Travel Diary #4: #MeToo

Venice, Los Angeles

THURSDAY 26th October 3:26 am


Please don’t touch me. Dear God, please don’t let him touch me. I can’t breathe, what if he touches me?

“Sara, I’m getting into your bed.” His hot breath trickles down my cheek. The thick European accent that once seemed so harmless is now centimetres from my face.

I can’t breathe.

“Sara?” He shines his blinding torch light directly onto my closed eyes.

Don’t move. Do not move, just pretend to be asleep…

All this time I’d been worried about someone stealing my Mac or my phone or my camera. I never thought about what I’d do if they stole the one thing I can’t replace. And suddenly I feel so weak. Because he is going to touch me.

Jesus help me, I don’t want him to touch me

He starts to climb onto my bed…


Venice, Los Angeles

WEDNESDAY 25th October 11:26 am


‘Staying in today, Sara?’ The European guy who’s name I can’t remember has just walked into the mixed dorm room. He’s tall, and skinny with slightly sunken cheeks. His hair is a dirty short blonde with scantily spread stubble that I think he hopes will one day mature into a beard. His white vest has a picture of a girl with big boobs on it. I’ve always wondered why men buy tops with naked women on them. What is the intention? I can’t remember his name but seeing as I met this guy yesterday, I can’t really ask his name again.

“Haha, yeah… I’ll head out a bit later.’ I say politely. I’m sat crossed legged on my top bunk bed. Thanks to jet lag, I’ve been awake since 4am doing a work out, life admin and reading my Bible. This is actually my idea of an incredibly relaxing day. I don’t want to socialise or talk or be a tourist today. But he won’t understand and I don’t particularly care to explain, so I pretend that I have plans. He smiles, this European guy, and tells me that I’m ‘too beautiful to stay inside’.

“I’ve just been out playing basket ball..” he begins to start a conversation. I’m polite, but keen to end this newly started conversation. He eventually allows it to die out and says his goodbyes, giving me a weird look as he leaves the room. I can’t tell if it’s a failed wink, suggestive eyes or just a ‘European thing’. He looked at me that way yesterday. I don’t really like the way he looks at me. But at least he’s gone, and I’m indifferent.

I stay in the room for hours, wasting a sunny day and doing absolutely nothing because it’s exactly what I wanted to do. Before I leave to watch the sunset, I make sure that I lock up my laptop. Safety is important and I don’t want it to get stolen.


Venice, Los Angeles

THURSDAY 26th October 3:26 am


“Sara! Sara!” 

I wake up startled as I hear someone shouting my name. It’s my European hostel roommate. Why on earth is he waking me up? I check my phone and it’s 3 am.

“Sara Wake up! I’m getting into your bed”

“NO!” I shout, before my mind can stop me.


I freeze. I am frozen. I am so, so incredibly confused. I pinch my leg to check if I’m awake, because I’ve had some pretty vivid dreams in my time. It hurts.

Ah sh*t. I’m awake.

And I’m naked? Good Lord I’m naked. I am absolutely stark naked because it was really hot last night and I must have taken my night shirt off in an exasperated sweat somewhere around the 1am mark. My heart starts pounding. He’s there. It’s pitch black. And Jesus help me I am naked.


I wriggle my feet in a feeble attempt to slip my nightie back up over my body. As I do this, I remember my mother telling me as a child to never sleep naked. I had never  understood why she told me that. I hadn’t understood until now. The realisation of this terrifies me even more. I don’t know what’s going on but what I do know terrifies me. I recite the facts in a breathless whisper, because I am too afraid to breathe.

It is silent.

It is dark.

I am scared.

I am naked.

“I want you Sara, I’m getting into your bed!” His European accent sends chills down my spine.

I stop wriggling my foot and freeze. I’m so confused. I’m scared and confused. It’s the tall dirty blonde haired basketball guy from earlier today. The weird one that gives me weird looks every time he passes me in the hallway, the looks that linger too long. I wonder if anyone else will say something, tell him to stop and leave me alone. Then I realise something that makes me feel even more vulnerable than my nudity.

All the other hostel room mates are gone.

The brother and sister from Liverpool that were on the two bottom bed bunks are staying in downtown LA for the night. The London guy I met last night has now moved to the hostel across the road meaning it’s just me, European guy and his European friend.

My heart beats faster.

It is silent.

It is dark.

I am scared.

I am naked.

I am alone with two men I do not know.

Sick scenario after sick scenario runs through my mind. I hear his friend speak to him in a different language. They are now both speaking in their native tongue. Why aren’t they speaking English? I try to decipher their language. God help me I don’t even know what language it is.

My heart beats faster and I think I am panicking.

Suddenly, they both retreat into the bathroom. Why are they in the bathroom together? I’m trembling now. I want to cry, but I can’t. I took a breath and I’m scared it was too loud but oh my God I want to cry. This is my chance. I have anything from three seconds to five minutes to get dressed and get out of here. I form a bizarre, unthought out plan in my head. I’ll get my phone, text my mum and ring the police, then I’ll put on my clothes and leave the room.

You can do this Sara.

I reach for my phone. I’m pretty sure it’s under my pillow.

Slowly, Sara… they can still hear you.

My sweaty fingertips search desperately for the screen. I can’t see a thing and I’m too afraid to roll over to look. I turn my hand in every direction.

Where on earth is my phone?!

I hear them fumble with the door and start to panic. I jerk my hand in a desperate attempt to find it. I hit the edge of the silky samsung screen and send it slipping down the side of the bed. I hear a thud as it falls from the top bunk to the floor, firmly out of my reach. The bathroom door opens and I am too late. The two men come back to my bedside.

It is silent.

It is dark.

I am scared.

I am naked.

I am alone with two men I do not know.

I have no phone.

One stands at the end of the bed, while dirty blonde haired guy walks up to the head of my bed.

He shines his torch light directly on my face and I close my eyes just in time to pretend to be asleep. He says nothing and his face comes closer to mine. I can feel his breath. He smells like sweat and alcohol. I can hear him smile. I didn’t know that was possible, but I can literally hear him smile. I start to pray without eloquence. All I can think is, dear God help me.

And I lie there. A picture of beautiful vulnerability, eyes closed, not a single twitch. Breath controlled to a perfect sleeping rhythm.

He shines his light on my face and whispers my name in an affected moan. I feel sick. For another 3 – 5 minutes he stands there, light on my face whispering ‘Sara’, saying things I’ll never forget, over and over again. And I lay there, weaker than I’ve ever been.

After a moment and a thousand moments more, he turns off his torch and gets into his top bunk bed that is directly opposite mine. My ears have never been more alert as I follow his every move with vibration tracking GPS that I did not know I had. He’s  lying in his bed now.

A minute passes. Then another. Then 10 more minutes.

I hear his breaths increase and I think he has fallen asleep. I count to three.



But I can’t wait. I throw off my duvet and feel the room air hit my bare chest as I scramble for my over sized sleeping shirt and put it on. I think it’s inside out. My heart is pounding as I jump up out of bed. I climb down so fast that my sweaty hands slip on the cold metal bed frame and I smack my shin against the bar. It is loud and painful, but I do not feel a thing. I’ve woken them up now. So I run.

I run to the reception desk. On the way, I catch a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror. Is that what I look like?

What used to be a strong, confident female doctor is now nothing but a skinny, weak little girl with her shirt inside out. I suddenly feel dirty. So dirty that I want to scratch it all off.

Why do I feel so dirty?

I look away and walk down the corridor to the reception desk. What was once a warm and loving hostel now feels like a death trap. There is a young black man on the desk.

“Hi,” I whisper. “Please can I move rooms? A guy just tried to get into my bed.” I tell him, more calmly than I knew I could.

He glances at me. “Yep sure, what room were you in?” He starts doing something on the computer.

“301” I say, as a silent tear rolls down my cheek. At this moment the man on the desk looks at me. He looks me in the eye.


“There you go! Here’s your new key. You’re now in 401, an all female dorm.” He holds up the key for me to take.


“Th.. thankyou.” I mumble. I reach out to take the key but drop it, because my hands are sweaty and trembling. There’s a pause as he looks at me. I’m so desperate for him to say something. Anything. I want to say something but I can’t breath. Suddenly I feel dirty again and I feel bad for making him feel awkward, so I take the key and turn away.

I enter the 4 bed room and lock the door behind me. I check the outline of the sleeping bodies on each bed – they all look like women.

I lie down on the only free bed and finally allow myself to cry.

I cry so silently and yet my body is trembling. I clench my fist and hold myself as my self pity turns to anger. I focus on the anger because it’s better than shame and Lord have mercy I am so incredibly angry. My body trembles with rage as I hyper ventilate. I want to scream and cry and run and fight and do everything that I didn’t do. But of course I don’t. Instead I lay there, from 4 am to 8am, with my eyes wide open.

I think of the dirty blonde haired skinny basketball man and the fear he has caused me.
I think of how I would have always backed myself to physically fight if needed.
I think of how when it came down to it, all I did was lay there and pray.
I think of the way he looked at me with a smirk.
I think of his breath and the way it smelt.
I think of the indifferent apathy with which the the guy at the reception desk responded to my plea.

Later that day someone asks me why I moved rooms, but I don’t tell them because I am scared.

Later that day, and the day after that, I pass by the dirty haired European guy on the stairs, in the kitchen and at the beach. He continues to look at me the same way.

Later that evening, the guy at the reception desk sees me and says “Sorry about last night, I’ll report it to management”.

A few days later I finally pluck up the courage to tell a new friend what happened. At the end of the story, the friend responds “Oh.. so he didn’t actually get in your bed?”

Two days later while I walk down the street alone at 11am, I am stalked by a scary looking man who walks two steps behind me for a block, asking me to come home with him, while telling me the things he’d do to me.

Throughout my time in LA I am ‘objectified’ more times than I can recall, shouted at and physically grabbed. I feel like that weak and trembling reflection, over and over again. A friend recommends I go on a walking tour of a certain town to feel the “vibe of the city”. But little girls don’t go on walks alone. A week later I find I’ve stopped wearing make up.

As the trip goes on and the pattern ensues, I think of all the arguments to defend these incidents. I try hard, really hard, to justify it all and blame myself.

I wonder if it’s my fault because of the way I dress. But it happens irrelevant of my outfit.

I wonder if I am simply ‘too attractive’. But my delusion is not that strong. Furthermore, I think of all the men I’ve found attractive and immediately realise that there is no such thing as an attraction so powerful that it rids you of all accountability.

I wonder if I should learn to ‘take a compliment’, but I don’t think  that compliments should make me feel afraid.

And last of all, I can’t stop thinking of all the women and men, girls and boys who have been raped and sexually abused. I wonder if I am too weak to deserve a voice. Because Lord help me, I cannot even begin to fathom their strength.

I stay in all female dorms and solo rooms for the rest of my trip, I wear so many clothes to sleep that I sweat until I drip and I hold my phone in my hand as I do so.

A month later, as I type out the details of the event from the safety of my home in Cardiff, tears stream down my face.

I remind myself that I am not a weak and vulnerable little girl. I am more than a sexual object. I am a strong, intelligent young woman with a voice.

I breathe in, breathe out, and press post.

Because it happened to #MeToo.


Travel Diary #3: WELCOME TO AMERICA.



16:17 Tuesday 24th October

Los Angeles Airport, California





The man in the red shirt looks around bewildered, only to find that he is indeed the only man in a red shirt.

“I..’s..It’s not my phone it’s my passport”, red shirt man mumbles. Red shirt man feebly lifts the item in his right hand for all to see. The silence in the room allows his puny mumble to carry like a roar and the hundreds of us who have been queuing alongside him for hours can clearly testify that the item in his hand is indeed a passport. Border staff man can see this too, but border staff man doesn’t apologise, he simply shouts:


What. a. d*ckhead.

I sometimes feel like life is uniquely hard for me. A constant struggle to determine when to let someone know what a knobhead they really are. This is the problem with having been raised as the youngest daughter of 5 children – I’ve always been relatively protected. Sure there are times I’ve been spat on, called a n*gger, bullied and swung at – but mostly there has always been someone there who is bigger than me to protect me. My dad, mum, brother heck even my skinny older sister who threatened to fight someone for me in primary school. So I tend to ere on the outspoken side. With three lawyers in the family and parents who place education second only to God Himself, I know my rights and I like to keep them. Further more, being a Brit whose secondary school maths teacher always taught me that good manners cost nothing (quite literally made us chant it at him “what do good manners cost?” he’d ask, ‘NOTHING!’, we’d shout back), you can see that this was one of those situations where I was having to choose again.

In an ideal world I’d gracefully stroll over to the border control man with the overly plucked eyebrows at the counter and politely inform him that we’ve all had a long flight. I’d tell him that I’m sure he’s had a long day too, but that good manners quite literally cost nothing and being abusive, threatening and unwelcoming to guests entering his home country would neither speed up the process nor catch more criminals. Unless of course, his sole intention is to intimidate little children, like the adorable latina girl currently clinging to her dad in fear.
Everyone would then cheer at my exquisitely delivered polite information, border control man would apologise and tell me that I was right, that he had simply had a long day but shouldn’t throw his weight around like this. He’d then ask me who did my eyebrows, I’d smile and slide him a piece of paper with a number of a local stylist I’d pre-googled while watching his eyebrows dance for the last 2 hours. He’d be so grateful that he’d tell all the other 15 staff who have been stood around commanding us, to take initiative and get behind the other spare 15 counters. The bottle neck effect would be solved and we’d all carry on like sensible, pleasant adults.


The raging voice of border control man snaps me out of my happy daydream and back to reality. I am a solo black female entering the United States for the first time. I think I’ll hold my tongue.

About two years of ‘no phones allowed later’, my turn finally comes. I’m stood in a queue for a less-angry-but-omg-how-slow-can-you-be border control man. Unfortunately, angry border control man has noticed my queue is slow, so every now and then he angrily confuses the Mary out of passengers by shouting “NEXT”, then “NOT YOU”, as he calls someone from the slow queue and brings them to his counter.

NEXT” he shouts, pointing directly at me, glaring down those marker pen brows.

He’s a tall black man, all geared up in his uniform, a slight lisp to his shout and a sassy manner of chewing his gum.

I hand him my passport.


“Los ángeles”




“Travel.” I repeat at the exact decible level as the last time, my very British, passive aggressive way of informing him that there really is no reason to shout.


“I’m a doctor.”


OH REALLY?” He says, as he lifts one eyebrow higher than the statue of liberty and pushes the other lower than his sense of good will. He looks me up and down. I’m wearing ripped jeans, clear heeled silver boots a dark lippy that was absolutely popping the last time I checked.


And on and on with question after question until he’s satisfied that I’m not here to plant a wild banana tree as part of a British ploy to destroy the American ecosystem. He lets me pass. As I walk the windy corridor to freedom I over hear him speak to his next victim, a 60-ish  year old tanned lady who doesn’t speak much English.


Lady: “ no, no, no, no, no!” she repeats the word several times, for lack of English ability.






“Welcome to America”, I tell myself out loud because no one else has yet.

Now to figure out where on earth I am going.

Travel Diary #2: THE FLIGHT

viewTuesday 24th October 8:11 am

Heathrow International Airport


I breathe in as I squeeze past the blonde lady and into the middle seat, apologising as my bum brushes her waist. “No worries” She assures me. Something tells me on the 23rd occasion she won’t be quite as pleasant.

Middle seat for an 11 hour flight – awesome.

There’s not much leg room, and I feel pretty claustrophobic. The lady to my left looks a little unearthed, but for a last minute booking £400 return flight? I can’t complain.

I’M GOING TO LA!!! I scream outside my lungs, smile stretching from ear to ear. It will be my first time in the States and Lord knows it’s long overdue. I always felt part American growing up. All of my favourite singers, actors and athletes were Americans and I keep up with their politics so avidly that I should probably be allowed to vote. As I ponder this, I suddenly realise that I know more ad-libs for the US anthem than God save the Queen – thanks Destiny’s Child.

Determined to make the flight productive, I whip out my book “How To Be a Bawse” and allow the power house that is Lily Singh to wash over me for the next 11 hours.



Travel Diary #1: WHY I TRAVEL ALONE


  1. The Crap Hotel

16:15 pm, Wednesday June 29th 2016, Pai 

The floor is dirty, there a more spiders than I’d like, it’s a party hostel and I do NOT want to go out tonight.

After consulting with no one but me myself and I, I lift my bag from the floor – not one item unpacked, and head straight for the door.

“I’d like to check out please.” I say to the distinctly hippy, slightly high man on the reception desk.

“But you just checked in..”


“…You know we won’t be able to refund your stay, right?” He tries again.

“I know.” I smile. I give him my key and walk away. With no idea where I am going, I head in the direction of the nearest, most comfortable looking hotel.

I book a double room for one, with air con and breakfast included.

And every fibre of my body smiles, as I go to sleep at 4pm.


2. The Best Night Ever.

8:33pm, Tuesday July 5th 2016, Koh Samui

I really want to see the night life tonight. There’s a bar downstairs and I can feel the music moving my bed, the base trembles through the sheets and my body wants to follow suit.

I glance over at my two new hostel friends. One is tucked into bed watching game of thrones, the other is writing her diary. I can almost see the party atmosphere flowing out of them. I sit in silence and pretend to be busy for another 20 minutes. Another 20 minutes of party roars beneath us.

“Do you guys still want to go out tonight?” I finally sum up the courage to ask.

Thus starts the uneasy apologetic excuses. Except these two aren’t apoligetic at all, they know themselves and they don’t want to go out any more. I appreciate their blunt, emotionless honesty.

“Yeah probably not”, he looks up at me from his screen to say.

“That’s cool,” I smile and pick up my bag, heading for the door.

“Are you still gonna go?” He looks a little bewildered now, and I can see curiosity in his eyes.

“I thinks so, it’s only downstairs so if anyone tries to kidnap me I’ll simply walk back up.” I exit the room with confidence and every single step fills me with dread.

What am I doing..?

I stand in the club doorway to observe for a moment. There are groups of people laughing, dancing and having fun. Then there’s me – Sara no mates. I take a seat at the bar and order a drink.

One drink, I tell myself. I’ll at least have one drink. Someone will definitely come up and talk to me…. any time now…

I nervously drink my “one drink” way too fast. So fast that no one has time to come over and say ‘hi’ – or at least that’s what I tell myself. I order a second drink with the full knowledge that as an infrequent drinker, this is pretty much my limit. I pick up number two and walk towards the only other person sat alone. Loner number 2 is a male Asian guy, watching the fire dancing on the beach. I sit beside him and sip my drink. The fire dancers call for partiers to try the fire limbo. “You’ll win a free shot if you limbo!”, they shout to the excitable audience. Now is my chance. I turn to face asian lonely guy with a light smile on my face.

“You should go try it!” I jest. Well done Sara! I congratulate myself on delivering the perfect, casual one liner to open the doorway to an engaging, friendship building conversation.

“Hm” he shrugs. He doesn’t smile. There’s an awkward silence. Then he gets up and leaves.

I pause for a moment and consider my sad-ass self. Suddenly. I start to laugh. No, I guffaw at myself. I laugh aloud and a tear seeps out of one eye because Lord have mercy I am sat in a bar alone!
I sip my drink and laugh some more. That magic extra sip helps me I realise that I do not care. I will never see that man again, and I wish him a great life.

4 sips later, another man sits down next to me, this one to my right side. He’s tall, caucasian and handsome. I use the exact same line, albeit this time with a bigger smile, because at this point rejection is something of an inside joke.
He looks at me and beams, a smile races across his face as he laughs at the thought of his 6 foot body limbo-ing under a fire lit rope.

“I’ll go straight after you do!” he jests in return.

YES!! A FRIEND!! stay calm Sara, be cool…

I laugh and tell him I didn’t fly 2000 miles to die, thanks. The conversation flows, we get a drink, he introduces me to someone who I think is his boyfriend. There are 3 of us. We get another drink, we dance, a brunette girl comes and dances with me. She’s chatty and fun, we get on incredibly well.

I go to the beach and learn to fire dance, I meet blonde lady from Birmingham and I almost cry because her accent reminds me of my best friends back home. I miss them and she hugs me. She comforts me and tells me that she is my new best friend. We dance, she leaves me for one of the fire dancers who I think she is dating. I reconnect with the chatty brunette girl who introduces me to two guys she’s with. Both are Californian. We dance some more. Me, brunette girl, six foot man, his friend and the two Californian guys.

I end up talking to one of the Californians. He’s super interesting and moderately funny. He invites me to come to a new beach with them tomorrow, they are riding motorbikes down. I ask brunette girl if she’s going, she says yes. I feel safer and say I’ll come too. We exchange numbers. We dance some more.While dancing, brunette girl calls me over at the same times as six foot smiley guy. In that moment, as I awkwardly decide who to go to, I pause and look around me.

One, two, three, four, five, six. I have six friends.

How did this happen?

I later find out that my new friends plan to go and do magic mushrooms on this secluded beach. I say no thank you, because like a true law abiding citizen I am terrified of all drugs except alcohol and I did not fly 2000 miles to die.

I walk back up to my room, tired from dancing, with a smile on my face. My two hostel friends are sleeping.

They have had a good night. And so have I.


3.The Bike Ride

2:33 pm, Monday June 26th 2016, Chaing Mai

I pause and sit on my bike. Looking out at the rice fields across this rich Thai land. Yellow and beige swirls dance before me. A little mud splash trickles down the back of my calf. It itches, but I dare not move.

There is so much beauty in this world.

I close my eyes and catch my breath, or rather – breathe my breath, as the rest of the groups cycle on.

They don’t know me very well, so I know that they won’t disturb me.

I pause a while longer and allow my mind to wander, wonder even, about life and love and earth and God and me and these beige and yellow swirls. The wind blows through my hair, a welcome ease to the hot sweat upon my neck.

I breathe more breath, take a selfie, and cycle on.

There is so much beauty in this world.


Why I Travel Alone

The three short stories are tiny examples of experiences I’ve had while travelling solo. I can’t tell all the stories because we’d be here longer than you can spare.

Travelling alone sounds dubiously edgy, as though I’ve run off to ‘find myself’ so that I can come home and tell everyone about it. And while I do love a good instagram story, that’s not the reason I do it. Or at least, it’s not the only reason.

Travelling solo is lonely sometimes. It’s a bizarre combination of terror and exhilaration and excitement. It’s scary, not just due to the lack of ‘safety in numbers’. It is scary because you are alone. And people are scared of being alone. It’s an entirely different experience to going away with a group of friends.

Being in a foreign country alone opens you up to be new challenges sometimes terrifying ones, that you have to face and solve yourself. From simple things like navigating from the airport to the hotel, to more complex issues like having your phone and passport stolen and having to figure out a new plan, you quickly learn to lean on yourself in a way that isn’t easily learnt.

Being in a foreign country forces you to meet new and different people. It’s so easy, when travelling with friends to sit there as a group of 4 and never venture beyond those walls. But when you’re alone, you pretty much have no choice but to put yourself out there. I’m no longer scared to talk to new people, and their reactions have given me a new found confidence in my own social ability. This crazy unspoken knowledge that if I ever had to pack my bags and move to Mexico, I’d simply make new friends and be absolutely fine. That knowledge makes you a little fearless.

Maybe another reason I travel solo is because we live in a very unique time. As a single, childless 24 year old black woman – I can travel to most parts of the world. That’s crazy, when you think about it. Just a few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to pee in the same toilets as my best friends in the US. But now – I can. Truth is, I don’t know when I’ll next be able to create these opportunities as easily. I might get married and my husband may insist on coming with me, or have kids and prefer to stay home with them. Or World War 3 might kick off and my passport become invalid. Either way, I’ll cease every opportunity to experience and learn as much as I can, while I can.

Travelling solo has given me some of my most treasured memories, and if it’s something that intrigues you, I encourage you to one day try it too.

Because when you’re in a foreign country alone, you can’t hide in other peoples perspectives of who you are. You can’t walk in the shadows of the last 24 years of your life. No one knows you. And there’s a freedom in that
Because if you watch the sun set in silence, you will truly see the sunset.
Because if you walk in there alone, you will likely meet someone new.
Because when you meet someone new, they will teach you something new.
Because when no one is tracking your every move, you’ll make the moves you really want.
Because your friends couldn’t get time off work – but you could.
Because while travelling alone you learn to be with yourself, to love yourself and to trust yourself.
Because you can’t learn those things with someone holding your hand, no matter how warm and comforting the hand.
And lastly, because you’ll wait your life away as you wish your youth away if you sit there and keep waiting for another reason why.


As I write this, I am sat eating cheesecake in San Fransisco. Saks Fitth Avenue lays ahead of me and it looks beautiful from this roof top view. I eat and I drink alone as I ‘people watch’ with the most glorious, peanut butter cheesecake melting between my lips.

Truth is, instead of writing this, I probably should have gone to see that famous floating prison, Alcatraz today.

But I really wanted cheesecake.