I’m often asked how I travel solo, how I can possibly take my motorbike all the way down to Spain (the bottom tip of it at that…), don’t I ever get lonely and many other questions. I’d like to share with you one of my favourite places that I visited last month – Cádiz, in Andalucia. The climate was lovely as you’d expect, the food absolutely delicious but most impressively were the people! It’s always wonderful to experience culture and hospitality like this whilst on the road:
I’d arrived in Cádiz earlier after riding down from Sevilla the night before. I’d had breakfast in the morning at a lovely bar in a residential neighbourhood. After some sightseeing, it was time to think about lunch. I’d been recommended the Mercado Central de Abastos where various restaurants just outside the market will cook seafood purchased from the fish market. I soon found out that the restaurant my sister had recommended had closed down so wandered next door and gestured/asked a family from Sevilla (not pictured) whether I could sit next to them at the restaurant next door and asked me about my travels, whilst I responded in my limited Spanish and shared with me their peanuts. They then asked if I’d chosen from the menu – I hadn’t so they recommended two tasty options. When they left, I spoke to the two French guys sat to my left.
Me with Gilles (my left) from Paris and his friend from Bordeaux
Whilst chatting to them, a local comes over and sings to a table nearby whilst tapping a napkin dispenser! I was informed that I should enjoy this local Andalucian thing. To me it was utterly surreal and amazing at the same time to experience. After the French guys leave, I go to the singing man and say hola! and introduce myself and he’s pleased to hear that I’m enjoying Cádiz. Here’s our selfie!
Me and Juan
Three hours later, on my way back from the beach (Playa de la Caleta, which is nice, by the way) and walking through the old town, I hear shouting: “Hong Kong! Hong Kong!” What could that be?!… no, that can’t be for me, or is it?! I turn around and the singing man is there sat down outside a bar with his family and friends! Intrigued, I wander over and am invited to sit and chat with my new found friends for a good hour. Drinks are offered and in more broken Spanish, I answer their questions about my trip around España…
“Where are you staying/going tonight?”
“Oh, to Gibraltar…”
“The road down there is a nice one”
“Do you know about the fiesta tonight though..?”
Fiesta?! At first I’m reluctant to go along, as I wanted to make progress on the road, and head back up north – but then the best experiences are never had that way! Here was an opportunity to go to a fiesta – and it could be good fun! On the way there I decided to refill my water bottle at a public fountain in the main square. On seeing this, José (Juan’s friend) wouldn’t have any of this (the fact that my water is warm). A quick feel of the temperature of the bottle and he went into a shop and bought me a bottle of cold water! I was too embarassed to tell him that cold water makes me cough a bit!
On arrival at the fiesta just a little bit further down from the Puerta de Tierra, I’m offered more drinks! We’re also hungry so it’s soon decided to go and get food! One bocadillo de salchichón (a type of Spanish sausage) later, we mingled into the crowd and I enjoyed 2 and half hours of local music by singers of the Cádiz region. I didn’t understand most of what I was listening to but it didn’t matter. The locals were curious about me and I was curious about them. The atmosphere was lovely and Juan was singing along to some of his favourites! One particular song which I did understand a few words was about Gaditano (Cádiz people) girls are the way they are due to the climate for example. Thank you to Juan and José for making my experience so memorable, so unique, so authentic and so local to the region.
So my answer to questions about travelling on a motorbike, being lonely etc,, but especially questions about travelling solo is this – when you travel alone, you are never alone! New experiences and opportunities will open themselves up to you and the kindness and friendliness of strangers will be your energy. This kind of unique experience would never have presented itself to me were I travelling in a group, with friends or in other circumstances.
Too often I meet people afraid of travelling alone, afraid of speaking another language, afraid/unable to get time off work, afraid of theft/crime, afraid to go do a big adventure, afraid to do a road trip, afraid if their vehicle has a break down……. My advice to anyone who wishes to step out of their comfort zone – do it, go enjoy yourself and immerse yourself in another culture and do it off the beaten track! If you worry all the time, you won’t get anywhere. Any moment out of your home/city is an adventure, it can be 1 day, it can be 3 days, 2 weeks, a month or more.