My first trip abroad was one of the last great grand tours for students — when the dollar was strong, group rates ruled and long before the term backpack was included in the description. For months before we left, I pored over the hotel descriptions, read about every city and site, and checked out every travelogue from the local library.
After that first magical trip, I saved for the next one and after college got my dream job with the very tour company with whom I’d taken that first tour. My first solo trip. at 23. was to London in advance of a large group arriving at the beautiful Park Lane.
Now, I work with a publishing company and manage my travel addiction during breaks and holidays.
This writing comes from two places – first the discovery a few years ago of the joy of travelling alone. While I love travelling with friends and family, there is a completely different experience when you step, anonymous, off a plane in a new city, with an adventure stretching before you. As I talk with women, I’m surprised again and again by competent, independent friends who are daunted by the idea of going alone and either don’t travel or travel with friends they know will not want to go/spend/cruise/visit/learn/relax as they would.
I’m not an adventure traveller. I’ve never ridden a motorcycle across Madagascar or gone into the jungle alone with nothing but my iPad and a knife— but travelling solo to Paris, Tuscany, Prague or Tulsa is within reach. I still love travelling with a group but my hope is that every woman, in fact every one, can plan a dream trip or personal retreat without feeling they have to depend on having a travel partner.
If I’d waited to see the acqua alta in Venice in the winter until someone wanted to do exactly that with me…I might have never had the amazing experience of sitting at my window in the dawn light watching the water cover the hotel pier as the flood alarms sounded or later standing in Wellington boots, in water up to my knees, ordering coffee with beautifully dressed and rubber-booted Venetians.
I hope that what I share here honors my mentor and friend, Dr. Mary D. Bowman. Mary D. led many of us on our first great adventure. Her unbridled joy of travel and learning, and her kindness to a naive teenager, launched me in a career and a lifelong passion. She’s now taken that great adventure trip that awaits us all.