do you feel that Solo Travel is Empowering for Women?
Yes, I think solo travel is empowering for everyone. It takes you outside of your comfort zone, forces you to speak to people you may not have spoken to otherwise. It also shows you how able you are. You have to navigate, plan, overcome hurdles every single day.
Another big take away is that you don’t really need a lot of stuff to be happy. I think in this part of the world we place a lot of our self worth on the things we own. Women especially, what brand of clothes we wear, what makeup we wear, how we look, how pretty we are. When you are in a country and a culture that is very different from your own, none of that stuff matters. Who you are as a person and how you make the people around you feel is what truly matters. It’s a nice reminder.
8. How can Solo Female Travellers find out more about your Journey and Future Travel?
I’m glad you asked. I write a travel and lifestyle blog. They can head on over to http://staycuriousdarling.com and read all about it.
9. Where will the Future take you?
In the last year I’ve gone back to school and completed a coding bootcamp, I am now working as a front end developer but I haven’t given up my social entrepreneural spirit.
I’m going back to Rwanda in a few weeks to ramp up a project I started a few years ago. I am fusing my tech skills with my passion for development and creating an online e commerce platform that will allow some of the women that I have been working with as well as other functioning co ops access to the global market and global exposure to their goods and brands. You can check this out at http://kwizeraproject.com.
10. How has such a Trip Changed you?
Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I think my time spent in Africa over the last 5 years has shaped my life immensely. I’ve always been very socially aware and cared about different causes.
I think working in Rwanda in particular has taught me to invest in women and women’s development. This is where I have seen the most impact and the most change. I love forming friendships and bonds with these women and watching them succeed. It’s amazing what can happen when you give someone an opportunity and instil a sense of confidence in them. Empowerment can change lives.
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