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Landscape view, kayaking, on the sea, looking towards the Cape Town city skyline.

Interview with an independent traveller: Lorna's solo adventure

Lorna Milligan, a 20-year-old from Leeds Arts University, is an independent traveller amongst many in the UK, who has taken the first step into the solo travel experience, and her first step landed in South Africa.

Lorna is no stranger to travel, having been to many places, from Dubai to Amsterdam. Apparently, nothing holds her back when it comes to something she loves. Just like with her passion for art, she enjoys being adventurous and her travel experiences certainly reflect this.

She explains: “It's so liberating to just up and go wherever you want because there's nobody to hold you back”.

Don’t think that travelling is a cheap affair though, even as a single traveller. After lots of overtime at work and careful budgeting, Lorna was able to save up.

The traveller takes off...

Lorna started with a 17-hour connecting flight, from Manchester to Doha to Johannesburg, only to go straight to Cape Town, South Africa's capital.

She adds: “A few tips for long-haul flights, bring your own earplugs. Don't rely on the airline to provide them. It can get very boring without music, very fast. Also, bring a neck rest so that if you’re next to someone who doesn't understand personal space, you can shove it between you and them”.

Plane wing in flight. view outside the plane window, clouds below.

View from a plane window, economy flight. 2017. Photo: Shannon Butcher

Arrival to Cape Town...

Lorna explains: “Whilst I was in Cape Town I stayed at an Airbnb. It was a flat in a residential building and it was scarcely furnished. Somehow, I ended up sleeping on the mattress on the floor. Although I felt safe enough, that was a big worry of mine throughout the whole trip”.

Sea and shore landscape view, atop a rocky cliffedge, South Africa.

Cape Town view, South Africa. 2018. Photo: Lorna Milligan

For any single traveller, safety is paramount. If you also plan on travelling alone, always do your research. Check for local laws and advice on protecting yourself and belongings.

Lorna didn’t dwell long on the unsatisfactory accommodation for long and got stuck into exploring. This began with a visit to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.

The best day of the trip...

Lorna said: “That day was my favourite of the whole trip. I got up early and went down to the Waterfront to kayak in the sea. For this, I used a company called Atlantic outlook, set up by a vlogger called Ben Brown.

“I paddled out to sea and managed to see a few Dolphins, it was really magical. The guide explained that I was pretty much 100 percent guaranteed to see wildlife, sometimes even sharks and whales”.

Landscape, Kayaking on the sea, looking towards a city skyline, Cape Town.

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town. 2018. Photo: Lorna Milligan

Swapping out the Kayak for some walking boots, Lorna began a difficult hike up Table Mountain, a natural landmark towering over Cape Town.

“It's one of the best things I have ever done. It's a challenging climb, but if you are experienced, you can get guides to take you up harder routes. It took me four hours to get to the top. Luckily, I took a cable car down".

Penguins in Africa?...

Her last day in Cape Town took her to Cape Point, where she hired a bike out for the day.

She said: “I began the bike ride in high spirits, especially when I stumbled upon a beach called Boulders Beach that happened to be covered in wild Penguin's. I paid 83 Rand – about £5 - and entered paradise. It was basically a private beach filled with rock pools and huge boulders. It was amazing".

Close-up picture of a penguin looking at the camera.

Wild Penguin on Boulders Beach, Cape Town. 2018. Photo: Lorna Milligan

“I left a bit later to continue the bike ride, although, I wish I had just stayed at the beach. It was hard. Really, really hard. It was all uphill until I reached the entrance to the Table Mountain National Park, then it was more uphill.”

She said goodbye to Cape Town to fly back to Johannesburg the next morning, but not before catching one of South Africa’s famous sunrises.

Back to Johannesburg...

Being in such a cultural location meant that there were many opportunities to discover the historical aspects of Johannesburg.

Lorna explains: “I did a tour of Soweto, which is a famous township and once home to the only street in the world with two Nobel peace prize winners - Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“I found out that even 30 years after the apartheid, poverty is still so rife. People are living in matchbox houses made up of corrugated iron. I was told about living conditions, as well as the history of apartheid and the student uprisings that took place in Soweto. I incidentally visited the week that Nelson Mandela’s wife, Winnie Mandela, passed away, so it was pretty historic”.

View of a city crossroads, traffic, tall buildings with colourful advertisments on them, Johannesburg.

Johannesburg city centre, South Africa. 2018. Photo: Lorna Milligan

On any adventure, the culture is what makes the location and it is important to respect that way of life wherever you go. Like Lorna, even knowing some history helps you to appreciate a destination and the people within it. Do some research before, or talk to locals. What you may not know about a place may surprise you.

The Big Five Safari...

The South African experience would not have been complete without a Safari, so Lorna took a five-hour drive to Ladysmith, south of Durban. Being a big fan of festivals, roughing it in tents is pretty familiar to Lorna, although what she got when she arrived was a lot more than a one-man tent in a muddy field.

Two zebras on a track, Safari bush, Ladysmith.

Big Five reserve, Ladysmith, South Africa. 2018. Photo: Lorna Milligan

She said: “The tent had double beds and proper lighting, even a bathtub and an outdoor shower. It was a Big Five reserve so it meant there were Lions, Elephants, Buffalos, Leopards and Rhinos. I managed to see everything except the Leopards”.

Coming to the end...

She went back to Johannesburg and spent her last day in South Africa at the neighbourhood food market for some unique cocktails. Unfortunately, all that was left was another long-haul flight back to rainy Leeds.

Two Mason jars with colourful cockatils and fruit in them, Johannesburg.

Food market, Johannesburg, South Africa. 2018. Photo: Lorna Milligan

Although many may find the prospect of independent travelling a daunting one, myself included, it is still an incredibly unique and rewarding experience, one Lorna won't soon forget. If you are considering solo travel and want to know more, get online and have a look at other people’s experiences before committing, there are a plenty of blogs to check out. Happy travelling!