My Time in Martinique: the Highs and Lows of Flying Solo

Bonjour mes amies! This post will not be a traditional travel review with a guide of what I did or recommendations, so if you are looking for that, I’m sorry. I did, however, read through on Travels with Darcy’s post when I was curating my trip.

In August of last year, after returning home from an incredible two weeks in Brazil, I made a vow to myself to see more of the world. I mapped out potential dates of the year that would be good for travel and then set out to explore places to visit.

My trip to Martinique came together rather unusually. I am conversant in French enough to get by, but I knew I wanted to go somewhere that forced me to brush up on my skills beforehand and use them. I have always wanted to visit more of the French speaking countries in the Caribbean with my family, so when the opportunity to visit Martinique on my own came to be, I jumped on it.From NYC, Norwegian Air has a seasonal roundtrip ticket to Martinique for $258! Most countries in the Caribbean that I was considering were easily twice that price. I booked a flight before I had any other logistical detail in place. I later found Le Simon Hotel on booking.com. It was well reviewed but a bit on the steeper side of what I wanted to pay for.

Me on the dock at Anse L'Ane

This has been my first trip traveling alone. Traveling alone allows for me to prioritize my own pleasure. If I want to sleep in, I can. If I want to venture out, I can. I’ll admit, traveling alone has its ups and downs. Everyone talks about how traveling solo is empowering. It is, but it’s a bit more than that. Traveling alone requires a strong sense of self-reliance and problem-solving skills but when you are a person living with anxiety, you often question your own abilities. The day before I left for this trip, I was so anxious about things so far out of my control. What would I do in the event that my flight was severely delayed? Would there still be taxis at the airport taking me to my hotel? Did the hotel get the memo that I would be arriving in the evening? In addition to logistical concerns, other parts of my anxiety were deeper than itinerary related. Did I deserve this trip? Had I earned a right to joy? How dare I choose to live beyond the constraints of what was deemed acceptable for me. How dare I spend money in a way that is satisfactory to me. The thing about travel anxiety is that it does not mean that I am ungrateful for the opportunity to see more of the world. It is my worry that my anxiety makes me seem as though I lack perspective that exacerbates my anxiety and makes it worse. As I was preparing my stay in Martinique, I came across some challenges. Martinique is a country where many travelers once they arrive rent cars to get around. As someone without a license, this posed for some limitations. Additionally, from where I was staying in Fort de France, many of the other tourist attractions in other places were upwards of an hour away. Traveling that far out of my radius did not feel all that appealing.

local art captured outside of La Grande Marche

Gender plays a huge role in my travel anxiety as well. I did not want to be taken advantage of. When I first arrived at the Aime Cesaire airport, I told my taxi driver that I was meeting my father at the hotel he was taking me to. Much of the friendly conversation starters put me on edge as a person traveling by myself. Questions about my nationality and how long I was traveling made me feel vulnerable to disclose some personal details about myself. Having completed my first solo trip, in preparation for my next one, here are some things I will try to consider in an effort to calm my travel anxiety:

  1. (If the price allows) Book a flight that allows for my arrival in a foreign place either in the morning or afternoon. Coming into a new place at night made me anxious because I couldn’t get a true sense for where I was and what directions we were going in. Granted, the flight deal I found had restricted flying times that I could not change, but I’ll be looking for that going forward.

  2. Consider staying amongst other solo travelers. Whether hostels are more your scene or an all-inclusive resort (hey y’all ;), look into places that have you the visitor in mind. There is a whole community of people from around the world who are experiencing a new place. I’m even considering traveling with a travel club that plans out itineraries for you.

  3. Keep an eye out for familiar faces. At the airport, I sat next to two Black women at a ramen restaurant. I later learned that they were on my flight. I didn’t feel particularly moved to strike a conversation with them at the time. My second day in Fort de France, I saw them again walking downtown. Again, I said nothing. Two days later, I saw them again at the beach of Anse d’Ane. I walked up to them and started a conversation and we exchanged travel destination ideas and our understandings of the French Caribbean. On my second to last day in Martinique, I met another Black woman who was from my neighborhood and went to the same graduate school as me. Kinda freaky right? You never really know who you'll meet when you travel.

  4. Give yourself enough variety to keep yourself entertained. I underestimated the amount of reading I would do on this trip! If it's journaling you like or crossword puzzles or books to read, make sure you take into account the length of your trip.

  5. Understand that it is highly unlikely that you will see all a country has to offer in one visit. This gave me so much grace in the moments where I did not feel like I was “living it up” during my trip. At one point I really had to ask myself what was soooo wrong about reading on the beach every day. Girl, you are on vacation! Sightseeing does not need to be the only way to make the most of your travel. Vacation *can* be about rest. All the things that I did not accomplish I will add to my list of things to do if I return to Martinique in the future.

  6. If technology helps you feel less anxious, don’t be ashamed to use it. Listen, I turn on my GPS app for Ubers and Lyfts in America when I know exactly where I’m going. You think I won’t do that in a foreign country where I don’t know how to get around? Ha. In an effort not to be on my phone using data the entirety of my trip, I made sure to go through my already downloaded podcasts for nights in my hotel where I was feeling restless. Listening to Kid Fury and Crissle from The Read, something that I do on the regular back home, eased my anxiety when I felt it flaring up.

All in all, I am so glad I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. Here is to being even more bold in 2019!

Have you traveled alone? Got any tips to share with me? Leave a comment below!

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