Travel Training Wheels: Getting Started

It was 2000. A new millennium. We’d survived Y2K – it was time for grand gestures.

By now I’d traveled alone for work – to Europe, to Africa and to Kansas City. (Don’t scoff – at that time, there was no ladies’ room after you passed through security in KC…not an easy destination.)

Traveling for business is different. You may be alone but …you are cloaked in purpose.  “Traveling alone?”  “No…I’m here on business.”  Some people are good at combining business and personal travel, but not me. I’ve always been doggedly on point.  I find it hard to immerse myself in a new place as a traveler when my regular business life begins again at 9 a.m.

So back to 2000, here we were in the new millennium. I’d worked through my post grad school bucket list and stopped short. What was a secret wish or dream?  In the end, it was a destination spa. Somehow, early in my childhood, I’d seen a 1940’s movie about women in a spa – the steam rooms, the pool, the exercise machines, the camaraderie, cucumber slices everywhere and I just had to know what that was like.

I started where I always start – books. Lots and lots of books on picking a spa, treatments, 100_0283resort vs. destination, beach vs. desert locales, spa cuisine.  It hit me that a great destination spa was like summer camp for adults. They even had a packing list for grown-up guests that included sunscreen, a hat and field glasses! (Should I stitch name tags into my yoga pants?)

Even today, I can remember exactly how I felt when I rolled my over-packed bag to the top of the escalator in the Tucson airport and saw the Miraval rep at the bottom of that escalator with my name on a card waiting to whisk me away in the van, the van with the bottled water, the premium tote bag, and the personalized activity folder.

For a first solo trip, a spa or retreat center or camp is ideal. A cast of thousands (ok, maybe 35) were there sincerely hoping I had a good time;  other women there had traveled alone too and were open to good conversation at the solo table at dinner.  After a day or so, a number of us gathered for drinks most nights. The spa offered more classes and activities than I could ever take in. There was so much to learn and try and this supportive but anonymous setting was the perfect place to attempt something new (but not for me the ropes course. Ever.)

The best part though was that quiet time, meditation, and long walks alone were not just acceptable they were recommended. Women taking personal solo retreats was practically a theme

A spa trip was a very easy entry into traveling on my own.  It did give me a glimpse of the absolute freedom of stepping off a plane into a new experience without the baggage any one else’s expectations, my home identity or responsibility for another’s experience. The benefit of that trip began at arrival and lasted a lifetime.

What I Learned

1. Start with a trip that has a lot of help built in.

2. Choose a trip with purpose – total relaxation, learning, accomplishing something.

3. Try progressing through new experiences – an organized experience like a yoga retreat, then a single city adventure, a resort, or if it’s your style, get your travel legs in an easy destination and then train hop across the map!

4. Leave your baggage behind.

And most importantly, start where it makes sense for you. The most freeing thing about a trip on your own is that it belongs entirely to you – your tastes, your list, your speed, and your mode of transportation.  Sleep late or hit the early morning market. Travel by train or walk a new city.  Spend everyday in a different museum and nights in the theatre or hike your stress away. It’s yours.


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