Socotra Island Solo ( Extreme ) Adventure

Preface: There is A LOT that goes on during my travels that I don’t record on video, or show on social media. In fact, it usually seems like an entirely different experience from what I post, because I know I have to abide by the infamous algorithms, which is why I enjoy writing about what actually happens! During my solo adventure in Socotra, I had a lot of downtime, starting at 5pm, without internet, so I used the time to write these stories. I hope you enjoy them! I will be releasing each chapter once per week!

Another note: I’m a writer, not an editor, please excuse any typos or errors…unless you want to be my free editor!

Socotra Island started appearing on my radar a year ago, when I first started seeing photos of white sand dunes next to bright blue waters, and cool looking trees unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere in the world.

As fate would have it, and to be honest, like it usually does, I thought about it so much that the universe heard me, and before I knew it I had two tour copanies contacting me to come do a collaboration there. 

After doing thorough research, I knew this would be a collab trip like none other. This was an extremely remote, underdeveloped island, and there was a ton of “behind the scenes” posts about it. I mostly saw beautiful photos and videos, but not much about the actual travel experience or difficulties.

But I was determined to go, and add it to my ever-growing list of rare islands in the world, so I made plans with one of the companies to go in February. If you’re wondering why I chose one company over the other, it’s because one of the guys was a lot nicer than the other, and in fact, the one I didn’t choose insulted me by saying my recent Instagram reels didn’t have that high of views. (without taking time to look at my remote destination posts that get millions of views). But I digress.

*The company I ended up going with is called Eye of Socotra by the way, and I’ll be hosting a group trip with them in 2025. Please click here and fill out the form if you’re interested! I’d highly recommend doing this particular destination with a group of peers rather than solo!

Omar, the owner of Eye of Socotra, told me that there is only one flight per week to Socotra from Abu Dhabi. So I would need to fly there first, then take a chartered plane that’s usually for Socotra natives or humanitarian workers, but sells the remaining seats to tourists. Oh and he also said that round trip flight would be $900, and that they don’t release the dates and availibility until two months before the toursim season opens. So it was really starting to sound like a gamble of a trip. But per usual, I was ready to drop cash and take my chances for a bucketlist adventure.

As promised, around mid-November, he texted me the flight schedule and asked which dates I wanted to come. I looked at the options and then at my calendar, and then questioned my current level of travel ambition and crazy.

In the few months that I had been waiting to hear the flight schedule, I had also accepted a couple of other collaborations. And then I also had hard dates for two extreme My Life’s a Travel Tribe group trips; thirty people for Holi in India at the end of March, and somehow, due to my own scheduling confusion, I also had freaking Everest Basecamp with five people one week before India. 

That being said, when I got a collaboration offer for Bhutan, I figured, “It’s in the area, I should do it right before Everest”, and scheduled that, then I got a request to do a tour in Pakistan, which is right next to India, so I went ahead and accepted that to do a few days after the huge group trip.

So looking at the flight schedule for Socotra Island, it seemed smartest to add it in before Bhutan, so I could fly from UAE to Bhutan afterwards. I confirmed January 30th through February 6th, and just needed to figure out when I should fly from Sardinia (where I was intending to visit my boyfriend all of January) to UAE. 

Part of me wanted to leave Sardinia early and squeeze Oman into my already aggressive travel schedule, but things quickly changed when my boyfriend ended up proposing to me mid-January. Suddenly I didn’t want to leave him a week early to go to a new country, so I stayed, and flew out to Abu Dhabi on the 28th, arriving at eight in the morning on the 29th, with intentions to sleep at the airport hotel, and leave early in the morning for Socotra. To be honest it was a bit of a risky move only giving myself one day to get to Abu Dhabi, but I like to think I’m a professional enough traveler these days to easily make it work.

And it did, except for my epic luggage failures. I had brought way too many things to Sardinia, because I needed to pack for nine countries and two different climates. Not to mention, two different cultures, and trekking gear for Everest.

In my head, I thought I’d be able to leave enough clothes and stuff with my now-fiance to make my luggage weight less, but at the last minute I suddenly found reasons why I needed almost everything, plus a few more items I bought in Sardinia. Oh, but I also thought it was Ok to leave the hardshell carryon suitcase at his house, and just use my checked luggage and totebag…which obviously ended up making both severely overweight.

This was a very large problem, because not only did my two flights from Sardinia to Rome to Abu Dhabi charge $80 for luggage each leg, plus one of them charged $70 for an extra 3 kgs, but I also realized there was a non-negotiable weight limit for luggage on the Socotra flight. 

The current luggage weight restrictions for Socotra flights are a 20kg checked bag, and a 7kg carry-on.

Meanwhile, my checked bag was a hefty 26kg, and my carry-on with all of my camera equiptment was 12kg. Instead of letting this give me anxiety, or attempting getting rid of things, I decided to use my new favorite solution of throwing money at problems and not worrying about it. Twenty-six year old broke newbie solo traveler Alyssa would not believe I just said that. But it’s true. 

I had the grand idea of using the backpack I was planning to use for Everest (which was packed in my checked bag, likely contributing to at least 2kgs) to put my heavier electronics and one travel compression bag of clothes in. Then I took my camera bag, which looks like a regular sized purse, but probably weighs 7kgs itself thanks to my Sony a7riii, Mavic Mini drone, DJI Pocket, Gopro 11, and spare batteries for all of the above, and wore it like it was just a regular purse full of makeup and random crap. 

I then used the empty tote bag carry-on to shove the two large travel compression bags that were full of my Everest trekking clothes, and clothes for Bhutan and India in, and clipped my Everest trekking boots to the outside of it. My grand idea here was that I’d pay whatever was necessary to store this bag at the airport for the eight days I’d be in Socotra. 

Oh wait I skipped something; this packing puzzle occured after I arrived at my hotel in Abu Dhabi at 9am, and was extremely lucky to be granted a super early check in. Since I barely slept on the super uncomfortable Wizz air overnight flight, I decided to take a nap…which lasted for five hours. So at around 3pm, I figured out all of this packing nonesense, which took about an hour, and then I needed to figure out some logistics about the luggage storage.

At this point, I was all chill, not in a rush at all, because I thought my flight the next day was at 2pm. I recalled seeing a sign for luggage storage when I was leaving the airport, so I figured I’d just get there early to figure it out. While thinking about how early I needed to arrive, I decided to re-check my ticket confirmation to see which terminal I was at and whatnot…and that’s when I realized the flight was actually at 9am. I literally said, “Oh shit!” out loud, and cringed so hard thinking about how I was fully intending on waking up at 10am the next day. 

This new tidbit of information contributed a sudden influx of anxiety as I started to wonder how early the luggage storage opened. I tried googling the crap out of it, and everything I found said that there are storage lockers in terminals one and three. Then I asked Omar and google which terminal my flight was out of, and both said terminal one, which was attached to airport hotel I was at. 

Feeling relieved that I could just walk there in the morning and get it done, I decided to enjoy the rest of the day in Abu Dhabi, and set off to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque using the free shuttle that the hotel offered.

The mosque was absolutely stunning, and I felt so clever squeezing it in (after feeling like an idiot for not remembering to cover my shins, and having to buy an amaya robe to wear over it). For more info on visiting the mosque and the free shuttle hack, see my recent blog post: Abu Dhabi Long Layover on a Budget.

On my way back to the hotel I was texting with my mom, and she mentioned maybe trying to go store the luggage when I got back so I didn’t have to worry about it. Another grand idea! Go mom! 

So i went upstairs, changed into my “incognito tourist attire” (jeans and a long sleeved shirt with scarf, instead of my bright red silk Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress that I wanted to wear for photos at the mosque), grabbed the bag and went downstairs. I had spotted signs near a separate elevator area that said Terminal 1 and 3 were one floor up, so I walked past reception and followed them. Right away something seemed off. Probably because all of the shops were closed and there wasn’t another person in sight. But for some dumb reason I kept walking.

Soon I started noticing that things looked like they had been closed for a long time, and the end of the hallway was completely black. Suddenly I felt like I was that person in a horror movie that continues doing something obviously dumb, and you yell at the screen but they don’t listed. But nope, not today, there was absolutely no way something was going to prevent me from getting on that damn flight in the morning.

I turned around and pretty much ran back to the elevator that goes down to the hotel’s reception. Then I asked the man behind the desk why everything looked closed upstairs. He casually responded that Terminals 1 and 3 had been closed permanently for a few months now, and there is now only “Terminal A”, which is the completely new airport I flew into. Suddenly the airport shuttle to the airport hotel made sense. I tried my best to ask him about baggage storage at the new terminal, but his only suggestion was to get on the shuttle and go there to find out. If I did that, I’d have to wait another hour for the shuttle to bring me back, and since it was already 9pm, that didn’t sound appealing.

So, I turned to the thing that gives me great ideas; wine! While sipping a decent Pinot Grigio in the hotel’s restaurant, I scoured the Abu Dhabi airport website for Terminal A baggage storage, and read every forum, to no avail. Finally I found a contact number for lost and found, and used my free Skype international calling (that comes with G Suite FYI) to call it. They didn’t answer, so I kept calling for five minutes. Finally I got an answer, and easily found out where the baggage storage was, and how much it costs, plus that it was open 24/7. All of this was music to my ears.

My new plan was to wake up at 5am, take my last hot shower for a week, get on the 6am shuttle to the airport, store the bag, then check in, and go to Socotra Island!

Of course, I couldn’t sleep at all that night. My anxiety levels were strangely high, and I couldn’t figure out which of the two thousand thoughts in my overactive head were causing it. Was it because I realized only earlier that USA had recently fired missles at mainland Yemen, and thoughts of being held hostage on an island were afoot?

Or perhaps the thought that there’s only one flight per week on a remote island; so even if I wanted to leave, I couldn’t?

OR! Could it be because when I told my fiance that I’d be doing the collab and camping with a male guide and driver, and also that I’d have extremely limited connection, he seemed less than thrilled, and even told me he was, “Afraid something is going to happen to me”. NOT what I needed to hear, both because now I was scared something would happen to me, and that he was going to end up not being able to handle that this is what I do for work. But to be fair, female tour guides are extremely rare to come across, and let’s not forget, he owns a freaking winery, which constantly has drunk women at it. 

But I digress. I did not sleep, which made it very easy to get up at 5am and carry out my plan. When I was dressed and ready, I went downstairs to reception, only to find at least fifteen other people in the lobby waiting for the shuttle. I assumed they were also going to Socotra, judging by their cargo pants and massive North Face duffel bags, and took great pleasure in avoiding all of their stares as I rolled my light pink Samsonite with matching duffel and hot pink backpack past them, wearing my trendy beige coat, white pointed toe flats, ripped skinny jeans, and new tan felt hat. I definitely didn’t look like I was about to go camping on Socora Island for a week. But then again, who says you have to look a certain way in order to camp on a remote island?

When the shuttle arrived at 5:55am, it was a shit show. There were clearly two big tour groups, plus a few other couples, and everyone was rushing to get on the damn vehicle. I didn’t think I was going to get a spot, and was already prepared to pay $20 for an 8 minute taxi ride. But luck struck, and the shuttle driver decided to choose my bag to load next because it was a hard shell and not a duffel. Yes, I reveled in that moment amongst all of the North Face duffels and backpacker backpacks

The shuttle was crammed to the max, but within 9 minutes, we were at the airport. My brain went into Sherlock Holmes-solving mode. We were dropped off at Departures, but baggage storage was at Arrivals. I could have stayed on the shuttle, which goes to Arrivals next, but then i’d have to wait for the driver to finish unloading the baggage. Instead, I figured I could just go downstairs using the elevator, and rolled away first while everyone was still loading up their heavy bags onto their shoulders.

But before going downstairs, I scanned the closest check in desks. I needed to weight my two bags to see if they met the weight regulations, or if I needed to somehow hide more items under my coat. I found an empty check in counter and weighed them; the checked bag was 18.9kg, and the backpack was 7kg. In all honesty I couldn’t believe it, and was thoroughly impressed with myself. But then I remembered that my faux-purse probably also weighed 7kg…but no one needed to know that.

Content, and feeling like some sort of international spy, I glided back over to the elevators to go downstairs, just as the rest of the shuttle passengers were walking by. Now they really probably thought I wasn’t going to Socotra. Seeing their large group frustrated me, because I knew I’d be last in line to check in…which means less time at the lounge. And yes I had already checked, and knew there was a really nice Pearl Lounge that was open. But I had to stash the extra weight bag or I wouldn’t be goign at all.

Downstairs at Arrivals, I easily followed the signs for Baggage Storage, and found the little facility at the end of the building. Somehow overly cheerful for 6am, I greeted the two men working there, and asked about storing my bag. At first he looked at it and said I couldn’t leave the trekking boots on the outside like that. I told him I had to, because they didn’t fit anywhere else, but then I had another stroke of travel genius. There was a baggage-wrapping station in the little office, so I asked him if I paid to wrap the bag, if he could just wrap the shoes in with it. He seemed impressed with my idea, and said yes! Then I went ahead and tested my luck, and asked if I could add two more small compression bags on top of it that I didn’t need to bring (thermals for Everest, and a bag of heated socks and gloves). To my surprise, he said yes again! So I pulled them out of the backpack, and piled them on top before they could change their mind.

The bag wrapping costed $13, and the storage for eight days would be around $80. I wrote it off as basically the same price it would have been to pay for the excess weight, if that were an option. Everything was finished within ten minutes, and then I strolled triumphantly back upstairs, where as expected, there was a long line of tourists already waiting to check in for the flight.

I didn’t fret though, I used to the time to check and re-check all email accounts, social media accounts, and whatsapp messages while I still had service. It was way too early to call my fiance, so I sent him some messages instead, knowing his phone would be on Do Not Disturb Mode. To my surprise, but not really, I suddenly received an incoming text from my mom, asking if I made it to the baggage storage and to the airport. I calculated that it was midnight in Florida, and quickly wrote her back so that she could go to sleep. 

While waiting in the very slowly moving line, I noticed that there was a shorter one, but upon closer inspection, I realized there was a security guard directing the Socotra locals to it so they didn’t have to wait with the gaggle of tourists. I had heard from a couple of people, including Omar, that the check in for this particular flight is a chaotic nightmare. I’m not sure if I’m just really used to chaotic check ins, but this one seemed relatively calm and collected.

As I was zoned out in my own little online world, responding to comments and DMs, and trying to decide if I wanted to post a cheeky reel about “When people ask if I’m going to settle down now that I’m engaged; Me leaving to go travel solo for two months to sevent countries” or “The look on my face when five times as many people congratulte me on a man asking me to marry him than when I announce I’ve reached my 10th year of traveling the world solo for a living”, I suddenly heard a woman say my name.

My eyes shot up in alarmed conusion, as a striking woman in an amaya and hijab came striding towards me, waving like she knew me. Quickly I tried to register her face, wondering if it was someone I met the last time I was in UAE.

“I follow you on Instagram! I saw you were going to Socotra! I was wonderin if we would see you here!” As she spoke, I blushed and smiled proudly at the same time, that someone had recognized me from my Instagram. I also instantly felt grateful for her, because she spoke loud enough for all of the other people in line to hear her. She was speaking to the women who arrived at her side, all dressed the same but in different colored amayas and hijabs, and all having immaculate make up on. Suddenly I felt like my make-up free look in-order-to-not-cause-more-attention, was very bland. She continued to introduce me to the other women, and told them I was a famous influencer; again I blushed, yet of course also felt pretty cool. I mean, I know I’m not famous, but I definitely used to be before literally everyone became an influencer too, and the fact that I get recognized in almost every country I go to says something as well.

On top of my gratitude for her greeting, I was even more grateful for these women, because it made me feel a lot better about going to this remote Muslim island alone. They said they had been there before, and I had nothing to worry about, but we exchanged information just in case I had any problems or concerns. When I turned back around to my place in line, I caught at least ten people starring at me then quickly looking away when I noticed, likely trying to figure out who I was. 

It didn’t take long to get to the front of the queue, but as I did so, one of the security agents walked with me to a counter on the far left, while asking why I looked familiar to him. I told him in all honesty he would have only ever seen me on social media, but he seemed convinced I was more famous than that. Too many things were going on in my head to explain more to him who I was, as I handed the ticketing woman my passport and visa, while remembering to ask if I could please have a window sleep if any were available. I knew the lack of sleep was going to punch me in the face as soon as I was seated.

As she was putting my infomation in, the security guard reappered, along with a man in a suit. Great, already getting in trouble, I thought.

“Hi! I know you!” He said, extending his hand out to shake mine. I shook it, unsure of how he knew me, and wondering if he was mistaking me for someone else.

“I handled your flight booking! It’s my company! You’re the influencer!” He added, followed by swift talking in Arabic to the guard that included the words, “famous”, and “social media”. Well shit! If this was how people reacted to me in UAE, maybe I should spend more time there!

We continued to chat, and he gave me his information “in case I ever need any help with flights to Socotra”, and then he spoke again in Arabic to the clerk, this time including enough words for me to know he was telling her to put me in the “VIP rows” that they reserve for, well, VIPs. And at a window.

Loving this double confidence boost, I walked with purpose towards the security scanner, basically dancing through the procedure of putting my items onto the belt and walking through the metal detector. Then I checked my phone for the time, and smiled seeing that I had a full hour before boarding. So I took a sharp left and headed into the Pearl Lounge.

As I was checking in with my Priority Pass, I overheard a woman next to me asking how much it was for a pass, because she had a five hour layover. The clerk said it was $70, so I quickly asked if I could just add her as my free guest on my pass. For some reason I assumed the desk clerks wouldn’t like that, and assume it’s cheating or something, but they both smiled and said it was nice of me, as the girl thanked me profusely. Mental note to start giving more random people my plus one to the lounge.

I found a seat in a sunny area of the lounge terrace, and although I knew I probably shouldn’t have, I got a glass of sparkling wine along with my breakfast. Afterall, I knew there was likely absolutely zero alcohol on the island, and was bracing myself for a week long detox. Just then, Omar texted me asking if I made it to the airport, and as if he were psychich, he sent another message that said, “By the wait, you can bring alcohol from Duty Free if you want, the only alocohol we have here is made locally”. Mental note to add stopping at Duty Free before getting on the plane.

Now that I had a time crunch, I pulled out my laptop to do something I knew had to be done before I lost service; applying for the multiple entry visa for India. I would be going there four days after arriving back in Abu Dhabi, because that’s where my flight to Bhutan leaves from, and I really really needed to avoid unnecessary additional passport stamps, since mine is almost full. 

Of course, the Indian eVisa is one of the most complicated forms to figure out correctly, and although I successfully got to the final stage of uploading a passport photo, my broken computer cursor pad wouldn’t let me drag the rectangular outline to correctly crop it. I knew I could do it from my phone, so decided to attempt it while walking to Duty Free.

When I arrived into the glorious tax free adult-candy-shop of booze, I immediately had the urge to buy two or more bottles of wine. But I also wanted to avoid being seen with a Duty Free bag entering a strict Muslim country, and knew only one would fit in my backpack. Also, I was kind of liking the idea of a weeklong wine-detox, after living and drinking with the owner of a freaking winery for a month.

So I got my one bottle of rose, already trying to calculate wine-math in my head for how much I was allowed to have per day, if any, and checked out. When I checked my phone, I realized boarding had started ten minutes ago, and suddenly that horrendous panic feeling of, ‘Oh shit I’m going to miss my flight’ hit me, and I was in power walk towards gate D26.

The panic feeling intensified upon seeing absolutely on one in front of the gate, but thankfully when I got closer, I saw a few people still going through. Once I was safely on the plane, I noticed that the entire middle and back portion was completely full, likely with the extremely punctual tour groups that got to the hotel shuttle before me. The first four rows had “Reserved” on the head rests, and once again, I felt really cool sliding into the window seat of row 4, knowing a lot of people were watching. 

As I expected, as soon as I put my Oscar pillow against the window and leaned my head on it, I began to doze off, trying to keep one eye open in case anyone occupied the seats next to me. To my surprise, I looked up to see the women from UAE boarding so late, since they checked in way before me. Then they took their seats in the row in front of me. Now it was my turn to wonder about their VIP status. I said hi to them again, but couldn’t muster the engergy to carry on the conversation. 

As I was in and out of my oncoming nap, I forced my eyes open when I noticed some peculuar men boarding a few minutes later. There were three of them, dressed in black suits with ties, and heavily greased hair. They boarded as if they were definitely VIP, with big energy and charisma that would have made them seem like rich Wall Street guys in USA. One sat next in the aisle of the row next to me, while the other two say in Row 2, immediately turning around to talk to the Dubai women. 

I dozed off and woke up really confused, looking out the window to see why we hadn’t left yet. All I saw was endless desert and clouds, and I wondered how long we had been flying for. As consciousness regained in my brain, I had to wonder if I was actually having one of my usual lucid dreams. The men in suits, along with a few other sheikh-looking-men were standing up and walking from row to row of the first four rows of the plane. They were handing out small cups to the Dubai women, and pouring them coffee, while one walked around offering dates from a big paper container. It felt like a movie from the ‘80’s, when flights were considered fancy and high class social events.

They skipped over me, likely because my head was still against my Oscar pillow, and I probably looked like I was sleepiing since my Rayban aviators were on, but I still had to try to not take it personally. Again I awoke abruptly, this time to the flight attendant asking me if I wanted scrambled eggs or an omelette for breakfast. The guy in the suit was seated again and looking at me, so I quickly mumbled “omelette” and sat up to situate myself. Apparently I wasn’t fast enough, so he opened the empty middle seat’s tray table and helped the attendant put the tray on it while I got my life together. I smiled and thanked him, then pulled the meal onto my own tray table.

From my peripheral vision I noticed that literally no one in the VIP section accepted the meal. I tried to remember if Muslim people can’t eat eggs, but I mostly just assumed that airplane food wasn’t up to par for them. I could also tell that the suit guy was observing me as I poked the the plain egg omelette that didn’t look appetizing at all.

Suddenly he reached down into the massive soft-shell cooler box that he had taken over the middle seat floor area with, and pulled out the paper container of dates. He put it on top of the middle tray table and scooted it towards me, saying something in Arabic. I actually really wanted dates, so I took one graciously and thanked him. This seemed to appease him, and suddenly he produced a small paper cup and a giant metal thermos from the cooler, and said, “Coffee?” Since I don’t drink coffe, I politely said “No thank you”, to which he immediately pulled out another thermos and said, “Tea?” Who were these guys?!

The tea was so strong and sugary that I couldn’t sleep the rest of the flight, so I started editing some photos from Abu Dhabi. When we finally landed and started standing up, the woman from Dubai who recognized me turned around to talk to me. This immeditaly sparked the interest of the suit-men, and they started asking her if I was famous. And then a woman behind me confirmed that I looked famous. In fact, she specifically said, to my non-excitement, that I looked like Lindsay Lohan. I prefer Margot Robbie.

Since we de-boarded first, there was no one inside the small Socotra Island airport yet besides the Men in Black, who were instantly recognized and treated like VIPs by the airport security. They said something to the security, and he held the line-ropes open for the Dubai women as well, who I was walking with. He went to shut the rope when I approached with them, but she quickly told him I was with her group. We put our bags on a security scanner, and I looked around for what to do next. 

The next security guard waved the Dubai women through, even though there was a desk to the left that said IMMIGRATION. He started waiving me through as well, but I held up my USA passport and visa paper, then pointed to the desk. But he just shook his head and continued to wave me through, without anyone checking my visa, passport, or stamping me in.

This of course made me nervous, because the last time someone didn’t give me a passport stamp, I was accused of overstaying my visa in Rwanda for one year, and had to pay $300. But the woman explained that since Yemen has so much war conflict, they usually don’t stamp your passport so it doesn’t cause problems for you. I wondered why I had to pay $150 for a visa then, if they weren’t even going to check it. I learned a few days later that they actually were supposed to check it and give me a visa paper, but I must have been mistaken as a UAE resident when I walked in with the other women, like a damn spy.

I continued talking with the girls as we waited for our luggage. One was from Tokyo, and worked with the Japan Tourism Board in Dubai. Another was from mainland Yemen, and she left to move to Dubai thirteen years ago when the conflicts began. All of this started making me wish i had booked a couple nights in Dubai at the end of my trip instead of Abu Dhabi.

As I was chatting away, I heard a man’s voice say my name behind me. I turned to see a tan guy about my height, who instantly introduced himself as Omar, from Eye of Socotra tours.

Suddenly I was in the middle of a whirlwind of people, from the VIPs to the airport security guards, all half-yelling in Arabic. Omar was trying to pull my big pink checked bag out towards the exit, but as we approached, a guard asked to see my flight ticket. I usually always know where my ticket is, but when I went to grab it from the place in the camera bag I could have sworn I put it, of course it was not there.

I decided it would be best to play sleepy-dumb in this situation, so as not to further irritate the guard. Instead I pulled out the printed flight confirmation and a copy of the visa that no one checked, and tried to hand it to him. He asked again for my ticket, and I told him the paper was my ticket, with my best innocent baby deer face I could muster.

He still seemed unconvinced of something, and finally said, “Are you sure this is your bag?” Which, to be honest, made me laugh a little.

“Yes, it is the only pink suitcase, and it has my name on it.” I replied calmly. He grumbled and waved us through. Well finally stepped outside, where anyone who hasn’t traveled to Middle Eastern or African countries would have probably had a bit of a scare. Lined up was a ton of military guys, of course all staring at the solo blonde girl, so all I could really think to do was smile, wave, and say, “Salam!” (Which means hello in Arabic). 

They said hello back, and I figured we were good to go, but yet another security man came up to us, this time talking rapidly in Arabic to Omar, and seeming like he didn’t want to let him take me from the airport. Normally I would have been a little more concerned, but I was tired, and for some reason trusting that Omar knew what he was doing. After talking for a few more minutes, he told me to wait for him in the parking lot, alone. The guard re-iterated not to go anywhere to me before heading back to the airport. Ok, no prob, I’ll just stand here in a parking lot while the entire military stares at me.

Finally Omar came back, took my luggage, and told me to follow him past more men arguing in Arabic, then to a big Toyota SUV with a big blue tarp and white plastic chairs strapped to the roof of it. I looked around that parking lot, and noticed several other SUV’s with the same set up, and assumed those were the other tour companies doing the same camping trip. This also made me feel better; knowing I wasn’t going to be the only person remote camping.

Another guy suddenly appeared and took my big luggage, and Omar introduced him as Chef, who would be our driver and, well, chef. They loaded my luggage in and then directed me to my Passenger Princess front seat, which I gladly accepted. I wanted a front row seat to all of the amazing scenery I knew I was about to see.

“Ok! First we are going to stop in the main town called Habidoh, where we will have lunch, is that Ok?” Omar asked from the back seat. I told him I was starving, so yes, that was very Ok.

But we only made it about five minutes out of the airport before I gasped loudly and let out a, “Woowww!” so intense that Omar instructed Chef to pull over. I couldn’t help it, I’m a sucker for bright blue coastlines, and the one up ahead on the left was absolutely stunning. We got out and crossed the road so that I could get a better view of the shore below the cliff we were about to drive up. On the stone wall next to it, was a giant spraypainted Yemen flag, and I remembered that this officially marks my one hudred and twenty-ninth country. Omar helped me make some videos, and I warned him that this trip would likely involve a lot of that, luckily he was more than happy to help.

We continued onward, and as I expected, my anxiety started to flare up. I was entering the unknown, with two men, and I had no SIM card or service. But I pushed the thought out of my head, and reminded myself that I’ve done this many times before, in far more dangerous places like D.R. Congo, and equally remote places like Papua New Guinea and Madagascar.

When we approached the city, I was immediately very glad I hadn’t opted for the option to stay at one of the only two hotels there instead of camping. It seemed like all of the buildings were made of limestone stones, and it was quite dusty due to the dirt roads. We pulled over to the left and they announced that we were at the lunch spot. It had a big banner at the top with Arabic writing, and a grill out front roasting chicken. I followed Omar up the steps to the open patio seating area, which was filled mostly with local men, but found comfort when I noticed one Western woman blending in with a hijab as she sat and chatted with two local-looking women. I assumed she might be one of the humanitarians who bring aid and supplies over.

Omar pointed to a table with two white plastic chairs and asked if it was Ok. I half answered with an “Mmhmm!” as my main focus was distracted by the delicious smells coming from a big smokey grill behind us, where a guy was spinning a massive piece of dough before throwing into what looked like an extra long pizza oven. Suddenly I felt like Anthony Bourdain…except, less serious and way pickier. In fact, I was slightly worried about what he was going to give me for lunch.

“So since you told me you only eat fish, I went to the market earlier and got you a really big fish!” He said excitedly. It honestly warmed my heart…and my stomach. 

“Wow, that’s so nice of you! What kind of fish do you have here?” I asked, genuinely curious since I knew this was a healthy marine spot.

“Many fish! Grouper, Red Snapper, Tuna, Kingfish, and one that I don’t know the name in English.” He continued with enthusiasm. I was excited, and also wondered why I had heard from a couple people that all they ate was tuna fish when they were here.

“Oh! And there is fast internet here! I’ll go get it for you!” He got up, and returned within minutes, just as a young guy was bringing several tin plates over, and placing them down in front of me.

The first was a large plate of yellow rice, the second was a smaller plate with a seasoned fish steak, and the third was a small plate with light red sauce in it. I wasn’t expecting such a delicious looking and smelling feast, so I did what any normal travel blogger/influencer would do, and started taking photos and videos of it all, while also asking Omar to explain what it all was. As he was telling me that the sauce was crushed tomato, cheese, and pepper, making my heart swoon and reminisce about Italy already, the server came back with the final plate, with the massive piece of fried dough. It reminded me of na’an, and I could not wait to drench it in that cheesy tomato sauce and devour it.

But, knowing my stomach size, I wanted to make sure I ate all of the fish he got for me before filling up on bread. I poked my fork into the savory smelling fish and plucked out a juicy piece of white King Fish meat. When I tasted it, it was yet another thing unexpected. The spices were amazing and the fish was grilled to perfection. I was about to just work on eating the fish, but Omar told me that usually they put some of the sauce on the rice, then a piece of the fish, and eat it all at once.

I’m not going to lie, normally I am not a fan of rice, but I didn’t want to offend anyone by not at least trying their local food. So I scooped up a forkful and taste tested the rice alone first. Again surprised, it was extremely well seasoned, with what tasted like Indian spices. I haven’t been to mainland Yemen, so I’m not sure what spices are like there, but maybe they were from there.

Next I tried a tiny dot of the tomato sauce, because he said it was spicy. To me, it wasn’t spicy at all, it was absolutely delicious, and with all three delectable tastes on my palate, I made the executive chef decision to tear a peace of the flat bread off, put a piece of fish on it, followed by the red sauce, then the rice, and eat it all once. Best lunch decision I’ve made in, well, in a few days, because I’m not going to lie, my Italian fiance makes some incredible lunch dishes.

I ate as much as I could like that, but once I started getting full, I switched back to the idea of eating the fish first so I don’t waste it. But after I proudly cleared all of the edible meat from the fish, Omar told me that he actually bought the entire fish (and brought it there for them to cook it), so there was a lot more left. 

“What? I can’t eat more than that!” I blurted, eyes probably bulging out just like my belly. I looked at his plate, he hadn’t finished his piece of fish yet, so I assumed he wouldn’t be helping me. But he just laughed and said it was Ok, and that other local people would gladly eat it. That made me feel better.

“I hope there’s a lot of local people along the way, because I forgot to tell you that I eat like a bird.” I warned apologetically.

This is always a problem I have on any type of roadtrip, camping, or trekking tours. Well and also in any Latin, African, Middle Eastern, Asian…nevermind, this is usually always a problem. People like to feed you a lot. And if you don’t finish it all, it is very easily considered offensive. I was actually hoping the food would be bland and redundant like people said so that I wouldn’t have to eat so much and could maybe even do a lil diet after all that pasta in Sardinia, but if the food was already tasting this good, I was in trouble.

While I was waiting for him to finish his meal, I used the Wifi voucher finally to connect. I Whatsapped my fiance and my mom first, to let them know I had arrived and was alive, even though I knew neither of them would be awake yet. Then checked my email, Instagram, and other Whatsapp messages. To be honest, I didn’t really feel the need to stay online, which is shocking, I know. But I kind of had my heart and mind set on a digital detox, and was pretty excited about it.

Before we got back in the car, I asked to use the toilet since it was a two hour drive. I was shown the way, but then I saw it, I almost immeditaly turned and ran. It looked like a scene from Saw. There was a squat toilet stained with orange-brown color, and then a regular toilet next to it with the same stains. Obviously I went for the regular toilet first, but of course when I opened it (with the tip of my shoe, not my hand) it was filled with poop. I poked my abdomen to see how badly I had to pee, and decided it was bad enough to squat. So squat I did, and then decided I would be using bush-toilets only for the remainder of the trip. 

We got back into our truck, and started driving. They said it would be about two hours, so I asked if they had a radio or something, and they jumped excitedly to tell me they have a Bluetooth player and asked if I would play my music, since they didn’t have any on their phones. I had prepared for this exact purpose by downloading my favorite playlists on Spotify, so I connected my phone and started playing “Ibiza Summer 2023”, which is mostly chill upbeat songs and covers of popular artists. It was absolutely the perfect vibe for this little roadtrip, and much to the liking of Omar, who would let out a little, “Wow!” “Oh my god!” and other such exclaimations when each song would play. 

As we drove along the winding coastal road, I was completely mezmorized by the scenery, like I knew I would be. Towering mountains stood boldly to my right, while those bright blue waters sent waves rolling up and down the powdery-white sand shores on the left.

Suddenly Omar spoke in Soqotrian to Chef, and he pulled over on the side of the road. “Since you like to take photos, do you want to see a nice view?” He asked me. I scanned the area in front of us for something that would make a nice photo, and saw a small village, with a small stream of water below. “Sure!” I said, not being one to pass up a good view, but also not convinced it would make a great photo. Not wanting to drag my entire camera bag out, I just took the pocket gimbal and my phone, as I hopped out of the car onto the sharp rocky gravel.

It felt like a breath of fresh air (literally) to get out of the car and walk for a bit, even though we had only been driving for about an hour. I followed Omar through the rocky dirt, avoiding low shrubs with spikey twigs, to the top of a small hill which overlooked the stream (later I would realize these are called “wadis”). 

“Wow! It’s beautiful, it looks like an oasis!” I exclaimed. I took a few photos and videos with my phone, and since Omar was watching me carefully, one with the pocket gimbal. It wasn’t anything I was going to post, but since I was there on a business collaboration with him to promote his company, I wanted to at least seem like I was doing my job, even though I already knew exactly what to post to showcase this destination. Or so I thought.

When we turned to leave, I was surprised to see three little girls running in our direction. I looked around for where they may have came from, but all I saw was a small village almost a mile away. “Where did they come from?!” I asked, as the adorable, tan, barefoot girls approached me with caution.

To my surprise, they were wearing considerably fancy little dresses, complete with little sparkly stictching and mesh layers over the skirt. Like something you’d see little kids wearing to church. Except we were on a remote island with no shops that would sell clothing like that or textiles to make them. I wondered what foreigner brought them over for them.

They stood there staring at me curiously and with a look of awe in their eyes. “Hi!” I said, waving to each of them. They said hi back shyly, then upon realizing that I was friendly, started smiling and giggling as they reached for my hands, examining my freshly manicured nails, rings, bracelets, and even hair tie. I happily held my hands out for them, and showed them anything they pointed to, like my phone, and my pocket gimbal (which they seemed afraid of, and I wondered it if was because they didn’t want photos taken of them, which I would never do anyway).

Omar seemed to be wary of the interaction, as he kept asking if I was ok and if they were bothering me, but I reassured him they were doing anything but that. We started walking and they followed, then with Omar ahead of me and out of sight of them, they gently took my hands to hold as we walked, immediately letting go any time Omar would turn around to check on me. At one point, they noticed the two sparkly rings I was wearing; my new solitaire diamond engagement ring on the left hand, and my grandma’s also-solitaire not-sure-if-real-diamond ring on the other, and started kissing them! My heart swelled, and my first thought was to tell my fiance about it when I got reception, because his dream is for us to have a daughter, and here were three little girls kissing the ring he got me.

When we reached the car, they started chirping in Soqotrian like little birds to Omar. “They want to know what your name is.” He translated.

“Oh! My name is Alyssa!” I said, sounding it out phonetically; ‘uh-liss-uh’. They giggled as they each tried to pronounce it, then told Omar it was too difficult, so I told them they can just say ‘Ali’, even though I’m not a fan of the nickname. As they each took turns telling me their names, Omar went to the car and returned with a bag of individually wrapped pieces of fudge that were clearly left from a previous European guest.

From my many experiences traveling and roadtripping in Africa, I knew it wasn’t always a great idea to give local kids sweets. The kids usually aren’t used to so much sugar, and it can make them sick or rot their teeth, and I knew many of them didn’t have proper dental care at home. Plus, foreigners giving kids sweets will cause them to get into the habit of demanding sweets from every traveler they passes by, and can also cause fights, including physical ones, if you don’t have enough for everyone. Trust me, I have seen it happen.

I told Omar to give them the sweets instead, since he is a local, and I gave them each a big wave and ‘Bye bye!’ instead. They stood there on the side of the road waving and eating thier sweets (and also throwing the wrapper on the ground without a thought, which is another problem) as we continued.

“Wow, you’re a really nice person!” Omar exclaimed from the back seat, taking me aback, since to me, I was simply enjoying the interaction with cute little kids.

“They were so sweet and cute.” Was all I could think to reply, wondering if other travelers don’t say hi to little kids. There was no way people wouldn’t say hi to them though, right? They were literally child-model level adorable.

There were parts of the road that had a pretty thick layer of the powdery sand blown across it, and military Chef did not hesitate to hit the gas and swerve through it, causing my PTSD from my car flip accident to flare up. I gripped the center console and the handle of the door firmly, instinctively preparing myself for a fishtail or flip. But it never happened. Thank Universe.

“How tired are you?” Omar asked suddenly, pulling me out of my whimsical intake of the surreal surroundings.

“I mean, I haven’t slept, but I don’t really feel tired, why?” I responded honestly, curious to what he was going to suggest we do.

“There’s a hike up to a really good spot to see the whole island, do you want to go?” He asked. Hiking wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do at the moment, but his enthusiasm made me unable to say no.

“Sure, can I go get some photos of the beach first?” I ask, because, priorities. He said of course, and that we could do the hike just before sunset, which was at five-thirty.

We crossed over our first stream that ran across the road, which, I learned is called a “wadi”, and there are a lot of them, all starting from high up in the mountains, and making their way down to the sea or ocean (the island is surrounded by both). It looked so clear and refreshing, and once again, I felt like I was in some sort of fantasy travel movie.

Shortly after we pulled off the road and into a wide open sandy area, with two massive white sand dunes behind it, that seemed to be pressed up against the sheer cliff side of the mountain. It looked like something you’d see as the background of a Mac computer.

“We’re here! This will be our camp for the next two nights!” Omar announced. I looked around, half excited to be camping right across from the beach, and half confused, becauses I didn’t see any bathrooms, like he told me there would be. But if the campsite bathrooms were anything like the Saw bathroom in town, I’d 1000% be opting for the bush-toilet anyway. I just hoped I didn’t have to poo, and especially hoped I didn’t get my period on time. Menstrual cups are something I swear by, but I have yet to have a genius idea on how I could pull off using one while wild-camping, without looking like I just murdered someone.

I hoped down out of the car and started taking endless photos and videos of the breathtaking landscapes. In the distance, I noticed a group of local men watching me, and still not knowing what to expect here, I felt slightly uncomfortable and returned back to the SUV where the guys were unloading and setting things up.

When I reached them, they were struggling to open what seemed like a very-easy-to-open three sided dressing room tent. It was actually pretty entertaining to watch, so naturally, I took a video of it. I already couldn’t wait to make my behind the scenes video. I finally couldn’t stand to watch them struggle any longer, and walked over to pull out the third corner, which popped the tall tent into place.

“Thanks! This is for you to change your clothes in.” Omar explained proudly. But it’s shape and perfect placement in a nook of pine-needle looking bushes made me respond, “Can this also be my bathroom?” He shrugged and said sure, and suddenly everything was perfect!

They had carried my pink luggage out and onto a woven mat on the sand so that I could open it and look for something to change into. Since it was already almost four, I decided I probably didn’t need to put my swimsuit on, and wracked my brain for something to wear for pre-sunset. I assumed the sky’s tone would start getting cooler soon, so I decided my light purple long-sleved dress that I bought in Cairo a few years ago, would be perfect. I also chose it because I still wasn’t completely sure what was and wasn’t appropriate to wear, and this dress was basically full coverage.

I carried it into the changing tent, which was tall enough for me to fully stand in, and peeled off the jeans that I had been unfomfortably stuck in, replacing them and the long sleeved shirt with the dress, which was way more my vibe.

Emerging from the tent like I had just taken a huge breath of fresh air, I walked over to the truck, and grabbed my pink selfie stick and the tripod foot out of the front seat. Then I clipped my GoPro to the adjustable holder, placed my tan felt hat on my head, and started walking.

“I’m going down to the beach! What time should I come back?” I asked. Omar said we should head out for the “quick hike” in about an hour, which seemed like plenty of time.

“Wait! Aren’t you going to put your shoes on?” Omar yelled after me as I began to carefully yet quickly walk barefoot on the rocky pathway.

“Nah, I’m good!” I replied casually, since I typically prefer to go barefoot and it’s totally normal for me. In fact, I probably walk better without shoes than with them. He looked at my kind of strangely, so I smiled and gave him a thumbs up, then headed out.

I’m not going to lie though, I definitely walked over a few stones with sharp edges that jabbed me right in the soft arches of my feet, and made me jump and wince in pain. ‘Remember, you are NOT allowed to get injured! You have a lot of big trips to do this year, plus your fiance will be very angry!’ I reminded myself, over and over again.

My feet finally plunged into the soft powdery sand of the beach, and immediately, I was in heaven. The beach was absolute perfection, and there wasn’t a soul in sight besides the other tour group workers who were setting up camp on top of the small cliff that overlooks the beach before their guests arrived. It looked like a beautiful spot to have your tent, and I felt jealous and slightly annoyed that my tent was set up across the street rather than right in front. But I pushed those feelings out of my head and reminded myself to just be grateful that I was on a collaboration here. I would remember to request to choose my tent’s location at the next camp site.

As I walked along the silky shore, admiring the way the clear blue water formed small sandbars around a massive boulder, I realized that this wasn’t the Socotra Island I had seen much of on social media. Most people posted about the funky trees, the endless sand dunes, and the canyon freshwater pools. But I honestly had no idea that the beaches would be this paradisal. And paradisal beaches are one thousand percent my thing, so talk about an added bonus to this bucketlist adventure.

I continued strolling at a slower pace than usual, which I realized because somehow Omar had caught up to me without running. He had come down to show me where there is freshwater…for showering. Insert giant sarcastic smile emoji here.

He explained that there are several areas all throughout the island with these freshwater runoffs and that they are essential for the locals. Later I learned they are called “wadis”, but I’ll get to that when I tell you about the craziest road trip I have ever taken in my life. He wanted to show me the one he prefers, and that he thought I would like as well.

“Is that…a WATERFALL? Going into the SEA?!” I exploded with excitement of seeing two of my favorite things in nature at the same time. He laughed and confirmed, further explaining that you can tell the water is very fresh, because all of the seagulls were there drinking from it. 

While I wasn’t ready or even prepared to shower yet, I still had to get some footage of this glorious phenomenon. Since Omar had (potentially made the mistake of) offered to help with my photos, I snapped into micro-management mode, and directed him on the angle I wanted for a video, and the settings to put the camera on. To my surprise, it only took him three times to nail it! This was going to make my job a lot easier!

Satisfied with the third take, I then had the vision to create a slow motion video running towards all of the seagulls. So I set the framing for him again, and showed him how to switch the mode to slo-mo, and told him to hit the button when I yelled ‘GO’. I crept up to get closer to the birds, then like a lioness about to pounce on her prey, I yelled “GO!” and bolted straight for the giant white birds. Yes, I felt a little bad for scaring them, but the video was amazing. I showed Omar the results, and his eyes lit up with excitement.

“I did that?! Are you sure I did that?!” He literally couldn’t believe his eyes at how well the videos came out. Boy was he in for a treat this week, because this was just a warm up to what types of shots I was envisioning. It made me happy and proud though to see him in awe. Afterall, he is the one who reached out to me, a well-established blogger/influencer, and paid with his own budget to have me on this trip, in hopes of getting amazing content to post and persuade more people to come on his tours. I couldn’t wait to show him how much I was about to overdeliver on this business deal.

We walked back to the campsite so that we could make it to this short hike he was speaking of. Chef was busy preparing our camp kitchen, so Omar drove while I organized which cameras I wanted to take. I wasn’t fully sure what we were doing, so I just opted for all five of them.

He turned right off of the main road, and started trying to drive over a bed of pebble rocks, which didn’t work out so well with the truck. We seemed to get stuck and have to reverse, then go forward again, about ten times, until finally he parked. I waited for him to go forward again, but he just looked at me and finally said, “We’re here.” 

My face twisted into a, “We’re where?” confused look, as I eyed the massive mountain outside of my window.

“Where exactly are we hiking?” I asked, still holding my raised eyebrow, which probably came off as an extremely bitchy face.

“Up there, it’s the best view, you can see the whole island.” He said hopefully, pointing up to the top of, again, a massive mountain.

I looked down at my dress, then again at the mountain, then back at him. Would have been nice to have some advanced warning so I could change into one of my many matching workout outfits. But whatever, it’s not like I haven’t hiked in dresses before. I as however, pretty exhausted, and summiting Mount Socotra right now did not seem ideal.

“Can we just go up to that lower part?” I asked with an attempted smile.

“We can, but you have to go up higher to see the whole view.” He tried to convince me.

“Well, I’ll just bring my drone, and we can see it using that!” I replied matter of factly.

“Oh yeah! The drone! Ok let’s do that!” He said, again excited, thank god.

I was still barefoot, but those sharp rocks going up the side of the mountain did not look comfortable. Luckily I had thrown my pink and black Reebok’s in the backseat before we left, and although I would never be caught dead wearing running sneakers with a dress, I pulled them on and laced up, because; You’re not allowed getting injured.

As soon as my feet hit the ground, my natural instinct to marathon hike kicked in, and without waiting, I set off at a moderate pace towards the direction of the mountain. I morphed straight into my trekking technique of watching my feet and the ground around them to make sure I didn’t trip, and also to distract myself with counting the steps. This is what I did during Kilimanjaro and the Inca Trail, and I believe it kept me sane and with a proper pace of breathing.

I stopped to turn around and see if Omar had caught up yet, and he hadn’t, so I waited. He looked like he was struggling a bit, but then again he was wearing sandals. And also his cultural sarong, so at least we were both in skirts.

“You Ok?” I asked, trying to supress a smile.

“How do you go so fast? I am already dying!” He said, somehow out of breath.

“I dunno, I walk a lot, and sometimes I also climb mountains.” That seemed like the easiest way to put it. But really, the amount of walking I do every day, especially when I travel, is pretty impressive. I also think that since I’m a Capricorn, I’m part mountain goat.

We kept going for about seven minutes, and by “we”, I mean I was already half way up the mountain and he was still far behind. I waited again, and when he caught up, I asked, “Are you sure you want to go to the top? I can just stand on that rock and fly the drone up.”

“Yes, maybe that’s better.” He said huffing, sitting on a medium sized rock to take a sip of water. Perfect, I love this for me. Well, and him, he really did seem to be struggling.

I scoured the rocks ahead for a good angle, and as if I had a camera framing focus in my eyes, I quickly found the perfect rock for a shot. It was Pride Rock-ish, and stuck out just far enough so you could hang your feet over the edge and look like you’re at the top of a death defying drop like a suicidal lunatic when angled right, but in reality, there was another flat rock not far below it, just in case you did fall. Mental note to write that in my caption along with ‘Do not attempt this photo unless you are a professional photo poser slash ninja slash mountain goat’.

Again I angled my cameras, this time the Sony and my iPhone 14 Pro, and took the photo without me in it first, to show to Omar to replicate. Somehow magically he understook the mission, so I took off the ugly sneakers (they’re actually cool looking, just not for this photo), and carefully walked to the edge. Of course I realized when I got there that the rocks were jagged, so Omar threw me his thick rubber sandals to sit on. 

Full honesty here, even though there was ground not far below, I still was shaky and nervous. This was new to me, because I’ve taken photos with my feet over cliffs in WAY more dangerous places, like Horseshoe Bend, Death Valley in Bolivia, and even over a volcanic crater in Indonesia. But I guess as you get older, you fear injuries and death more, and again..I promised my fiance I wouldn’t get injured. Anyway, we got the shots, and they were absolutely gorgeous.

Next I wanted to fly Dronita, so I got her all set up, and told Omar to go hide in a cave or something. I couldn’t wait to use Dronita all over Socotra, and I was actually going through great lengths to even have a drone for this trip, becaue Socotra is the only place I’ll be able to use it in the next two months. In fact, drones are illegal in Bhutan, so after this trip, when I go to Delhi to catch my flight to Bhutan, I need to meet up with my business partner there, so she can take my drone and about fifteen pounds of clothes I won’t need until I get back to India after Bhutan and Nepal.

I launch Dronita and the screen with the preview of what she’s seeing looks like she’s in a tornado. That feeling of “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit” you get when flying a drone in general kicked in, and I scanned the sky, expecting to see her crash landing into the rocks. But there she was, stationary. I looked down again, and noticed the alert that said “Gimbal stuck”. I’d seen it before, so I brought her back in, checked the gimbal, found nothing wrong, so I launched her again. Same problem. Fuck!

Five years ago this would not have been a problem at all, and I would have been more than happy to just take drone photos. But thanks to the demand of video over photos these days, I needed the live footage as well. I tried again and again, but the video wasn’t happening, so I landed her by grabbing her out of the air and flipping her to the side to shut her off, and packed up.

It took me about seven times yelling Omar’s name for him to hear me, and I wondered how deep he went in a cave, and why he wasn’t terrified. Then we hiked back down to the car to head back.

“Wow look, there’s people up there!” I said, pointing to the top of one of the massive sand dunes near our camp.

“Yeah, but they are stupid, there is no where to go at the top, and the wave of sand can fall at any time. In fact, they will probably die.” He replied matter-of-factly. The sudden death comment threw me a bit of a shock, and I wondered how serious he was. “I know it’s dangerous because I’ve done it before.” He continued. Makes sense now, seeing how he’s not a good hiker, how he would feel like he’s going to die all the way up there.

When we got back to camp, the sun had set, and it was getting dark at only five thirty. I checked my phone, and it dawned on me that we wouldn’t be going anywhere else where there might be service. Normally I’d be Ok with this. Afterall, I go to Antarctica almost every year for ten days without service and I don’t mind it at all. But again, it’s a little different now with a new fiance, who I’m now used to talking to all day every day. I felt little fluttering in my heart, oh shit, do I have separation anxiety? No, there was no way. I’m the OG solo female travel blogger, I prefer to travel solo! So where was this anxiety coming from?

Maybe the fact that we were about three hours from the main town. Or that if something did happen to me, it would be impossible to get off of this island since there’s only two flights per week. OH! And let’s not forget the most important factor; I was about to sleep in a tent in the wilderness, with only men around me. No big deal, I swear.

Within ten minutes it was pitch dark, and I couldn’t see a damn thing except for the spotlight that their camp light was casting on the table. I decided to do what usually takes me forever to do in order to pass the time; write. While Chef was finishing cooking, I pulled my little Google Pixelbook out of my backpack, and set it up on the table. I had made sure to set my Google Docs to “Work Offline” knowing I wouldn’t have internet on this trip, and opened the file labeled “Travel Stories” to start writing about my epic arrival here. AKA…Chapter One of this story.

Before I knew it, Chef placed three tin plates in front of me, all covered in tin foil. “Oh! Thank you!” I replied abruptly, wondering what he had made and knowing already that it was way too much.

He smiled and walked back to the truck, as I carefully peeled back the foil on each plate. The first one was grilled tuna steak, the second was aromatic rice, and the third was a whole bunch of cooked vegetables that I would likely never eat unless I were starving. I actually was pretty hungry though, and quickly devoured the tuna, not bothering with a fork since it had some bones in it, and ate at least a third of the rice. When Omar came over to check on me, I sheepishly explained that I really can’t eat this much food, and to please tell Chef that I loved it, but I would also love if he could make me half the amount from now on.

After dinner, I used wipes to clean myself, since there was no way I was going in the waterfall at night, then I said goodnight, and crawled into the tent they had set up for me. There was a thin mattress to lay on, and two pink microfiber blankets. I thought it was endearing that they gave me pink bedding for some reason. Realizing it was only eight, I decided to try to read one of the rom-com books I downloaded for this exact type of moment.

I settled into my bed, putting the pillow that I put my silk pillowcase on on top, and my Oscar pillow in between my boobs to prevent cleavage wrinkles. It was uncomfortably dark, so I kept the flashlight of my phone on while I read the ebook from Kindle. Within minutes though, the entire outside roof of my tent was covered in moths, as if I were inside a butterfly net…well, except, opposite? Anywhere, there were a lot of moths because of the flashlight. But no way in hell I was ready to turn it off.

As I started reading the highly unlikely, slightly annoying story of a “poor” woman (yet who lives with her mom one street over from The Flats in Beverly Hills) who bumps into a super hot, young billionaire, I started feeling fluttering in my heart again. And it reminded me of that feelling I got the night I had my first, and only, full on panic attack in Bali. The scenario was similar too. I was in a very remote area, it was pitch black, and I was watching a series on my phone. Since I’m still not sure if the light in the dark was a trigger, I decided to avoid it by turning it off, and turning on my sleep music again.

Normally I preferred sleeping in pitch darkness, so maybe I’d fall asleep soon. I laid down and shut my eyes, but instead of my mind easing into nothingness, it did the exact opposite. Eight trillion thoughts flooded my mind instead. What if I have a panic attack? What if I can’t do this trip, what if it’s too intense, and too remote, what if I need to tell them I want to go home? But where exactly is home? I don’t want to just go back to Sardinia already. Or Mexico. And definitely not Florida. But I do miss Oscar. What if Oscar dies while I’m away? What if I die?

The thoughts wouldn’t stop coming, causing the fluttering to increase, and as much as I didn’t want to belive it, I was on the verge of a panic attack. On one of the most remote islands in the world.

But I had prepared for this exact moment. I’d actually been preparing for the last five years since the last one happened, and almost ruined my career and life by making me afraid to have a panic attack on a plane. 

You have your emergency Xanex in your purse, and if you really need a glass of wine, you can have it. Remember, the Xanex is literally to stop a panic attack. If you need it, take it.

But I didn’t want to take the Xanex. I wanted to be stronger than that. The only time recently I had to take my emergency Xanex was over a year ago, when I was polar camping in Antarctica, zipped inside of an arctic-grade sleeping bag (that felt like I was inside a body bag), while a blizzard suddenly hit. I thought I was going to die. And…Ooohhhh. Maybe that was why I was suddenly panicking. PTSD from getting trapped inside a “tent” while getting buried alive by snow.

There were definitely other things contributing to the anxiety, but I decided to try to trick my brain into thinking it was PTSD from Antarctica camping. Another thing I had prepared for in case this happened, was downloading several “Calm Your Anxiety”, and “Stop a Panic Attack” podcasts and music. I put one on that started with, “Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, or licensed to give advice.” Uhhh Ok, great way to start a podcast about stopping the panic. I listened to her anyway, and it seemed to help. Eventually I dozed off, only to wake up abruptly to another wave of panic! I couldn’t believe it! This hasn’t happened in so long! Why now! Reaching for my phone, I flicked it open and found another playlist for anti-anxiety music. I listened to it for the rest of the night, unable to sleep, until finally the light from the sun rising in the east came into my tent.

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