Name & Age? Laureene Reeves Ndagire, 30
Where's home? I am currently living in Rwanda, still looking for a place to call home.
What got you started? If I could really pinpoint what started it all, it will probably have to be when I left Uganda (country of birth) for England. However, my first trip out of the country was to Kenya and Tanzania.
What was/is your last/current trip? Kigali, Rwanda is my current trip, I have been living in the country for two months now, coming to three. I will bring myself to leave next week to Goma, Congo DRC.
How do you pay the way? I save up from whatever job I have at the time and where some people treat themselves to a pair of shoes or handbag, I treat myself to an excursion.
What's always on your packing list? If I am being honest, I don't really have a 'list' per say. I try to keep a water bottle on me to refill, markers if I have to write a hitchhiking sign, something sweet to keep my sugar levels, and a bag of fruit. My phone acts as a camera and so lately I carry a power bank too.
What’s the last thing that blew your mind? 'The Sun Hitcher' was quite mind-boggling I guess.
By land, by sea, or by air? Always by land
Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Couchsurf and camp
What's your travel pet peeve? People who insist on talking on night travels, just as you are dosing off and they choose to have a conversation with the entire bus/train/plane.
How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? I have had people say to me they admire me, others say i am brave and some who have expressed concern for me. Some people i have met start with awe, surprise, concern which shifts to ' but you seem like a strong girl who can take care of herself'. Most of the time, I get told off by women who say I should be thinking of getting a husband and staying home instead of being out in the big bad world. Some young women say, "I wish I could travel with/like you" and I reply, "Lets go". But there is always something holding them back, family, studies, fear, stigma. There seems to be unwarranted perceptions of women who travel solo, they are "free" in every sense of the word, or rebellious, and depending on which society you are in, it can be a good or bad thing.
What scares you? Not having enough time, passport pages to go places, and not being able to stop once I get going.
How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? I have made my peace, or trying to make my peace in this world. Also, when in doubt, hitchhike :). But in all seriousness, I truly believe that the energy you put out into the universe is what you get back, so I try to stay positive and believe that everyone I meet is capable of good.
Worst memory: I escaped getting kidnapped by a truck driver between Georgia and Turkey by threatening to jump out of the truck. He left me stranded on the road, it was dark, but like I said, when in doubt, hitchhike. So I stuck my thumb out, got a ride that took me all the way to my host's door.
One unforgettable memory: Iran
Bravest memory: Hitchhiked solo from Georgia through Azerbaijan to Iran. Hitch hiking in Iran is probably the bravest it will get, at one point I found myself in the South alone, on an empty road and was saved by the kindness of 2 guys who bought me dinner, and a bus ticket to Tehran.
Culture shock moment: The Middle East will always hold the most culture shock(s) to me.
Best reason to talk to strangers: Strangers are friends we haven't met yet.
How are you different while traveling? I cast all my fears aside while travelling, and it's when I feel the most connection to the universe. I am happiest when travelling, it gives a sense of timelessness.
Is it harder to leave or to stay put? It is harder to stay put.
Three things you've learned on the road:
- Happiness is only real when shared (sounds cliche but there are times I have been in the most amazing of places and realised, I wish someone was here to share this)
- People are capable of good; I have met so much kindness while travelling that I have met while sitting still. From the drivers that give me lifts, to the people I have been lucky to travel with and spend time with. Every time I travel, it reaffirms my belief in the goodness of humanity.
- Travel light and don't be weighed down by things, everything you need you already have. In the beginning, I broke my back with a backpack full of crap, which make it hard to walk for long distances. But with time, I have learned to let go.
- ...I know you said 3, allow me to just add that "It's okay to get lost".
What keeps you going? The belief that people are good and it's only once you make yourself vulnerable that people are in the position to be generous. For the past 3 months I have been a recipient of this generosity while living in Rwanda, and through connections I have been hosted in homes of friends, Couchsurfed, and right now we are in the Congo; a group of seven strangers who didn't know each other last week and we are living as if in a commune, discussing, laughing, dancing, singing, and loving one each other. It's crazy and i keep looking at us and thinking, this is how the world should be, and we are doing this in the Congo, a place that the media hasn't been too kind to and yet people here fist bump us in the street saying, "I don't care about your skin, we are one". It's mind blowing.
What's next? Right now I am doing PhD research (honestly), but I do hope to keep traveling as far as I can. With anticipated trips to Iceland and I keep dreaming of Moroccan bazaars and discovering the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen. Most of all, I look forward to new people, new places, new discoveries.
What would you be doing if you’d never left home? Probably doing a job I did not like and trapped in a marriage I would be too afraid to leave for the sake of the children.
What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? The time will never be perfect, so just go.
Last question: What would make you stop traveling? If I run out of passport pages maybe?
Follow Laureene: @lolita_road_less