Intermission in Kenya:
one month paid leave from work

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For 1 month, I had the extraordinary opportunity to travel as a solo female across Kenya. This is a story of pivoting plans, ticking off bucket list items, and some self discovery.

After reaching 5 years at the company I work for, employees are eligible for something called Intermission, which is a one month paid leave. How you choose to spend your time is up to you. Some people simply use it as a staycation to disconnect and spend time with family and friends. Others might use it to travel either within their own country or outside of it. Your options and ability to spend your intermission depend on your personal circumstances of course, for example if you have children, are a care giver, your confidence to travel after COVID etc.

Right from the moment I found out about the Intermission program, and counting down to when I would be eligible, I knew that I wanted to use my time to travel abroad.

My Original Intermission Plans

I started seriously thinking about my Intermission back in January of 2020, when the world was a much different place (pre-global pandemic). At that time, planning for major international travel was usually done way in advance. Oh, how times have changed. I reached out to a friend of a friend, Andie, who is a virtual assistant and travel planner (@onedaringadventure on Instagram). She has lived in 14 countries across 4 continents with her 5 children and husband! She was highly recommended as someone who could help me design and plan a once in a lifetime trip. We started chatting, and I explained to her that I wanted to go to Bali for 3 weeks and stay in a beautifu villa and then continue my adventure onwards to Seoul, South Korea for one week of shopping for all things Korean Skin Care, eat to my heart's content and visit spas. Sounded like a wondeful plan, right?

Enter: COVID... and then the world changed. Suddenly international travel was put on an indefinite hold for who knows how long. Since I wasn't in a rush, and I really wanted to use my time off work to travel, I decided to wait and delay my Intermission.


Pivoting Plans and deciding on a new desintation

Fast foward a year and a half later, I picked up the conversation with Andie at the end of August 2021. I told her that I wanted to take my Intermission in November 2021. Unfortunately, it looked like Asia was still not going to be an option as Bali was still closed, so I needed new ideas for where to go instead. I gave her some guidance:

  1. I wanted to go somewhere I had never been before
  2. It must be close to a beach, and
  3. I needed to feel safe going to the country as a solo female traveller

Andie came back with a bunch of ideas and destintation options: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Zanzibar, Seycelles, and The Maldives. All of these places sounded divine. Andie pointed out that because international travel was just starting to kick back up again, most countries were competing for travel dollars and thus most places were (and at the time of writing this, still are) quite discounted. If I ever wanted to consider a location that would usually be way out of my budget, example: The Seycelles or Maldives, now was the time to go.

When it came time for Andie to send me some Airbnb options for the countries above, she mentioned that she had thrown in an extra destination that we had not discussed. She asked me, "How do you feel about safaris?". I immediately thought, "What?! No way! That's crazy. I could never do that". But after thinking about it, and how I wanted this trip to be a once in a life time opportunity, I thought, why not?? After she pitched me on a trip that would consist of a safari and then time on the coast, I was sold. And that's how I ended up choosing Kenya as my Intermission destination.


The Plan: Safari & Beach Living

The plan was to start my Kenyan adventure with a 4 day safari, and then head to Diani Beach (voted one of Africa's best beaches) on the coast for the remaining 3 weeks to rest and relax on the beach.

For those unfamiliar with Kenya, one of the most famous aspects of it is the Masai Mara. Which is one of the most important wildlife conservation areas in all of Africa. It is world renowned for its abundent animal populations, incuding the Big 5 (elephant, leopard, buffalo, rhino, lion).

I stayed at the Santuary Olonana resort, which is located right on the Mara River. It's one of the most luxurious places I have ever stayed. From their impecable rooms, to the food, and service. I highly recommend you consider staying here if you ever find yourself in the Mara. I would fall asleep to the sound of monkeys dancing on the roof of my room, and wake up to the sounds of hippos grunting in the morning. You are right in the thick of it, pure nature, and it's amazing.


Over the course of my safari days, I had the opportunity to take 2x daily game drives. Technically, these were suppose to be shared rides with other guests - which I wouldn't have minded since I was travelling on my own - but because of COVID and a decreased number of guests at the resort, my game drives ended up being private!


I saw the "Big 5", along with so many other kinds of animals along the way. My favourites were definitely the elephants, lions and giraffes. Seeing them in their natural habit was nothing short of amazing.


In addition to the Safari, while in the Mara, I had the opportunity to visit a Masai Village which was a really special experience, learning all about their rich culture and history. And, tick off a bucket list item by taking a sunrise hot air balloon ride across the tree tops and savannah. It was magical.


The Importance of Spending One Month Alone

As an only child, I have always been very independent. This independence also led me to have a confidence to travel solo around the world, to which I've done several times across Latin America, Europe and Asia. After COVID hit, and being in lock downs for months on end, followed by tough restrictions for almost a year and a half, I was lucky to spend this time with my boyfriend and was not alone.

But what I found during the pandemic is that I lost some sense of my independence. Especially that confidence I once had. I always knew I wanted to take my Intermission on my own, even before COVID hit, but it was even more important now to have that time to myself to disconnect, reflect, and be on my own.

Taking one month to be alone is not everyone's cup of tea. But it was an important aspect to my trip. I wanted to force myself to be on my own, and just sit with myself. Do some deep thinking, reflecting and dedicate time to things I have put off, or never have "time" for. I quickly realized, when was I ever going to have another opporunity like this again to do something completely on my own for this length of time? Probably never. So now was the time. I needed to just go for it.


How I Filled My Days

My time during the Safari was a whirlwind. Each day was jam packed with activities, catered meals and early nights. I was waking up betwen 5:30am - 6:00am every day to have breakfast before we left for our morning game drive which departed promptly at 7:00am.


Once I got to the coast in Diani Beach, things were much more chill. I stayed at an Airbnb called the African Art Home (Airbnb || Instagram) where I would be cooking 90% of my meals, and had no real schedule to get up or go to bed. I did end up however, formulating some kind of daily routine for myself where I was here for 3 weeks.


This was important to ensure I wasn't wasting the day watching Netflix or Tiktok. One of the first orders of business as soon as I arrived was finding a gym. Luckily there was a great, albeit small, gym near to a grocery store that I ended up going to quite often. It was more of a crossfit style gym, with barbells, kettlebells, dumbells and TRX than a traditional gym with machines etc. This was perfectly fine and had everything I needed to stay on track with my program that my trainer had created for me while I was away. A 3 week membership cost 3500 KSH, which works out to be about €27 or $30 USD. A bit more expensive than I would have thought it would be. But I was grateful for the space, and the very welcoming trainers there. It was a safe space for me.

Once I had my gym situation figured out, here's what my days looked like:


GYM Days (4x a week):

  • 7:30/8:00am - Wakeup
  • 8:00am - Meditate and Read
  • 9:30am - Breakfast
  • 11:00am - Gym + Stretching
  • 12:30pm - Pool, sun tan
  • 2:00pm - Lunch
  • 3:00pm - Afternoon activities: Nap, Paint/Draw, Journalling, blog writing etc.
  • 6:30pm - Yoga
  • 7:00pm - Netflix / Youtube
  • 8:30pm - Dinner
  • 9:30pm - Read / Facetime with friends/family
  • 10:30pm - Bedtime

REST Days:
  • 7:30/8:00am - Wakeup
  • 8:00am - Meditate and Read
  • 9:30am - Breakfast
  • 10:30am - Morning Activities: Grocery Shopping, Paint/Draw, Journalling, blog writing etc
  • 12:00pm - Beach walk
  • 2:00pm - Lunch
  • 3:00pm - Hangout at Beach bar and read or journal
  • 6:30pm - Yoga
  • 7:00pm - Netflix / Youtube
  • 8:30pm - Dinner
  • 9:30pm - Read / Facetime with friends/family
  • 10:30pm - Bedtime

I was waking up naturally everyday quite early. Not sure if it was the heat, the hard mattress or the light coming into my room, but I was bright eyed and bushy tailed as early as 6:30 or 7am sometimes.

The sun would set around 630pm, so I would always be sure to be back beforehand and would never go out after dark. I was usually inside my Airbnb too after 6:30pm, since that's when the mosquitos would come out. It worked nicely though, because once the was down, I would move into my evening yoga routine.


Building a Self Care Practice

Have you ever tried to do a 30 day challenge? Or even a 7 to 15 day challenge... and then failed miserably. *Raises Hand*. Hi, I'm definitely one of those people. Whether it's just laziness, or life getting in the way, I've never really been ever to successfully do something consistency for 30 days straight (except for my 1 second a day video diaries with the help of the 1SE app).

So for my Intermission I really wanted to challenge myself to focus on a selfcare routine, and practice yoga and meditation for 3 weeks straight (not the full month, since I was so go-go-go with the safari in my first week of Intermission). This time, I had no excuse. I had no distractions or reasons not to do it. So I did, every day, for 3 weeks straight. I even kept a checklist to ensure I was staying accountable to myself (I also get immense satisfaction from checking things off).

While I'm still on the fence with meditation - I still have a lot of work to do there - I am really pleased with my daily yoga practice. I definitely feel a difference in my body. By stretching everyday I have definitely become more flexible and limber. I also found that doing yoga after sunset would really help me unwind and switch my brain into evening mode. It also taught me to just slow down.

Finally, going to a gym 4x a week was my saving grace. I think I would have gone stark raving mad if I hadn't have been able to continue with my fitness program while I was away. Going to the gym gives me energy, it makes me feel strong and really good about my body. All about those endorphins. One thing I really enjoyed was not having a time crunch like I usually down hen I'm working. Most often than not, I always find myself rushing to the gym, to ensure I get back in time to shower and then start work. Here in Kenya, I could wake up naturally, ease into my morning and eat when I got hungry, and then mosey on down to the gym. Where back in Spain, I either go to the gym right after waking up, or very shortly after eating a light breakfast. Just taking my time in the gym (and usually having it all to myself) was such a nice treat. Sometimes, it's just the little things that can make a world of difference.


My Experience in Kenya as a Female Solo Traveller

Most people were shocked or taken aback when I told them I chose to travel to Kenya... alone, for my Intermission. My mother was definitely not pleased (sorry Mom!). But I did my research ahead of time. And, interestingly enough, as soon as I shared my plans of going to Kenya, I discovered so many people within my network who had either been before, or even lived there. I was immediately given a ton of information, local contacts and tips from them.


I feel grateful for my previous experiences travelling on my own throughout Latin America and Asia, because I really feel those trips helped me prepare to go to Kenya alone. Unfortunately, as many women know, when you are a solo female traveller there are certain precautions you must take, and you almost always need to be super aware of your surroundings, have clear plans, and solid contacts before you enter a country.

I was smart and sensible while in Nairobi. I was only there for 24 hours as a landing spot before I headed onwards to my safari portion of my trip. I never left my hotel, I strategically booked a hotel close to the domestic flights airport, and pre-planned my driver before arriving to ensure I had someone trustworthy waiting for me at the airport.

While in the Masai Mara for the Safari, I felt very safe both in the resort and out in the savannah next to wild animals. The staff were extremely knowledgeable, kind, welcoming and always had the safety of their guests as their number one priority. Even when we got extremely close to very wild animals, there was never a moment where I felt nervous, or unsafe. While at the resort, it was gated and patrolled by security every night. We were always accompanied by a security personnel to our rooms each night after dinner.

Being on the coast in Diani Beach however, was a bit of a different story. Being here was more like living like a local. I wasn't staying at a resort or hotel. I was in a gated community and had to make my own trips to the grocery store, gym, bank etc. This meant getting into Tuktuks daily (the common form of transportation in Diani Beach), and getting a lot of attention while I was out and about. The attention was harmless, it was mostly people honking trying to get your attention offering to take you somewhere, or people calling at you for you to come and see their store to buy something. Most of these people are vying for your Schillings (currency of Kenya). You'll notice the standard of living here right away, it's extremely low. One third of the population of Kenya lives below the poverty line. Everyone I interacted with however was kind and polite. Usually saying things like "Jambo" (hello), "how are you doing lady", "Karibu" (welcome), "want to buy something"? etc. A simple and firm "no, thank you" (multiple times) or even just ignoring them as you walked by usually did the trick.


As I mentioned above, I never left my Airbnb after sunset. I only ever did things within town that I felt comfortable with. Whether it was finding a local beach bar restaurant that I liked and went there as my "local spot" multiple times, or go with my Airbnb host to new spots, I didn't venture off too far on my own. Again, this is just what I felt comfortable with, and always listened to my gut. I was here to focus on myself, relax, and unwind, so I wasn't interested in getting to know every part of Diani Beach or do every single activity. Whatever I felt like on the day of, and where my comfort level was, is what I did. I would recommend this to any female solo traveller. Don't let people in the town make you feel guilty for not doing XYZ or not going to ABC place. Don't get distracted by Instagram thinking you need to do all the things and take all the pictures. Diani Beach is home to one of the most spectacular beaches in all of Africa, but I only carried my phone with me twice on the beach to take some quick photos before retreating back to the bar restaurant where I had the rest of my valuables. There will be people that will approach you on the beach (they're referred to as "Beach Boys"), sometimes they will walk alongside you for a bit. This was something that made me the most uncomfortable. But by not carrying anything of value on you, simply going for a walk during the day and reinforcing your "no thank you's" will do the trick. Just be smart, and sensible.

Reflections and Learnings

Looking back on my Intermission, I have no regrets about how I spent it, or that I came to Kenya on my own. My time here (especially during the Safari) was a once in a life time opportunity, and feels like I've ticked off a bucket list item or two.


I did a lot of thinking, and reflecting while I was here. I was alone with my thoughts for almost 30 days. That can sometimes be a scary thing. I had time to really dive deep into what I want to accomplish in 2022 and set my intentions. But most of all, I had the time to focus on myself and to explore what self care really means and what works for me.

Here are some key learnings I had while I was away:

    I have discovered my limit for being on my own
      I think I hit my limit about 5 or 6 days before I was scheduled to fly back home. I loved having my alone time and gaining my independence/confidence back, but I've realized what those limits are. It was refreshing to be on my own, but it got lonely, and Facetime chats don't fill up your cup like in person interaction does. As confident or independent as you are, loneliness is a real thing and it hits even the strongest people. I was definitel ready to go back home. The good news is that I felt recharged, refreshed and ready to hit the ground running to close out the year and head into 2022.
        I missed having dedicated creative time
          It's so easy to get distracted or make excuses of not having time to sit down and do something with the right side of your brain. Whether it's drawing, painting, crafting, creating music etc. It's important to have an outlet, especially one that doesn't include a screen. It's also ok to suck at whatever creative endevour you're pursuring. Give yourself some grace, and just zone out and have fun.
            Journelling is a wonderful self therapy tool, and I needed it
              I journelled every single day of my trip. Starting right when I landed in Nairobi up until my last day in Diani Beach. Looking back over the pages, it's amazing to see the rollercoaster of emotions I experienced. From pure joy and excitement to sadness and loneliness. I went through it all. I also captured some key realizations, and thoughts about my life, friendships and relationships. Things I want and need to work on. Things I want to pursue etc.
                I need to make time to stretch and slow down
                  Having a daily yoga practice was such a nice wind down activity. It really helped me tune into myself, and focus only on the movement. When I'm working and back in regular life in Spain, everything is always so go-go-go (albeit, less than how it was in Canada), and I get so caught up in life, that this time to just be was a big reminder to just slow the f*** SLOW DOWN. This is something I want to prioritze when I'm back to incorporate daily stretches, and hopefully twice a week yoga practices at a minimum.
                    You are so much more than your job/career

                      Not thinking about work for a whole month was a glorious and very priviledged opportunity. It's so easy to get caught up in the drama in your company, or even worse, the stress. You can even fall into the trap that you are your job or that your life is defined by what you do for work. I'm here to remind you, that you are so much more. And sometimes you need time away to see the bigger picture and come to that realization.


                      Video Recap of Kenya

                        If you made it this far, thanks for following along! If you ever have the opportunity to have a one month paid leave off of work, make sure you plan something unforgettable. Whatever that might look like for you. Take advantage of your time, because you never know when you'll ever get an opportunity like this again!


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