I read more blogs than I can count and rarely comment on many of them. I know I should, but I'm so busy reading! One of my very regular blogs/sites is one called The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris writes about non traditional life planning and, entrepreneurship and travel. If you have not stopped by his website and blog I encourage you to do so at least once. It's all about non conformity (surprise) and stepping outside the box. I found the blog after I purchased his book the $100 Start Up (well worth of it's own review)!
This past week Chris wrote an article about How to Travel Alone-which I found intriguing since I have ALWAYS traveled alone some of the time, even during the many years of my marriage-as did my husband. Even more interesting to me were the various comments that followed.
This hit home to me because I am a middle aged retired woman who travels alone-by choice. Not always, just sometimes. Not because she can't find anyone to travel with her (my sister and I are going to Jackson Hole and Mount Rushmore this summer), or because I'm no fun, or because everyone else is working, or because I cannot afford to take a group tour. Because on occasion I like to travel-alone.
I started traveling alone before I was married. In the military and stationed in Europe at that time, there were places I wanted to go that had no particular interest for those around me. Sometimes I would wait until there was a tour, but sometimes I just............went. All the time I was in Germany in my twenties, my parents lived in Brussels. The over nine hour train trip was an excuse to make quick stops and experiment along the way.
When I married, as often happens early on, our vacations were kiddie trips or visits cross country to family. Later on, we took family vacations. We also traveled individually, with and without children. My husband stayed home when I took out daughter to a Pennsylvania farm vacation for four days (he would have died of boredom). I stayed home when my husband took a week golf tour with the boys (I can only shop and spa for so many days). He stayed home when I went to the shore for five days, not loving the ocean. When we managed to live in Europe, this situation increased. My husband was an avid skier who traveled to major ski resorts (sometimes on a bus with others and sometimes alone). I went with friends on a wine cruise. Most of the time we traveled together, but we both were used to our "own time" either with friends or alone. In addition because was an at home wife during part of that time, I spent more than one occasion spending the day exploring a downtown city-alone.
Since I have returned to the states, I've taken many trips-some alone, and some with others. In the coming year, I am taking a vacation with my sister to Jackson Hole, Mount Rushmore, Wounded Knee and environs. I'm looking at taking a tour through Road Scholar. I'm also taking at least one long rail and road trip. Alone. By choice. I plan to revel in the solitude of a long distance train trip with stunning views, side trips to hot springs and cathedrals and explore downtown San Francisco. All alone. I planned it that way.
Some may wonder how one can travel alone. The answer is, much easier than you may think. This could of course, be in and of itself a post on traveling alone. I suspect one may come along, as well as specifics suggestions. Meanwhile I do have a few thoughts on "alone" travel-for anyone:
- In my experience, solitude is not loneliness and sometimes in retirement we get less of the former than we would like. Most of us did not have pure togetherness before retirement, and while being together can be a joyful thing, a little solitude never hurt anyone.
- It's true that part of travel is on occasion the ability to share a wondrous thing with someone else. It's also true that there is a unique peace (especially in nature) of being able to observe something totally alone.
- If you travel alone, finding casual companionship is not difficult. In this country you can find a meet up or group in almost any area at any time. There are websites and books that list overseas bars that tourists and expats frequent.
- Your relationship is not in trouble if you travel alone. For some reason, I expect I got this one much more than my husband, but the.........."and you let him to to France by himself" comments always make me laugh. And for all those singles out there (traveling or not), I'll add this one. Just because you don't have a companion, that doesn't mean you are looking for one. This of course, applies to single hood and alone-ness in general.
- Dining alone while traveling (or otherwise) is neither painful or embarrassing in and of itself. If it is there are solutions, but I have eaten in some wonderful restaurants, alone, with no regrets.
- And finally, of course, the ability to be spontaneous, to do exactly what you want, when you want, where you want, at the last minute-that enjoyment cannot be put into words-and cannot be matched in group travel, be it two spouses or a tour group.
My main travel focus right now is a driving trip to the north during the summer, and another one to visit family (but driving alone) in late spring. I am looking forward to those so many ways. I am also looking forward to my ten day, on my own vacation in September-with much anticipation!