Listen to Your Heart
often asked, 'when did you take your first solo trip and why?
My simple answer is, ' Sometimes life unfolds in a way you
would never have imagined. And sometimes you are forced to
react to those life events in ways you would never have imagined.
But, you do and looking back you understand that that was
the absolute right thing to do.
first time I tried to explain where life and long term travel
had taken me was for a magazine article I wrote in 1985. As
I reread it now it sounds so stilted and formal but it was
me ... 27 years ago. Since then Journeywoman.com was born
and it has become my life's work. My travel story goes something
fell in love with my future husband when I was fourteen; my
marriage fell apart when I was forty-two. That for a bride
of the Fifties, translated into twenty-eight years of one
partner, one romance and many, many years of togetherness.
For as long as I could remember, I moved to the demanding
rhythm of my family. I knew no other music and no other dance
steps. Then suddenly there was silence. I was alone. That
first year is now a blur of tears, loneliness and mental adjustment.
carried one small bag...
I have not offered
the above information to elicit sympathetic murmurs
and empathetic gestures. If you can appreciate the devastation
I experienced, then you will also understand the dynamic
feeling that began with the purchase of my airline ticket.
I was forty-three and I was going to Europe alone, all
by myself, solo. Certainly I had travelled before. But
then I was the wife of a successful businessman who
accepted the best addresses. Now I carried one
small bag, one very small packet of travellers cheques
and absolutely no itinerary.
The next thirty-five
days were laden with intense emotion and storybook adventure.
I soared in the heavens and wallowed in the depths.
My love was no longer there to hold my hand. Now it
was I, the single woman, who enjoyed the pleasures and
coped with the pain. Land travel was by train and buses.
A rented car would only spell unnecessary expense and
solitude. Accommodation was at pensions and small hotels
for the bigger the hotel, the more insular the experience.
saw parts of Belgium, England, Greece and Turkey. There
was no time to be frightened and no need. I met people
on the train; I chatted in restaurants; I stopped in
cafés. I was on the road for five weeks and only
five evenings were spent alone.
I lived with an
Australian midwife for a fortnight in Stratford, England.
During that time we shared precious secrets as only
two females can.
music had not stopped...
shared the last available hotel room on the island of
Hydra with a young flight attendant from Panama. For
three days he was a companion who discretely left the
room when it was time for me to dress. It hurt to say
I haggled in the
bazaars of Istanbul. I ate mussels in Antwerp with a
flight crew of Jordan's airlines. An English engineer
taught me to drink bitters, and a marriage counsellor
from New York writes to me still. In major cities, I
stood out in long lines of young people collecting their
mail at American Express offices.
There were good
days. There were bad days. I experienced highs and I
cried alone. I was single again after so many years.
The music had not stopped. The melody was simply changing.
This, I began to understand, was only the beginning.
It was during that
first journey three decades ago that I began to understand
how good solo travel can be for the heart and soul.
Extending my time on the road from five weeks that first
time, I have spent up to four months at a stretch away
I have learned
to value my anonymity at foreign destinations. Free
to wander at will, I seek out that which gives me pleasure.
There is no need for the sort of compromise that exists
in one's regular day-to-day living.
But loneliness is nothing to fear. It has not broken
my heart yet. Rather it affords me the time to unpack
the emotional baggage I carry with me and to use the
time to journey into myself. Issues become a lot clearer
when there are no other distractions. Eventually one
feels renewed and then there is a real need to reach
out and make contact with others -- another traveller,
a shopkeeper, an official, perhaps a mother walking
her baby in the park.
The result? I've
heard countless wonderful stories and have had a myriad
of lovely adventures to match. All because I am a woman
who refuses to be timid and who has learned, by trial
and error, the benefits of solo travel. And when I am
ninety and sitting in my rocking chair, I know that
I will be grinning, remembering my past exploits. And
that, dear readers, makes me very, very happy!
yourself safe and happy...