Flying Solo

Bon voyageI’ve been thinking a lot lately about turning points. I’m not talking about the gradual changes we all go through as we mature and have more life experiences; often without even noticing them. I’m talking about what some people call “aha! moments” that result in an immediate change in thought or action or both. Sometimes we didn’t have any intention of changing but events occur in our lives that force us to change.

One turning point for me was learning to do things alone. That might not sound like a big deal but it was for me and I’ve noticed that a lot of women find it difficult to go out and do things alone. I have a friend who even thinks that other people look at her as some kind of a “loser” if she goes for a walk alone.  I think most women believe that they will have a partner in their life or, at the very least, the company of friends or family will be available to them so it can be difficult when things don’t always go as expected.  I can relate to that because it is exactly what I believed. I can remember exactly when I had the aha! moment about going out and doing things alone. I never had to think about doing things alone until, at the age of 43, I moved to St. Augustine, Florida from New Jersey and didn’t know anyone in my new home. I wasn’t employed and it took me six months to find a position in my field so I didn’t even have a work place in which to meet people. I realized it could be quite awhile before I had a social life and I didn’t want to sit in my apartment everyday just because I felt awkward and self-conscious about going out alone.

I devised a plan to overcome my self-consciousness that involved taking small steps. I explored the beautiful old city of St. Augustine by visiting historic sites and museums. I had never eaten alone in a restaurant and, for a long time, that was the most difficult activity for me. I learned tricks that made it less intimidating – lunch rather than dinner, choosing a casual outdoor restaurant and taking a book so I could read if I felt uncomfortable. I went to the beach alone for the first time in my life. If there was a movie playing that I wanted to see, I went to a matinee rather than an evening show when I knew there would be people on dates or with friends. Very gradually I became more comfortable doing things alone and I got over the feeling that people were looking at me and perhaps even – oh no! – thinking there was something wrong with me!

I have always been interested in travel and didn’t have the money for most of my adult life to explore that interest but, when I finally did have the funds to at least enjoy some modest vacations, I found myself without a travel companion. My effort, beginning several years earlier when I moved to Florida, to overcome my self-consciousness about doing things alone paid off. I remember asking myself “What if you never again have someone to travel with? Does that mean you’ll never go anywhere?” I decided to dip my toe into the water of solo travel by going to a place I had been wanting to visit on the west coast of Florida. It was just a 3 1/2 hour drive from my home and I only went for 3 nights but, it felt like a major accomplishment to me. I remember feeling nervous at first but then gradually realizing that I was actually enjoying myself. In the following years I made solo, or partially solo, trips to Arizona, California, and the North Carolina mountains. I have taken vacations with other people and, as much as I enjoyed their company, I have learned that there are many benefits to traveling solo and, in fact, now I often prefer it. (BTW, business trips don’t count!)

I hope to someday travel all over the country in an RV and I’ll probably be doing that with only my dog, Liberty, for company. At one time I wouldn’t even have considered that but I have overcome most of my self-consciousness about doing things alone. I was inspired by the travel blog of one 63 year old woman and discovered that there are lots of independent women like her who are traveling around the country in their RV’s. There are also many women who travel solo internationally. Many are women in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, who, when confronted with the unanticipated life changing events of divorce or widowhood, experienced the same turning point I did – they realized that just because they didn’t have a companion didn’t mean they couldn’t enjoy life!

Obviously, I’m not writing this for strong, confident and independent women who never had a problem flying solo! I’m writing this as encouragement for women like me who, as younger women, always felt self-conscious about doing things alone or believed there was something “wrong” with them if they didn’t have a companion. If you’re denying yourself the pleasure of a vacation you’ve always wanted to take or even a movie, concert, or meal in a favorite restaurant just because you have no one to accompany you, it is you I am encouraging to venture forth. You don’t have to jump right into a tour of Europe or a solo cross country road trip – take small steps like I did and each step will add to your confidence. If you need more encouragement, there are many resources on the Internet for women traveling solo. One of the first things I read (many years ago) is a book called “Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips” by Lea Lane and I recently discovered “RVing Solo Across America .. Without a Cat, Dog, Man or Gun” by Lois Requist, Lura Dymond, Linda Foley, and Carrie Requist. There is even an online RVing Club for Women, and some great travel sites for women.

I guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised and will discover things about yourself that you never knew.
“Not all who wander are lost”
from The Lord of the Rings

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Liberty 5-2-14