Continuing with our “How did she do it?” series, we talked to Somto about how she broke out of her shell and embraced the unknown. By facing her fears, she discovered a new found confidence through solo travel. She now successfully runs her own business and is living her dream lifestyle!
Growing up in Nigeria, I was the quiet, shy girl while my twin sister, Kosiso, was the outgoing tomboy. That identity stuck even after we moved to America at the age of nine. Surrounded by strange faces in a new world, I quickly developed social anxiety. I frankly didn’t know what to say to people so I avoided them. Also, I was so anxious that I would sabotage myself to avoid giving a speech or receiving any type of public recognition. I just wanted to dig a hole in the ground and hide there.
Kosiso, on the other hand, had an easier time making friends and putting herself out there. She read a poem in front of the whole fifth grade once. By high school, she seemed to know everyone and was the life of the party. For a long time, I envied her outgoing nature and wish I could be like her. But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t stop being nervous.
Solo Travel Changed Everything
I spent much of college and my early twenties going to therapy to deal with anxiety. It helped somewhat, but the game changer was my decision to move to Spain alone at 23. Following a few years working office jobs, I was craving excitement, adventure, and new cultural experiences. I had studied abroad in Spain and also spoke Spanish so moving there was a logical choice. Without thinking twice, I packed my belongings into one giant suitcase and moved to Madrid to teach English.
With Madrid as my home base, I traveled around Europe solo for almost a year. My friends didn’t want to go to the same destinations as me so I just went by myself. I was scared out of my mind! What if I got kidnapped or robbed? At the same time, I was even more tired of waiting for people to travel with me.
Alone on the road for weeks, I learned that I was more capable than I had thought. I traversed Europe with ease, making friends in places like Budapest, Florence, and Santorini. In the process, I confronted my fears and self-limiting beliefs head-on. I realized that a lot of my fears were just a figment of my imagination. In reality, most people I met were more likely to help me find my way than rob me. The fear of getting kidnapped was also far fetched.
I let go of many self-limiting beliefs
I always felt that I wasn’t outgoing enough, a problem exacerbated by having a social butterfly twin sister. My image of myself was: timid, anti-social, too quiet, too serious, insecure, and unadventurous. Before traveling solo, for instance, I believed I was too timid to meet new people and would end up stuck in my hostel alone, bored.
My ‘timid Somto’ persona died after my 22-day solo trip around the Mediterranean. On that trip, I found myself talking to strangers in hostels and bars or on buses and trains. I also had no problem yelling and causing a scene when a 50-something year old man stalked me around Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Through the experience, I realized that I’m an introvert, but I’m not shy. I used to think those were interchangeable. They are not. Since I had been known as the shy twin since I was little, I was in a way playing a role that people expected of me. But when I traveled by myself, I discovered my natural disposition. I was free to be myself, and it was liberating!
I learned to be comfortable with discomfort
My anxiety stemmed from the fear of public humiliation. I avoided plenty of activities, from social gatherings to school talent shows, because I was worried I would make a fool of myself or experience some misfortune – completely irrational thoughts. Whenever I was tempted to go outside my comfort zone, I would imagine an audience of people laughing at me. Abort mission!
When I started traveling solo, I felt self-conscious and vulnerable. In Italy, I worried about men mistaking me for a prostitute; I had read a host of horror stories by Black American women. How humiliating would that be! On multiple occasions, I worried about getting kidnapped and becoming an international news story. How embarrassing would that be!
The more time I spent traveling alone, the more absurd I realized those ideas were. After successfully navigating one country after another, I gained so much confidence in myself. I remember one time when I was walking down a major street in the center of Budapest. A local man paused and stared at me, puzzled. But I walked on, strutting like I didn’t have a care in the world. Before, I would have probably hidden my face and run away. But with my newfound confidence, I didn’t mind sticking out. In fact, I sought uncomfortable situations to hone my could-care-less attitude.
I found the courage to create my dream life
After wrapping up my solo adventures in Europe, I went home fealing invigorated. Soon, I started to wonder what else I was capable of doing. What would be my next challenge? From the depths of my soul emerged a desire for a new life. I craved the independence I had in Spain. I wanted control over my time and location. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t last long in the 9 to 5 grind. Less than a year into my new job, I quit and started my own business. I took a leap of faith and pursued my dream of becoming a professional travel writer. Somto Seeks, my blog, was born.
Never in a million years did I imagine I would become an entrepreneur! I always thought entrepreneurship was for extroverted go-getters. But as I attended business conferences and took business courses, I realized that I had the traits to be an entrepreneur all along! Do you identify with any of these?
A love of learning and figuring out why things work the way they do
A dislike for being told what to do or reporting to a superior
A high degree of comfort with uncertainty
A willingness to risk everything to pursue your goals
An eagerness to challenge yourself and constantly grow
A stubborn and tenacious personality: you won’t take no for an answer
Today, I live a location independent life and get paid to write about travel. If you told me a year ago that I’d be here, I would have laughed in your face. Now, I can genuinely say I love what I do. Becoming my own boss has been the hardest and scariest thing I’ve ever done. But it is also the best decision I’ve ever made! I still have a lot to learn, but I’m excited about continuing to learn and grow my business.
If you identified with any of the statements above, then maybe you too have what it takes to be an entrepreneur! My mission is to help adventurous women become their own boss and create a location independent lifestyle. Subscribe to my email list to get access to my free resource library with loads of tips to make money online and work from anywhere.