Friday, February 2, 2018

Flying Solo. . . Flexing my Independent Travel Muscles at a Certain Age

I'm not completely sure what demographic we form together, you readers and I. I sometimes think we might be a tad more homogeneous than I'd like (love me some diversity), and I'm pretty sure we skew female, of a certain age, mostly comfortable, and perhaps mostly partnered. I suspect that when I write here about travelling solo as if it's a challenge overcome, a hurdle jumped, a liberation achieved, however, there is an almost audible eye roll from those of you who have never factored a life partner into each and every trip (or factored him or her OUT of it, for that matter).

But the reality is that although I used, often, to travel on my own--or as the only shepherding adult with my small clan as they grew,  I fell out of the habit during years of post-grad study. By the time we took our first trip to Paris (back in 2005, a celebration of my PhD), I found myself deferring to Pater's confidence at airports and train stations--he'd been travelling so much for work that he'd earned Elite Traveller status-- and I tended to plan the trip, buy the tickets, and chose the daily destinations (elements of his work travel he could leave to administrative assistants, so was not nearly as good at as I).

At first, I was simply grateful for this division of labour, but over the ensuing years I found myself both defaulting more, assigning him responsibility for what I found the more stressful aspects of travel, and becoming more impatient when I intuited or suspected a better way but didn't say so in case I was wrong.  I know, not fair. . . Also, during those ensuing years, I was ageing. Duh. I know, but this made a difference in my confidence in subtle ways. And, honestly, I was so busy at work, facing enough challenges there, that I didn't need to take on more during vacation travel.

I've written before about the process of gradually losing, then deliberately recovering, some travel independence in the context of our long (41 years when I wrote that post,  44 this August) marriage (there are three posts in that series, which began with my reluctance to cycle alone in the city. I think nothing of doing this now, you'll be glad to know, but it was a surprisingly big hurdle at the time).

Three years later, I've made two solo trips to Rome, flown from there to Bordeaux where I settled in for a week on my own, taken the train, solo, from Bordeaux to Paris. And most recently, I flew to Paris separately from my husband at the beginning of December, meeting him at the hotel later the same day. Five weeks later, he flew back from Rome, and two days after that, I took the train from Roma Termini to Paris Gare de Lyon with an overnight stop at Chambéry, and enjoyed three days in Paris on my own before flying home.

Again, I'm aware of the eye-rolling out there. I'm not claiming my solo travel is particularly adventurous nor noteworthy -- Google "solo travel" or "solo travel female" and my travels look ridiculously tame. But acquiring my current comfort level with "solo female travel at a certain age" took some work, and some of you have asked me to write about the experience, so here we go. . .

Transcribed from my Journal, the Page Photographed above:

le 9 décembre, 2017

Et ça commence!
Flew out on my own, Air France (Paul's a bit later, through Heathrow). Decided to try checking bag & definitely easier at airport although could easily have found overhead space on plane.
90 minute delay for baggage loading to do with connecting flights, but only 45 minutes late. Seatmate an Indian man about my age or older -- very little chat, just enough. He's travelling on to India, from Paris.
Retrieved bag easily after long-ish wait at Border Patrol, then long walk to RER, bought ticket easily, train was an express to Gare du Nord. Only problem was trying to get out of St. Michel station -- turnstiles that take tickets are rare.
Walked to hotel with a few unintended detours--room not ready so lunch at Le Nemrod-Omelette Mixte. Then nap, long walk, and now I'm having early dinner at the other place. Just ordered Foie de Veau, something I only ever have here -- with a nice Brouilly. And a tisane-- Verveine Menthe-- to finish.

You might wonder why Pater and I took separate flights -- the problem was that he needed to get home earlier for meetings. I'd booked my flight to Paris first, assuming we'd both go Air France, but when we looked at the flights out of Rome, AF would have meant him waking at an ungodly hour for a crack-of-dawn flight. British Airways timing was better, and BA roundtrip the budget option (combining the one-ways of two different airlines ridiculously expensive). Luckily, I've flexed my solo-travel muscles enough the last few years that this wasn't an issue.

In fact, the best advice I could offer to anyone wanting to overcome reluctance or fear around solo travel is to do so incrementally. Flying into Paris, navigating my way through Charles de Gaulle, then taking the RER (regional train) into Paris, walking to the hotel -- this was relatively easy for me because I've flown into Paris so many times, taken all those steps, with Paul. I remember the way to the RER office where I know exactly what to say to buy my ticket; walking through Paris feels like coming home rather than confronting the streets of a strange city; I check into a hotel where they remember me from previous visits, welcome me warmly. It also helps that before I tried flying without Paul, I had a wonderful week with my sister -- so I got to test out my ability to navigate airport, RER, route-finding to hotel, with a companion who needed me to take the lead because I had more Paris experience.

Here in Vancouver this morning, it's raining -- as it has been for almost every morning of the past two weeks. The weather forecast shows nothing but the same right through 'til next Thursday. But I'm craving some outdoors today, some big trees or an expanse of water, notwithstanding the grey meeting grey at the horizon. . . So I'm off now to sort out some serious raingear for walking muddy trails. I have more to tell you about solo travel -- the train part, for example; and arriving in the dark at a train station in a city you've never visited before and in which you're going to find your way to a hotel; and some tactics around eating solo in restaurants (hint: take advice from Nike and Just Do It!).

Perhaps in the meantime, while I'm getting muddy and wet, you can comment below.  Ask me any questions you might have about the experiences I've related here. Tell me why you do or don't travel on your own, and whether you'd like to change that.  Do you have a reliable travel companion or not, and do you sometimes feel too dependent on him or her? What most intimidates you about managing the logistics at an airport, whether departing or arriving? And has this changed, with age? 

57 comments:

  1. I think it is wonderfully wise that you have gradually introduced some solo travel into your life. Although I have not done any solo travel yet , I have started to attend some evening lectures and other social activities without my husband. Way smaller steps than travelling alone but at least a start.
    As we know, the chances of one partner going first is much higher than both of you passing together so I feel it is important to try these independent events now ; while they are still options and before solo will be the only way we can have those experiences.
    Another valid point you mention is the fact that we are all getting older in regards to adaptability towards travel.
    Thank you for another great post!
    And yes, will it ever stop raining here....Suz from Vancouver

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    1. You're very welcome, Suz, and thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think the small steps are the way to go, really. As you say, so much easier to take them while they're still a choice; I've had several friends recently lose their life partners quite suddenly, and in their 60s. . . my age.
      There was a little break in the rain yesterday- hope you got outside in it!

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  2. Boy, I wish we would get some rain......

    In earlier years I traveled solo for work a lot, usually in Africa or Asia, and aside from some white knuckle bumps and bangs landing had no concerns. Of course I was met at the destination end, and there were other conveniences.....

    Now older and deafer, I worry about not hearing flight announcements, and have to tell flight crew that I don't hear well when they speak to me. Also I travel with a small dog, usually, which is both a comfort and a responsibility. Thus traveling alone is harder. But yes, as someone said, if you want to keep doing it you have to keep doing it.

    ceci

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    1. Yes, I can imagine folks elsewhere envying our rain -- we'd happily share.
      Oh, those flight announcements -- my hearing aids are no help at all. Luckily, more and more information is getting posted visually.
      I can imagine your small dog as comfort, but I get the responsibility side of it as well.

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  3. Solo travel I'm ok with, I think, certainly in those parts of the world where there is public transport, google street, maps, accurate guidebooks and the like. I generally make the travel arrangements for the two of us, as you do (and for the same reasons), and so I have a fair idea of the ins and outs of the journey. However - again like you - I have sensed a growing dependence on my husband in bars and restaurants, particularly when it comes to paying the bill... Not because we run separate accounts but because I don't need to wear my pesky glasses except for close up stuff, like reading. And that doesn't tend to go on much when we're out, once the menu has been perused. So when it comes to sorting through the coins to settle up I'm scrabbling blindly. I am embarrassed to admit this on two counts - first, I should have a working knowledge of the Euro coins by sight by now as I have been fortunate to visit different parts of the Eurozone quite often, and second, I should just get on and get over it and wear my blasted glasses...

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    1. I am with you on the blasted glasses! What a surprising travel encumbrance they have turned out to be once I started needing them for reading in my mid 50s . Needing to put them on to read street maps on my phone, tram stops, sorting through Euros. If you want to have just a small cross body bag they take up ALL the space. My distance vision is better than 20/20, so I have to take them off to see anything around me. What a fangle!

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    2. Ceri, this made me chuckle because my husband gets similarly impatient with the reading glasses he now needs and fakes managing without them (sometimes to amusing results as he's our main grocery shopper).
      As an almost lifelong wearer of glasses/contacts and of hearing aids for the last twelve years, I don't offer him too much sympathy, I must admit, but I do see how it's tough to get into the habit. He used to do more of the map-reading, but Google Maps and I are the leading team these days ;-)

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  4. I tend to go off by myself quite a bit, but not usually to far horizons, mostly to meet up with friends or visit family. In some ways, travelling solo is less stressful for me because otherwise I slip into overly responsible mode - in other words, I automatically feel that I am in some way in charge of everything, good or bad. Crazy. Probably a hangover from days as a primary school teacher when you have to have eyes everywhere when out in public and there was always unforeseen stuff to deal with on trips. Can understand the tendency to lose confidence and I think this is a real problem - easy to slip into but hard to regain.

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    1. Yes, I think this is an important factor. I seem to need to maintain control and responsibility as well, and my husband's not really one to wrangle easily. I'm surprised to find how much easier it is, in some ways, to travel on my own again.
      And yes, I think it's so easy to slip into during those years in our 50s when we're often so busy with work and family that we're happy to leave the responsibility in other hands. . .

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  5. Thanks for the reminder that it is possible:). I have done a bit of solo travel in earlier years, but for some reason it halted. Now I am thinking of how to get into it again. I tend to get into negative thinking, thinking of everything that can go wrong.

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    1. There are all kinds of sensible reasons for being apprehensive when travelling, especially these days. But I think you're wise to think of getting some of that confidence back, taking some small steps toward independent travel with security and comfort built in.

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  6. The one thing that terrifies me about traveling, solo or not, is the possibility of missed connections. Now that I realize how lucky I have been in the past in terms of just squeaking through, I am even more nervous. Happily (I can say this now), I had to face just these fears unexpectedly when my husband got sick during a trip in a foreign country and I had to deal with trip interruption, telephones that did not work, insurance companies that did not work, arranging transport to and from airports, communicating with health professionals who did not speak English (and who couldn't figure out what the faxed forms were asking for any more than I could), and a husband who needed only to curl up and sleep and was otherwise unable to contribute guidance. I learned I can go without sleep for three days, and that while my decisions were imperfect, we did get home in one piece (one piece each, I should say). I do feel a bit braver now, and I admire your dedication to self-sufficiency in potentially difficult circumstances.

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    1. Your experience must have been very upsetting, Marsha, so many obstacles to overcome to get your husband home safely. As you say, though, going through something like this often has the beneficial result of showing us what we're capable and that events we anticipate as terrifying can actually be managed. I've never had to deal with such stress, but I've missed connections (from Vanc'r to Rome -- missed flight at Heathrow, got put on next flight) and had a flight cancelled (coming home from Paris 25 years ago, on my own -- the airline put us up in an airport hotel and we flew out the next day) -- even missed a flight through my own fault (misread the date on tickets for getting myself and my sister home from London, England back in '71 -- the airline got us home three days later, no extra charge, and luckily we had free accommodation at my aunt's).
      My backup, the idea that I go to for reassurance when I get stressed about missing flights, is that I could solve the problem with my charge card. No, that's not ideal, but at this age, finally, I have a reserve, and that goes some way to balance the stamina I've lost. It might be a suspect resilience, but it helps me. ;-) . . . And, again, my travel experience is limited, and I've never been somewhere that I couldn't find health professionals who spoke English reasonably well. . .

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    2. Yes - you identified the crucial part I had assumed/overlooked - without my charge card, I'd still be stranded, and probably still trying to learn a new language . . . even though I had studied the one that I was dealing with for a short time 40 years ago . . .

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  7. If you meet your partner when you are very young it would be simple to allow them to take over when travelling & not feel you had to contribute . This wasn’t our way . Like you I made plenty of decisions , arranged bookings etc & have always enjoyed map reading & negotiating tangles of narrow streets . If we had to communicate in a foreign language then I was happy to try that & make a fool of myself if necessary . Hubby had his strengths too . He’d be happy to drive anywhere , in situations that would terrify me . He was better at looking after things - money , tickets , documents . I can easily mislay things . I’ve travelled alone to South Africa & France but was met off the plane/ferry so that was easy . I can hold my own when abroad with my sisters . My terror is machines . Put me in front of a ticket machine & I go blank - technological dyslexia . It annoys me having to ask for help , like I’m a helpless old woman .
    Wendy in York

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    1. We've always, like you, at least divided the labour when we travelled together. But somehow the balance shifted in the last 15 or 20 years, in response, I think, to a shift in our home-work-life balance as our careers took on different shapes. . . Plus seeing friends lose partners suddenly has me wanting to maintain some independence even as I treasure the precious time we have together.
      Oh, those ticket machines! And the lineup behind, getting impatient. . . .

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  8. I love to travel with my husband and we have logged many miles and a few continents together. More and more, though, I am comfortable and happy to take off on my own. Perhaps it has something to do with years of business travel or trips back and forth over oceans as the only adult with 2 small children. I like the freedom of doing what I want, when I want. Even when we travel together I am likely to take off solo for a day of shopping or site seeing. This has to do with our different energy levels and health concerns. One of my favourite memories of last year's trip to NZ was my solo climb of a small mountain. It did more for my sense of self worth and my confidence than any test or salary increase or glowing evaluation at work.

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    1. That's a wonderful memory, H! Brava for you, feeling on top of the world in NZ. We, too, make sure to have some solo time even when we're travelling together, especially if it's a longish trip. And he likes to sleep a couple of hours than I do, so I generally head off 6-ish to explore the quiet streets and eventually find a coffee. I like my alone time when I'm home -- need it even more when traveling!

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  9. What an interesting topic. My husband likes research, so he usually checks out the options of flights and accomadations. I have traveled solo across Canada....by car. Internationally no. I’m fairly adventurous and I know that if I needed to I could, even if I had to rely on the kindness of strangers. Coping at night in a strange country, and not speaking the language would be, I think a bit outside my comfort zone. But needs must...
    Ali

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    1. Really good point, Ali, and I think when we're always accompanied in our travels, we can miss out on experiencing "the kindness of strangers." . . .

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  10. I travelled solo in Europe and to and from Canada and the US when I was a student. With work I did a lot of solo travel within the UK, but work travel to Europe was always in the company of another colleague. There we pooled our strengths - she was a more frequent flyer than I was so she led in airports, and in environments where I spoke the language I took the lead. We had tremendous fun.
    With my husband we also pool our strengths. I never drive in Europe - I hate driving while my husband loves it, so I navigate - still needed despite satnav - Satnav Woman can get it resoundingly wrong on occasions. But what a surprise when I travelled solo to France post-retirement for the first time, and had an absolute crisis before departure at the prospect of travelling alone. Things were fine once I was away, but I still suffer now from pre-departure nerves in a way that I never did when younger. My daughter travelled solo in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam for 5 months last year. Now that's an entire different level of solo travel, and makes me feel a bit of a wimp!

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    1. Many parallels here with my experience -- I'm the navigator as well, and we haven't yet invited Satnav into our lives. . .
      Those pre-departure nerves I know about as well, although I sometimes sense that's improving.
      Brava! to your daughter -- this is the kind of solo travel that makes me embarrassed even to broach the topic, but wimps or not, we feel what we feel, right? ;-)

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  11. What time of day did you land at CDG? We arrived at 6:00 am on Dec. 22 and found no line at passport control. First in line, no hello from the agent, no questions asked, just stamped passport and waved me on. Not very friendly but definitely a breeze!

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    1. My flight got in around 9 a.m., but my husband arrived around 9:30 in the evening and found the line very slight. We've regularly stood in long line-ups there, often with only three or four agents/police. Always a little chat about our plans, generally fairly pleasant and they tolerate my French -- this time, the agent was a bit embarrassed because she assumed that the silver-haired gentleman who'd preceded me at her wicket was my husband. . . ;-)

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  12. Well I am not currently partnered, so can offer myself as a slight outlier, but please be reassured I am NOT rolling my eyes (they are busy reading, this is all so interesting).

    No qualms about airports although I like to be early-ish.

    For someone who lives alone, the adjustment can be in travelling with another person (a person you don't live with) and the considerations and compromises that come with that.

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    1. Thank you -- but you can roll 'em if you want to, and I won't be offended ;-)
      So interesting, that notion of adjustment to travel WITH someone -- at some level, I'm realizing all the adjustments to exactly that that I've made over the years, and can now relax when I go on my own occasionally -- and being at airports early is a preference I can indulge rather than adjusting to my guy's preference to be. . . later. . . (And do read High Heels, below. . .

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  13. I used to travel alone for business and family, but I increasingly find airports daunting with all the security checks,changed gates, cancelled flights, etc. Getting there is just not as fun as it used to be. Lifting the bag into the overhead isn't as easy as it used to be either. Once at my destination I'm fine. Love exploring old and new places even when I get lost, which is often since I have no sense of direction and with GPS! Eating out is difficult-- I have a gastro disease that requires a strict diet so being able to read the menu and ask questions is essential. We're now generally renting apartments and grocery shopping to make that easier, but I do miss quaint hotels and nice restaurants.

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    1. So true, about the state of airports these days. Not much fun. . .
      I'm glad you write about dietary requirements and health restrictions -- this has such an effect on our ability and/or willingness to travel, solo or not, and will only become more so as we continue ageing.

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    2. I thought more about my single older friends and realized that they all travel on tours. I can't stand the thought of being told where to be and what to do every day, so, at least now, that's not an option. They enjoy the company and the fact that all details are taken care of except packing. I wonder if your readers do tours?

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  14. I've never travelled abroad alone. With a churlish companion who sometimes made me wish I was alone, yes, but never all by myself. This was my first time on a big trip without Stu, and so I since I was the more seasoned traveller between us, I was expected to take the lead. I asked tons of questions wherever we went. Which gate? Which platform? How do I know which train to get on? Do you have suggestions for the best way to get from here to...wherever? For instance, I wasn't sure how to figure out which train to get on in England, since we would be embarking before the end of the route. And the train for Chesterfield turned out to be the Sheffield train, not the Manchester one. Since I'd never travelled by train anywhere but Canada, which is super easy, I learned a lot. I find that people don't mind answering friendly questions, and I love to talk...so it always works for me. But I learned later that my companion was embarrassed by my behaviour, and couldn't understand why if I'd travelled so much before, I couldn't figure things out for myself. "Well," I replied, "I've never travelled by train in England before." See? I'd have had much more fun by myself.
    P.S. I like your idea of telling yourself that if stranded there's always your credit card. That seems wise. And comforting.

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    1. Ha! Your second sentence -- I spit out my tea laughing. . .
      I learned that trick about money solving problems (cash/credit card/whatever) when I arrived at the train station in London (my uncle had put me on in Glasgow) to find no one waiting for my 14-year-old solo self. . . .(turned out later I'd sent the letter with the info to the wrong address). I bravely got myself into one of those big black cabs, gave the address (right street, wrong house, as I discovered when we pulled up) and began counting my pound notes in anticipation of the financial hit. Well worth it for the lesson remembered throughout this lifetime.

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    2. Oh poor u with travelling companion being as u said - churlish . I think u did it just right x

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  15. I enjoy solo travel. Until the last 10 years, Monsieur refused to go anywhere but camping or lodges in remote areas. We even spent time at Hollyhock. I only travelled alone or with a friend who had the same literary and historical interests as I do. In the last ten years, Monsieur has travelled on cruise ships, stayed in all-inclusive resorts and visited me while I was staying longer-term in Paris or Oaxaca.
    He'd still rather be in the woods or by the seashore. My original travelling partner and I co-planned. We really enjoyed getting together to discuss our interests. She is
    older than I so those days are gone. I now tend to travel with my daughter and another friend who is happy to let me organize. I consider everyone's budget and interests and come up with a plan. I am probably "too independent" because I relish the time to experience the kindness of strangers. We live in a different time with cellphones, ATM's and credit cards so there is always a way to get support or funds if necessary. Our grey has lifted a bit and it's not raining. Hurrah!

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    1. How much you would have missed if you'd not been willing to travel on your own -- I like the way you've arranged much of your solo travel -- to have friends come and join you at various points along the way. And you seem resourceful also in finding travel companions and helping them feel comfortable traveling with you.

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  16. An interesting topic
    I've first travelled solo by plane (first time flying)from Franfurkt airport when I was 17.It was a great adventure for me (of course,my parents were waiting here)-but what a fun! When I think about it now-it gets me cold chills!
    I travelled for work,sometimes alone.I was discouraged to travel alone with my son later,but nevertheless,finally tired of waiting for the "right moment",first I planned and booked everything for all three of us, than we started alone-it was important for me to show him different countries,different cultures......and an independent ,brave woman
    Same as nohatnogloves ,travelling solo is less stressful for me now. Although, I really don't know how to travel at all after my vertebra fracture last year.
    Dottoressa

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    1. Our first solo travel was at about the same age -- such a different experience then, wasn't it?
      Your son was very lucky to be raised by such an independent, brave woman as you are -- you're not easily daunted, I know (I've seen you drive that car in some pretty crazy traffic ;-)
      I so hope that you get your strength and comfort back to be able to travel again, but you and Lynn (above) raise another important topic I should post about later -- we do have to acknowledge the realities that get in the way of travel as we age and learn new limits. . .

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  17. You are so right when you say how we change as we age. Things that were once easy, automatic even can now be a stressful event. As a teen and in my twenties I happily travelled all over London and the UK solo without a passing thought, relishing my independence. Now at 62 all travel of late is with my husband. We make a good team with our allocated roles. The one to support the other when a tricky situation arises. As for travelling solo now, I feel I would be a lot more intimidated than a few years ago. No doubt I would manage , not sure how much I would enjoy the process. I read your travels with interest. B x

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    1. Thanks, B. I wonder if the change is so much down to age or simply to us developing habits according to changed circumstances. I know many women who, for work or for family reasons, have had to keep up the independent travel into their 60s and 70s -- whether partnered or not, and they don't think anything of it because they're so accustomed. Several women I know at various points in their 60s are actually leading travel excursions throughout the world -- their travel skill set has increased with age rather than diminished. I'm not likely to get to their level, and I do love being part of the kind of "good team" you describe -- but I've found that I actually do enjoy the process once I got over (some of!) my fears.

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  18. I've followed threads of this topic with interest since you first mentioned your feelings about cycling alone in Vancouver Frances. At the time I felt empathy towards your expressed vulnerability and the fact you'd shared these feelings with us all. Having the confidence to do travel abroad on my own or as the only adult is something that's been on my mind for a few years now, actually over twenty I guess! When I first wondered, if something were to happen to my husband would I be able to continue taking my children on holidays, driving and camping in Europe! I knew I'd be able to take them on a plane, no worries but all that driving, navigating etc ....
    I still wish that I could just drive down to the Eurotunnel, into France and then just go!! In theory I could ...
    With regard to flying alone, airports don't phase me ... I fact I love them! I feel the sense of anticipation and excitement. Although in the last few years anxiety has joined those feelings. On a short flight from Edinburgh I started to feel as though I couldn't breath and as if I was loosing consciousness ... In all honesty I thought I was dying at the time, especially, once I realised everyone else on the plane was ok and it wasn't a problem with cabin pressure and when the symptoms lasted long after landing ... Oxygen on the flight, ambulance waiting as we landed etc. Anyway, eventually I was diagnosed with a heart rhythm abnormality and I have flown since with no severe problems. I did initially let my husband and sons go off on holiday to California without me as I couldn't contemplate flying but I knew I had to get over this otherwise it would dramatically effect my life in general. Anyway, sorry to go on but I'm sure you can sense how this effects solo travel that includes flying :) as much as I want to do it, I'm not sure I can! I often repeat to myself that " just the other side of fear is everything you've ever wanted to do"
    I'm happy to research and plan our holidays, ring hotels to ask specifics and explore towns and cities alone once we're there ... If we want to see different things and are short of time. I love this, wandering and exploring on my own. Happy to go into cafés and restaurants alone as well.
    I'd often look around the playground at my children's primary school and see women who'd achieved many things pre marriage and children, who in some cases has little confidence in their abilities anymore...
    I've found this post and everyone's comments so interesting and definitely worth exploring further ... Thanks for this Frances!
    Rosie

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    1. Rosie, I've had a couple of friends who experienced this kind of shocking and sudden onset of anxiety about flying, even after years and years of doing so. It sounds absolutely crippling. (At a stressful period years ago, I had the first of some scary bouts of arrhythmia -- nothing like yours from the sound of it, but still, to feel my heart acting up. . . If that had happened on a plane. . . )

      I never meant to suggest that we all Should try traveling solo. There are some very good reasons that some of us probably shouldn't. I only wrote that it was important for me to try doing it, and then readers asked me for a post on the topic. Yours is an important contribution (as with Lynn L., above, and Dottoressa)

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    2. Hi Frances. I didn't feel at all, that you were suggesting we should all try travelling solo. I just feel that your posts about this are so informative and encouraging. Also I think it's great that you actually do it! That's the hurdle I'm trying to get over at the momen I would like to actually do it :)
      Like many things, it's taking that first step ... and I just find it frustrating that my first severe experience of arrhythmia was on a plane! Prior to that I found plane travel as easy as getting on a bus :) interesting to hear how many people experience episodes of arrhythmia as well.
      Rosie

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  19. Oops ... losing consciousness!

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  20. I did lots of solo travel with work in Europe and the US, although as someone else says that often entails being met at airports and taking taxis and not having to do all the independent thinking! These days I mostly travel with my husband and like you have a sense of giving up some responsibilities to him. I try to keep a hold on that. He is good at and likes research so he tends to book tickets and plan routes. I am actually better than he is in airports and stations at quickly navigating my way around (just years of practice). On the fairly rare occasions I travel independently I really like it. These days that is mostly by train but I should try to find a reason to fly. I am aware that some of the sense of slight dependency which I dislike so much is actually a physical thing. He is taller and stronger, walks faster and hoicks bags up into lockers without a second thought. When I travel alone I try to plan so that I can manage what I have with me by myself which tends to mean travelling very light indeed! That's fine. I like doing that. And I am a big believer in the kindness of strangers and find that when you are on your own you are more likely to talk to them!

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    1. There's no question that we don't manage the physical aspect of travel as effortlessly as we did even a decade ago -- and we have to be careful to acknowledge that reality if we don't want a sprained shoulder before we've even left the ground. . .
      Your last sentence -- so true -- I think they see us in an isolated bubble, often, when we're coupled up. Sometimes I want that barrier, to be honest, but sometimes it's good to be more approachable.
      And yes! I've been very happy to confirm my suspicion that I'm better at navigating in airports and stations and no longer have to wait for him to acknowledge I'm choosing the right hallway to turn into . . .

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  21. Reading that back I see that I have not really acknowledged that there is a real comfort in travelling with a partner and that I do tend to do more of leaving the arrangements to him than perhaps I should so that it is always a slight shock when I travel by myself to be reminded of quite how much he takes on which I don't normally have to think about!

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    1. It's a comfort -- even a luxury -- that I don't take for granted anymore either.

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  22. I am grateful that returning to work and university later in life gave me the opportunity to test my wings at solo travel. For many years I depended on my partner whose physical strength, great sense of direction and confidence in tricky weather or situations, as well as his preference for driving, etc. resulted in a loss of confidence in traveling on my own. When our marriage ended, my anxiety at being on my own for the first time in my life was at times overwhelming. However, I travel solo often, mostly going to and from visits to my children and extended family, but I enjoy the time on my own. I certainly find that their are challenges that others have mentioned, such as hefting heavy bags, having someone to "watch" the gear so a trip to the washroom or out side for the dog to pee is not such a major undertaking. I am learning to travel lighter and lighter so that I can manage easier. I take books, knitting, iPad, etc. to provide solo entertainment and love people watching so the endless hours at airports fly by easily and I find I am more relaxed when I keep busy, if that makes sense. I often travel with my little dog and that provides companionship and complications too. I have developed travel buddies who have joined my on Mexican vacations in the sun and river cruises through Europe. I have travelled with my adult children from time to time. It is such a bonus to have time alone with one of my grown kids - getting to know them in a different way than all those years of mothering them. I find I am more cautious when travelling solo, knowing that I am at increased (or imagined) risk. I would travel more and further afield with a partner, I think, and miss the times when we shared the travel plans and experiences together, but solo travel has much to offer - I can go at my own pace and enjoy the things I want to do. I have not ventured out on trips totally on my own that have not been enroute to joining someone, but that may be my next goal.Jenn from Kamloops

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    1. Jenn, this kind of adaptation is so much what I'm wondering about -- kudos to you for getting over your early understandable anxiety, and how wise of you to do this incrementally. Sounds as if you could offer workshops! ;-)
      I have no doubt that, if you really want to, you'd find ways to get as far as you want, with or without a partner (there are some wonderful small-group opportunities these days especially aimed at those without a travelling partner in the house)

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  23. This is a fascinating discussion. I've done very little solo travel. Our trips back and forth to South America were family affairs and we had specific roles - he would look after the luggage (mountains of it) and I would corral the children.

    I need solitude and on our first trip to France and Spain in 2007, I was very concerned about the "togetherness" that might become overwhelming. Before leaving we talked about it, and he was fine with me going off on my own, if needed. As it turned out, it was a fabulous trip and the togetherness was fine.
    A trip a couple of years later with my mother and sister had me taking the lead in a number of areas - the Paris metro, for one, although my sister had been briefly. I'm glad we did an organized tour (bus) because so many decisions were made for us - I think we would have ended up not speaking to one another if we'd had to negotiate every activity.

    A few years ago I flew back from PEI alone because Tim stayed for business meetings. I quite enjoyed navigating the airports by myself, on my schedule.

    When we travel, we often separate for several hours in a day - he likes looking at different things than I do. We were feeling a little tension when we were in the V & A a couple of years ago. I decided to look at the fashion and china exhibits and I still don't know what he looked at, but the space between us made the rest of the day much more pleasant.

    I like to think I'd go off on my own, if needed. A friend of mine is conducting a textiles tour of Ecuador, for women only, and she's doing one in Morocco, too. I'd welcome something focused like that, although I'm always going off on my own when on a tour. Perhaps I'm not much of a groupie.

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    1. I have no doubt you would do well on your own, or with a friend, if you chose to or needed to. Sounds as if you build in a fair bit of independence in your Couple travels (not sure if I'm reading too much between the lines, but I think I recognize some of the tension that led you to separate in the V&A -- we've learned, like you, that being joined-at-the-hip is not necessarily conducive to happiness, anymore than it would be at home!)
      I, too, like the idea of a women-only or perhaps a special-interests-focused trip -- or a workshop in another country. Like you, though, in such a case, I need to find ways to accommodate my introvert self. The good thing about traveling with my husband is he knows it's not personal when I need to be on my own.

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    2. I usually travel with my husband, too and we often spend an entire day apart, on a trip of a week or more. Partly it's circadian rhythms, but also interests. I would go absolutely nuts if I had him in tow all day and evening, and it is interesting to me that many women have told me the same thing, but their partners insist on sticking to them.

      At the same time joining him in some of his interests has widened my world, and he is very patient about mine. But just like at home, I need my own time.

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    3. So well said, K. I need time on my own as well, and I'm fortunate that my husband is very content in his own company. We do tend to separate for at least an hour or two even when traveling -- but the time we've spent together, joining each other in interests the other wouldn't independently be drawn to has broadened both of our horizons. I'm not sure I've been as patient about his as he is about mine. . . but I do try ;-)

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  24. I felt good about travelling to the US Pacific Northwest alone last fall, which involved more complexity than a nonstop flight from Mtl to, say, France. But everything went smoothly and I was in my own language. Still, there was a freedom and a certain ease not having to consider another's preferences.

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    1. This is what I find -- there are benefits to solo travel that go a considerable way to compensating for the possible anxieties and potential loneliness.

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  25. Twenty-seven days ago my beloved husband died. Although it was not unexpected, his death has floored me.

    As a long-time solo business travel, I'm not overwhelmed by itineraries or airports. But being without my six-foot-four-inch planet of emotional gravity on pleasure trips that matter has sent me spinning.

    Through our decades of travel together on five continents, I was the researcher and planner, and he was the enthusiastic, agreeable companion who carried a big roll of twenties to find and fund ombudsmen to lead us through travel's small complications. His life and travel mantras were "Keep it simple," "Don't make yourself crazy," and "Whatever you want, babe!"

    My 2018 calendar is already filling with travel plans, some made by us before his death and some since by friends and family who want to rescue me from my grief. In the next six months I'll make two long international trips and three long US road trips in different directions.

    I will adapt. I always have. I must. It helps to chant my husband's mantras.

    Ann in Missouri

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    1. Ann, I'm so very sorry. I knew your husband was very ill, but I have learned that we are never prepared for the death of a loved one. I'm not surprised that his death has taken you to the floor.
      But what a tribute you eloquently write out of your devastation: Your husband is vivid in your sketch of him -- so much so that I can easily see the hole left behind with his departure. What a physical presence he must have been with a charismatic personality, a joy to travel with through countries and through life.
      Clearly, you will be grieving for some time, but it seems you will also be honouring his memory in your determination to keep travelling. Thank you so much for your generous and moving contribution to this conversation about traveling solo. Those mantras of your husband's are great advice. Might I just add "Be gentle with yourself" for the next while.
      And should you ever decide you are ready to visit Vancouver again, solo this time, I would gladly be a companion here.

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    2. Thank you, Frances. I appreciate your kind words and encouragement. I would love to get together with you when I'm next in Vancouver. I hope you and your husband enjoy your trip to warmer climes. I would so love to beam myself south right now, but the to-dos at a time like this seem never-ending. I'll start traveling for pleasure in April -- first to New Orleans to be with friends and then a long cruise to Ireland, a trip my husband and I planned several years ago. Again, thank you.

      Ann in Missouri

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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