Recently, a woman emailed me to say she was keeping my book for her daughters when they are old enough to read it, “as proof girls can do things considered ‘impossible’ in the minds of many”. Ever since my first book was published last year, I’ve received multiple such messages from women, telling me that my experiences have given them the confidence to travel alone. These stirring sentiments always remind me why I do what I do.
From March to August 2017, I travelled overland from Indonesia to Africa alone, crossing more than half the circumference of the Earth. The journey wasn’t easy. I often battled language barriers and struggled with boredom on 36-hour bus rides. Searching for a hostel in the middle of the night with a heavy pack was never fun. However, amid these struggles, the most difficult challenge I faced was vanquishing my own self-doubt. At the beginning, I was wary of strangers and sceptical of my own abilities.
Over the course of my trip, these challenges were overcome with the abundant kindness I experienced. In Russia, I stayed with a family whose home had no running hot water. When I arrived, the mother hugged me and told me she’d boiled water on the stove so I could take a bath. In China, I had to take a 24-hour train ride, but the only tickets left were standing tickets. I almost gave up after the first 10 minutes as the train was so packed, but then passengers started offering me their seat – a different person every hour or so. They also shared their food and lent me their jackets.
The goodness of people during my journey inspired me to write a book about my travels. I wanted to tell the world that women can travel solo and enjoy the experience. The world is not as terrible as the news depicts, and not as intimidating as the negative thoughts in one’s mind. My book is not a travel guide for tourist destinations. Instead, it paints a picture of the characters I met and the warmth I encountered, which convinced me that human beings are inherently good and people are always ready to offer help to those who need it.
Knowing that my writing touched my readers’ lives in such a personal way was truly an extraordinary feeling.
Famega is a writer with BBC Indonesia. In 2017, she travelled 23,181km through 18 countries and 44 cities. Her first book, Wanderlust: Travelling Overland from Indonesia to Africa, was published in Bahasa Indonesia last summer.
Article translated from Bahasa Indonesia by Julia Winterflood
Illustration by Anngee Neo
This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine