How To Travel Alone
“All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.” Cameron Crowe and Alice Mckenna
Just to be clear. If you told me ten years ago I would be writing any blog, I would not have believed you. First of all, I’m not a writer. Second , I didn’t go to a PTA meeting alone or anywhere else. My life and my future were on a safe, secure path . Then everything fell apart. I picked up the pieces of my crumbling life. I didn’t do it willingly, quickly, easily or happily. But after a while, you just get tired of looking at them on the floor. I had to build a new life.
Soon after that, I became an empty nester. I would like to go on record as saying I hate those words. It just creates a sad picture in your head. I’ve seen those nests. They are so cute with the baby birds in them and then you are left with a dry crumbly mess of twigs. I leave them for a while in case the birds come back. When you pick them up, they fall apart in your hands. The nests looked so sturdy with the birds in them. A lot of metaphors arise in my head. I think we need to go into this time in our life with different words. Once you get over the sadness, it is kind of nice to get your house and your life back. In my case, it was a life I never had. I never took the time for myself to create one.
You have four choices as you get older: to go back to adolescence -marry a younger woman get a new sports car etc; to prepare to die and feel that your life is over; to live in the past; or to become wise, check your value system and continue on as a better human being.
I stood on the verge of uncertainty and thought, what kind of life do I want? What do I love? For me it was travel. I traveled as much as I could when I was single and then I spent the next part of my life not traveling.
But now I have a choice. I’m not brave or lucky. I just stopped worrying about what was logical, attainable or expected anymore. It became about how I constructed the possibilities in my life.
At first I traveled with friends. My destinations were based on other people. I went where they were going or visited where they lived. But there were other places that I really wanted to see. The first time I went on a tour alone I cried most of the nights. I was not the cool, young girl anymore but I was now one of those people that I used to make fun of. I was one of the on the bus off the bus older alone women. Meals were traumatic.
On my first tour, a ninety year old man came up to me. My mother told me that people weren’t nice to old people so I tried to be nice and planned my escape. I asked if it was his first trip to Spain. He said “No. The last time I was here, I was working with Reuters and touring the bullfight circuit with Hemingway.” He was trying to write a book on it and this trip went to a lot of the places he had been to. I googled him. It was true. As we walked in Rondo, Spain ( a city on the bullfight circuit ) he remembered everything. “Hemingway called me the kid,” he began and I was right there with them. I learned from that first encounter never to prejudge anyone. I’m not going to say that everyone I meet is as interesting as he was (though Australian author Susanne Gervay and British Peruvian explorer Peter Frost come close) but everyone has a story and I love to hear them.
It was nice to have a tour leader make all the decisions, pick up your luggage, deal with the trains and airlines. There was usually plenty of free time to do what I wanted to do. I learned an awful lot from local tour guides which I hadn’t used before.
It was an easy way to travel alone and not be alone. It was a great option to go wherever I wanted to go. I have now found the kind of small group tour companies that I like to travel with. A week is perfect. I mix it with time alone in a place and with friends before or after. A little of everything is a good trip. You get the taken care of experience and the exploring a city alone and having adventures experience. I’m fine alone in a city but lately I am exploring deserts, rainforests, mountains and villages. It is much easier to do that with a guide.
I learned how to be alone as well. It was really hard at first. I always try to have a book or magazine with me. Reading has probably saved a lot of people from loneliness . I learned how to ask if I could sit with someone on a tour for lunch or dinner. (I admit that I could be better at this). When I am by myself, I use a health spa or gym at night or stay out all day late instead of sitting in a restaurant alone. I hire a local tour guide from the internet if it is a country that I’m not comfortable in by myself. They have all been amazing. .
I’m not going to tell you how to go to bars and restaurants alone . You are either a person who is comfortable sitting at a bar alone or you are not. I am not. It is a different trip than traveling with a mate, family or friends. But lately I have been meeting people. I’m not outgoing – I have to work at it. I’m not adventurous and I don’t take chances or put myself in situations or places that I can’t get out of easily..
When I started traveling, I wrote funny things to my friends and family about my trips. The thing about traveling alone is that you observe a lot more of the world around you. It turns out that writing is something you do best alone. I was encouraged to write a travel blog. My computer skills included email and google. I had no idea how to blog and worse, I had no idea about social media. I make a lot of mistakes. At first no one but my friends and family read my blog because I didn’t know that I was supposed to “put it out there”. But little my little I am learning.
I don’t have to worry anymore that I’m not good enough or talented enough or smart enough. I’ve already failed at what I thought I was good at. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. I have no more personal limitations or restrictions and not a lot of time to do all the things I really want to do. I have no more if onlys.
I love writing about a subject that I love. It’s great if people read it. But even better is the moment when it comes together and I think – this doesn’t suck. I can put it out there now. It is a blog so it doesn’t have to be perfect. There is no stress.
When you are a kid, everyone encourages you to follow your dreams. When you are older, you don’t get that kind of support. Don’t let the people who didn’t have the courage to follow their own dreams discourage you. Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore which way you go. It just matters that you go somewhere.