MAYA HUNNEYBALL



27.09.18      



This week we chatted with twenty-one year old traveller, Maya Hunneyball. She tells us what it’s like travelling solo for the first time, how getting on the plane alone is the hardest part, and her experiences in rural Thailand.



“Money was always a struggle for us growing up, so we never really went on holiday. I remember we went on one holiday with my mum when we were kids, to Spain, and I think it was a really proud moment for her to have been able to take us.”







What’s your profession?

I just graduated from university so I currently don’t have a profession, but I am looking for one. At the moment I just work part time at a bar.



How old are you?

I’m twenty-one.



Tell me a bit about your background?

I grew up with divorced parents, my mum as my sole carer from around the age of 11 onwards. Money was always a struggle for us growing up, so we never really went on holiday. I remember we went on one holiday with my mum when we were kids, to Spain, and I think it was a really proud moment for her to have been able to take us. We still reminisce fondly about that holiday to this day. Despite the fact I travelled very little before the age of 18, travel has always been an interest of mine, and something I’ve fantasised about for a long time. We are lucky enough now to be more financially stable and therefore able to travel as a family, which I love.



When did you first decide to travel solo and where did you go?

February of this year. My best friend and I decided to book a trip to India for the summer, but because I had some money saved up I thought I would visit another country afterwards. I decided on Thailand, but my friend had already been so I decided to go alone anyway. I remember feeling sick with nerves for about 5 hours after I booked it. Although, this did not end up being my first solo trip as I decided to go to Slovenia alone when my university exams ended weeks before everyone else’s.



“I know that loneliness can be a struggle, and people’s main concern when it comes to solo travel. I’m lucky in the sense that I’m quite introverted, so I enjoy being alone and rarely get lonely.”







What’s been your greatest achievement whilst travelling?

I honestly think just getting on the plane and actually going to the other side of the world, on my own, has been my biggest achievement. Everything else that happened whilst I travelled felt easy in comparison.



What have you found to be the most challenging part of travelling solo and how did you learn to overcome it?

I know that loneliness can be a struggle, and people’s main concern when it comes to solo travel. I’m lucky in the sense that I’m quite introverted, so I enjoy being alone and rarely get lonely. However, If I had to choose what was most challenging, it would be having no real privacy for an extended period of time. Being alone means that booking private rooms isn’t really an option as a budget traveller, and so you primarily stay in hostels. Hostels are great but constantly sharing a room with 6+ other people means I ended up often craving true privacy and time by myself.



What’s the weirdest thing that you saw or experienced on your travels, and in which country?

I really think I may have seen a man doing something very illegal with a sheep out of a car window in India.



Who was the most inspiring person that you met whilst travelling and why? Can you tell me a bit about them?

Whilst me and my friend where sat in a café in McLeod Ganj in India, a man entered and asked us if we spoke English. He needed us to review a draft for funding for his NGO. We got talking and it turned out he was a Tibetan in exile and had had a very harrowing but inspiring life.

His brother self-immolated in protest against Chinese occupation of Tibet, leaving him with 95% of his body burned. His brother died as a result of these injuries, and he his lost his mother a few years later. The poor quality of treatment his brother received led him to begin a charity to help Tibetans in exile with access to proper medical care.

He was so committed to his work that he almost died. This was a result of exhaustion from over-working, and starvation from using all of his money for the NGO rather than for food for himself. If you want to support his cause check out: http://pcttibet.org.



“My favourite travel destination is definitely India! It has everything you could ever want from a destination: mountains, beaches, rainforests, cool architecture, the meeting of many religions, and the nicest people ever.”







What was your best experience with a local and why? Can you tell me a bit about them?

Whilst I was travelling in Thailand, I stayed one night in a town called Mae Salong up in the mountains. The area is famous for its tea plantations, so I decided to take an hour walk from my guesthouse to one of the plantations.

Along the way, the monsoon rain hit badly and I sought shelter in a sweet little tea shop/homestay. An old man pulled up on a huge motorbike and came over to speak to me. He spoke very good English and proceeded to tell me his entire life story, whilst he fed me copious amounts of tea and sunflower seeds for free.

After the rain cleared, he took me down to his fishing pond and made me fish with him. Satisfied with his 2 catches, he then invited me to his wife’s aerobics class. I had no desire to exercise but also had no idea how to say no, so I got on his motorbike, scared at the prospect of riding along winding mountain roads with a 67-year-old as my driver.

We arrived at the aerobics class where he pushed me to join in with the middle-to-old aged Thai ladies leaping around an empty church. After the class, his wife rode me back to my guesthouse on her scooter. I have a video of me failing miserably at trying to keep up with the ladies at the aerobics class which is pretty funny.



Where was your favourite travel destination so far and why?

My favourite travel destination is definitely India! It has everything you could ever want from a destination: mountains, beaches, rainforests, cool architecture, the meeting of many religions, and the nicest people ever. Also, as a photographer, it’s the best place I’ve ever shot; there’s just so much going on and it’s extremely colourful.



Where is the next destination you plan to visit? What do you plan to do?

I’m heading to Venice with my mum in November. We’ve always wanted to go and heard that, sadly due to climate change, the place is beginning to sink. We’re unsure of what we’re going to do yet: probably eat loads of pizza and float around on a boat.



How can we make our travels more meaningful in this day and age?

Whilst I love travel, I think that mass tourism can cause huge problems and therefore I believe it is imperative that we spend our money responsibly when it comes to travel. I think staying with locals or in local guest houses/hostels is much preferable to staying in chain hotels; as it stops local people being pushed out by wealthy individuals/corporations buying up property to convert into fancy hotels and apartments.

Also, I think actually eating the local cuisine the majority of the time, rather than only eating at your hotel, or at Western restaurants, is super important. It generates income for local businesses and preserves the local culture/cuisine. Also, people need to be as environmentally conscious as possible when travelling.



“When you travel things inevitably go wrong, but they almost always turn out okay, which I’ve now realised is true of most things.”







How has travel influenced and impacted your life? Would you change this given the chance?

I’ve suffered with an anxiety disorder for the past seven years which I’m pretty quiet about. At times, it’s been extremely crippling, and stopped me from doing many things I would have liked to do. I remember my mum bought me a big backpack to take travelling for my eighteenth birthday, and all I could think was that I’d never be able to use it, because my anxiety would never let me travel further than Europe.

Whilst university was a huge part in overcoming anxiety, so was travel. When you travel things inevitably go wrong, but they almost always turn out okay, which I’ve now realised is true of most things. This realisation has enabled me to think more rationally about situations and to go with the flow more.

In the past, I would avoid doings things because I would think about every possible wrong outcome. When you travel, you just can’t do this, because it’s so unpredictable and dependent on things outside of your control.

Travelling has also forced me to be more comfortable meeting new people, something I used to struggle massively with. Overall, travelling has had a huge impact on lessening the impact that anxiety has on my life. And no, given the chance I wouldn’t change this at all.



How has solo travel empowered you?

I think my answer would be similar to that above. Seeing genuine progress in my mental health, and being able to do things I never would have in the past has been very empowering.



If you could journey back to before you first travelled alone, is there anything you know now that you would tell yourself?

Don’t worry, you won’t get lonely. And if you do, meeting people is ridiculously easy.



Do you have a favourite object that you bought on your travels, and what’s the story behind it?

I bought a chess set in India and I think that might be my favourite. Me and my friend were feeling really exhausted after returning from a 4 day trek, and ended up sitting in a café for 2 full days afterwards just playing with the chess set they had. After that I decided to buy one; many hours were spent in cafes, or on our balcony, playing chess and feeling really content.







Photographs taken by Maya Hunneyball (Thailand, India, and Morocco).