Jessica outside in a blue dress.

If you guys recall, at the end of January I travelled to California to spend five weeks there until March. This trip started because I was nominated for the 2018 Best Original Photography Award by Shiftcon, and would also be going to a conference at Google at the beginning of March! It made no sense to go back home in between, so I spent the entire time there, and extended my trip for one more week. Here’s a brief recap:

  • I won the award!! Here’s the IG post on that and the writeup that my local newspaper did on me!. Such an honour and lots of staring at my award since!
  • Shiftcon was the best conference! I learned so much, I met new friends and I ate the best conference food!
  • I went to Google and had a blast at that conference! Seeing old friends was so nice here and meeting new ones too!
  • I was invited to Pinterest’s HQ! That was beyond exciting, and I’ll actually be sharing soon what I learned there!
  • All that phenomenal vegan food in California turned me into a vegan, finally. If you’ve been here, then you know that I’ve been vegetarian for a long time now. My addiction? Cheese. So much cheese, and not in a good way. My addiction to dairy was a main reason that caused me to go vegan (apart from the obvious reasons) and honestly, I’m really glad I did. Breaking that addiction wasn’t easy, and I plan to share an update after a month has passed!
  • I learned a TON of lessons along the way. I spent a few weeks by myself while I was there, and the lessons I learned from my overall trip impacted me so much that I knew I had to share them with you. Also, I learned way more than five lessons, but these are the standout ones for me.

5 Lessons Learned from 5 Weeks Away

Jessica leaning against a railing by a river.

1) Alone time is not only good, it’s necessary and important.

Here’s a true fact: I used to actively fear being alone. For me, it automatically meant that I was lonely. When I started to work for myself, I spent a LOT of time alone, and this forced me to face this fear head on. All this time alone made my realise that alone time was actually a good thing. A time to get to know yourself, dig deeper and all the things. Then I went away by myself and realised that this was a whole new level. I cried so hard the day Gavin left to wrap up work – yes because I was going to miss him, but also because I was terrified as to what was to come next. What shocked me was just how well I seemed to adjust to being alone.

There’s a huge difference between being alone and being lonely. Spending time by yourself doesn’t automatically mean that you’re lonely, it just means that you’re alone. As much as I missed Gavin, I never felt lonely, which was amazing. Instead, being on my own felt really empowering. I learned to really be there for myself, to enjoy time by myself and to be my own best friend. I hiked by myself. Of course, I shopped by myself. I walked for hours by myself. I even went to a movie by myself, and had a blast! It was such an empowering thing to realise that being alone can be a really good thing. It also made me appreciate Gavin way more, not having him around. I finally feel way more comfortable with myself.

2) You learn how to truly step out of your comfort zone (p.s. it’s so worth it)

This was a huge one for me. I’ve spoken about stepping out of your comfort zone many times, but this was in a really unique way for me. You see, when I go out I’m usually with Gavin, so I either let my guard down majorly because I can or tune out all together. I found so many instances where I had to find my voice, speak up and stand up for myself.

This was life changing for me, because now I speak up even when I’m out with Gav. Whether that’s ensuring I’m not passed over on a tour where I’m the only single person, or speaking up at my friend’s book launch and making a new blogger friend out of it, then going to a delicious and exciting brunch with them! Or going to another brunch with a blogger (also now a new friend!) that I had only met on Instagram that ended up turning into a fun and different experience. I met so many new amazing women on this trip! All from stepping out of my comfort zone. I spoke to my Uber and Lyft drivers and learned a lot about California, and taught them about my blog and vegan food. I surprised myself each time when I heard the voice of that strong and confident woman that I really am.

3) You get to know who you really are and what matters to you

I’ll admit, this was a real plus. I’m a huge museum fan, and I realised it even more on this trip. I went to so many museums and just spent hours there. Browsing. Learning. Taking photos. Sitting and just absorbing it all. I could never do that with someone else, simply because I respect their time too. But here, it was all about what I wanted. Compromise is important when travelling with others, but it was nice to really dig deep into what I loved.

Another thing I learned about myself? I don’t love drinking as much as I used to when I was younger. In fact, I can count the drinks I had alone on one hand. I didn’t realise that before I was socially drinking, without really enjoying it. Being by myself meant realising oh, this isn’t really my thing, is it? I still love a quality glass of wine, but in terms of other types of liquor, it was interesting to realise this. To get to know what I really like, day-to-day. It’s fun to spend the day walking if that’s what you want, or watching episodes of your fave superhero show that you missed and ordering Postmates all day long.

Jessica eating a waffles in a restaurant.

4) Your intuition is your most important asset:

Wow. My intuition really came through for me and I’m glad I listened. Listening to your gut is so crucial, especially as a woman travelling alone. I let it guide me in situations where I wasn’t sure it was safe. That meant if I took my off of my eye drink and I wasn’t sure about its safety, I abandoned it. If I thought it made more sense to Uber it than walk it because it was dark and I didn’t know the area, I followed it.

Letting my intuition guide me took the pressure off of worrying about an extra expense or wastage because I knew I was doing the right thing for me. My intuition also taught me that I can take care of myself. I didn’t have all great experiences, but when I had to evacuate by Airbnb unexpectedly, I was really proud of how quickly and effectively I did it. It was a great reminder that I can depend on my husband and he can depend on me, but that that independent woman is still here, ready to kick in whenever I need her.

5) What Your Travel Preferences Are: I liked travelling alone, but I prefer to travel with someone else

This was the most unexpected lesson for me. Contrary to what people and friends have said, I don’t believe you have to travel with your spouse if it’s not your thing. In fact, I think everyone needs to take a solo trip to get comfortable with themselves. With that said, I realised that I much more prefer travelling with someone else. When Kellie came, I had someone to share experiences with, laugh for hours, and giggle in the nights with about the day or what ifs.

When I’m travelling with my husband, we are a complete team. We’re two peas in a pod, travelling buddies, both obsessed with learning and trying new foods and cultures. When we’re with my family, we’re representing our country, telling jokes in patois with each other, taking all the photos in the world, all over the world. It enriches family dinners. It creates inside jokes that are priceless. For me, travelling with others creates bonds and solidifies friendships. It creates beautiful memories that last forever. I love that I was able to experience both ways, and decide which one is best for me.

So, that’s it for me friends! What about you? Have you ever spent a long time away from home and learned some extraordinary things about yourself? Let me know in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!