I am Traveling Solo – First Column
I am traveling solo.
Last year, at age fifty-five . . . and four years into my second divorce after my second long-term marriage, and with two grown children raising their own little ones . . . I started living half-time in California and half-time in Croatia.
Without any in-any-way-significant ongoing other.
And without any traditional, one-place “home” anywhere, either. Instead, I happily cobble together a string of rentals and house-sits and Air BnB’s and short-enough-that-we-don’t-all-drive-each-other-crazy stays with my adult kids.
I am traveling solo.
Which turns out to freak most people out.
When they ask and I explain how my life currently works, people are confounded. They do not understand how this is possible. Financially, logistically, or emotionally.
As in, “Aren’t you ever SCARED?” Yes.
And that is exactly what makes this whole way of life all the more powerful, valuable, magical, and transformative.
But I’m rarely ever scared in the way that I think most Americans mean: as a woman, for my personal safety. Most of Europe is actually statistically–and even feels, instinctively–much safer, crime-wise, than most of America.
Instead, I’ve wrestled (albeit less and less frequently, as my traveling-solo muscles have strengthened with exercise) with all the other fears I’ve met while traveling solo. Because traveling by yourself–even for a day–is going to make you face your fears in a way that few non-emergency situations ever will.
Traveling solo renders you . . . solo.
You are thus without the bubble, and without the joint assets, that a group (even just as a couple) provides. This means you–personally, all by yourself–are going to have to figure out A Bunch Of Stuff on your own. Like, all that stuff you usually let someone else figure out because you hate it or are afraid of it. Or that you at least share a responsibility for figuring out.
For example, how you’re going to manage finances–ongoing, on this trip, on this day. How to use a new app you need on your phone. How the phone even works at all in another country and how much that’s going to cost you. Where to keep your passport and how to get from Point A to Point B and whether that’s going to be on foot, on a bus, on a train, by Uber or taxi or ferry or pedicab or funicular or airplane.
How to read maps or ask locals . . . with your language issues, and theirs . . . how to get somewhere when, for whatever reason–cost, availability, whatever–you’re not going be able to rely on GPS. How the foreign country’s money works and what the conversion rate means. How to open the door on Italian trains. How to get your luggage through turnstiles into the pay bathrooms in bus stations in central Europe. How to get your luggage up the stairs in buildings without elevators. Or from inside Venice’s water taxis at low tide up onto the dock at the station where you need to get out.
Moreover, you’re going to need to figure out how you feel and how you’ll deal internally with people looking at you strangely in restaurants in romantic locales when you are Alone, which is Not Normal.
And how you like to spend your time and what you feel comfortable and productive doing with it when that’s not being dictated even a little by What Someone Else Wants To Do.
Just for some examples.
It’s through traveling solo that we meet, on an almost minute-by-minute basis, our fears. And thus, ourselves.
Instead of others’ expectations of us.
And, at this age, I can’t think of a kinder or more exciting thing to do for ourselves.
I’m looking forward to sharing my excitement and stories here with you about traveling solo. Until next time, dovidenja!