Submitted by: Big Little Wolf
Traveling alone for the first time?
Maybe you traveled alone before you were married, but it’s been years. Maybe you still travel alone on business, and you’re used to that. You have clients to see, meetings to attend, colleagues to have a drink with.
But vacation? Or a road trip with your children? Is this just one more mountainous obstacle to adjust to – with trepidation and uncertainty?
Overseas travel adventures
I’m fortunate in that I have traveled to Europe, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and all over the US since I was quite young. And on my own. Some of that travel was entirely related to my interest in foreign languages, and living experiences abroad (in France), and subsequently, study and work assignments that took me not only to Paris, but to the UK, Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland.
As for the islands and many more trips to both the City of Lights and the South of France? Those were for pleasure and vacation, and before I ever married. Most of the time I made those excursions on my own. When I could, I made plans with a girlfriend. What 20-something or 30-something doesn’t prefer her BFF for wild adventures on a pink beach in Bermuda, or umbrella-decorated cocktails beside a tropical beach?
Whether with a friend or alone, I wasn’t about to not see the world because I wasn’t part of a couple. Nor was I willing to go without a much needed break in a harried and stressful professional life, even if a friend couldn’t schedule time off to join in the fun.
Vacationing in the islands alone
I took many vacations on my own. I am, admittedly, outgoing. And I was (when I was younger) utterly fearless about hopping on a plane for the next island or country to explore – preferably French speaking!
I knew to consider basic safety rules – always:
- Don’t go off with strangers
- Use a reputable hotel (with concierge, preferably)
- Leave valuables at home
- No off-the-beaten-path wandering by myself
- Listen to my gut – always.
I have memorable scenes of Florida, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, and many other delicious destination spots where I relaxed, read, walked, ate well, swam, met wonderful people (couples and singles), and generally had a grand time. If I had been unwilling to explore the world on my own – I would never have seen it!
Women traveling alone
My ex and I didn’t do much vacationing. There were trips to Europe to see his family (with the kids in tow), and not much more than that. While I still traveled on my own for business, those trips, once I had children, became very few and far between.
As for vacations since my divorce?
Budget has been a considerable constraint, and of course – so has parenting. I’ve had my children with me about 95% of the time for the past 9 years. Family vacations (with me) have been impossible. Solo vacations as well.
Still, there has been the occasional long weekend to a far-off American city for museum-hopping and a little socializing. And fortunately, there have been opportunities when my boys weren’t home and I’ve had a chance to travel to Paris and the South of France, either to write, or for a few days break.
Hop overseas just for a few days? Yes, I’ve done it, just as I did in my 20s.
Tips for women traveling alone
I admit I’m a relatively seasoned traveler. I also admit I find traveling more challenging as I get older. I have to turn to my overseas packing tips – and it takes me longer to manage than it used to! There are also aches and pains I didn’t have in my 20s and 30s, so long flights are more uncomfortable.
And fear? Fear of the unknown? Knowing that you have to be responsible for yourself, and every other detail? Isn’t that part of adulthood? Isn’t that a fair price for adventure, for relaxation, for seeing a new city and possibly making new friends?
Again, I keep basic safety rules in mind.
- I plan ahead with reliable airlines and hotels.
- When I’ve been happy with a hotel, I return.
- When I’ve rented a flat overseas, I triple check the references.
- I always stay in safe neighborhoods.
- Again – valuables stay at home!
- I stay cautiously open to any encounters with new people.
- I anticipate inconveniences (and bring extra undies, prescriptions, and so on).
Special travel scenarios for women
In the coming months, I need to make at least one road trip with my teenage son. He is not a fully licensed driver as yet. Nor is he vehicle savvy – and I’m certainly not. That sort of travel scenario holds far more concern for me than other sorts of travel.
It is exactly the kind of thing I would prefer to do with a man along. But that isn’t an option at this time.
Fearful? Yes. But I have a good roadside assistance plan. I’ll be sure to travel in a vehicle that is tuned-up and checked out. And I won’t be driving at night or off the beaten path.
Travel tours to luxury destinations
Who hasn’t read or seen Under the Tuscan Sun? It’s a delightful story, and the heroine, newly divorced, takes a group excursion to Italy. There, she spontaneously abandons the tour, purchases a run-down villa, and builds herself a new life.
It’s a charming tale, and the bravery of this character (based on a true story) has always stayed with me. But my point here is the concept of traveling with a group. If you wish to take a vacation – to an exotic or luxury destination, on safari, or skiing in the Alps – then do consider a reputable tour that makes sense for your age and the demographics of the group.
There are plenty of options, built-in company, structure that may allay some of your fears, and you could have a fabulous time.
Live your best life – your way
The bottom line is that some marriages end. And we don’t all take up with a fairy tale “next great guy” in the year or two that follow.
Does that mean we shouldn’t see the world? Take a vacation to Martinique, to Peru to climb Machu Pichu? To the Riviera, because we’ve always wanted to see it? Or put together family vacations for our children and ourselves – to the Grand Canyon? To the Golden Gate? To scuba in the South Pacific if you have the budget?
In my book, we have one life. We’d best go for it. So I travel – when I can. And I do so with the excitement that many wonderful adventures await. Including new friends, new sights, new sounds, new tastes.
I put a smile on my face and I do talk to strangers. Judiciously. And I’ve never regretted traveling alone. Not before my divorce. And not since.
These days, Big Little Wolf (”Ms. Big”) reflects on life and her Daily Plate of Crazy, where she writes essays on everything – sometimes serious, sometimes fun – whatever strikes her on a given day as interesting, unusual, entertaining, or of concern.