Midlife is a great time to realize your dream of solo travel. I think that when women hear the term “solo travel” they think of travel to far away places. While that can be the ultimate goal, it’s not necessarily the best way to start out for most women. If that is what you want to do (after all my first “solo” trip was to Paris), go for it and there are ways you can take this on that it is not so overwhelming that you put it off year after year (which we will explore later). I feel that it’s okay to take it in baby steps and it’s relativity easy to build enough confidence that some day going for it all and taking that long coveted trip to Italy (or Paris, or Bora Bora…) can become a reality.
There are many ways you can get your feet wet when it comes to solo travel. I plan on discussing this at length in future posts. For now, I would like to explore the advantages to solo travel in midlife.
Clearly the number one reason for me is solo travel is empowering! You would not believe what a confidence builder solo travel can be. Even if you go to explore the closest city next to you. If you are anything like me, just the thought of driving through a big city used to bring on a cold sweat! I mean, I live about an hour north of Milwaukee and 20 years ago, driving through Milwaukee was just a once a year thing for me. Typically I never did much traveling without my Husband just cause the drive to get there was too intimidating. Now I can pretty much drive anywhere without losing a weeks sleep over it. It took baby steps. Plus we live in an age where navigation is so easy. Remember when we only had paper maps to rely on? A partner to navigate while the driver was driving was almost a necessity unless you wanted to pull over every 50 miles just to make sure you were going in the right direction. Now how unsafe was that?
Trust me, the first time you do something, it will be nerve-wreaking and you will lose sleep over the anxiety that comes with attempting something for the first time. The first time I drove to Kenosha and took the Metra train into downtown Chicago, it required a few hours of research and lots of frazzled nerves. I did drag my Mom with me, but I did all the planning that went with it. I did that after taking a few bus trips to Chicago for plays and fell in love with the excitement of the city. I vowed to find a way to get to Chicago on my own without the hassle of parking and driving. Finding that if I could drive to Kenosha, I could hop on the train and for under $10, be in the middle of the city in no time. Even learning to take public transportation is empowering. Just think, If you can learn to take a train and a bus, you can navigate almost any city in the world!
I even find spending a day in a local city or town on my own freeing. Honestly, just try it, you will be surprised at how confident you will begin to feel. Many people find eating in a restaurant alone daunting, so grab a favorite book and head to a local restaurant and have lunch by yourself. Even better if it’s summer and you can grad a table outside. I’m talking major people watching! Baby steps and pretty soon you will be conquering the world!
Do you long to see great art but your significant other wouldn’t know the Mona Lisa from a stick figure? This is where the fun begins. Solo travel lets you be selfish. You can go and see what YOU want when YOU want to. I don’t know about you, but Rick and I have very different likes. He really dislikes urban places and has never flown. He’s comfortable being home and sleeping in his own bed. His idea of travel is driving to his hunting shack in western Wisconsin. We have gone places together and as a family, but he much prefers to stay home. He knows travel is one of my favorite things to do, so he is supportive and encourages me to go on trips.
It is terribly freeing to go places on your own terms. If you prefer to spend the day shopping, you can do it. Do you like the theater, by all means buy that ticket to Hamilton! You don’t have to worry if the other person is having a good time or secretly thinking of ways to slowly torture themselves if they have to step foot into yet another shoe store. You get what I am saying here. While it is fun to share experiences with others, it is even more satisfying to come home and know you did something all for you.
Might I add under this point is that you open yourself up to meeting others along the way. Think about it, when you travel with another person(s) you typically are your own little group. You tend to just talk among yourselves. This can shut you off from having conversations with other people. I am pretty introverted and when I am with others, I tend to just keep myself in that little shell. When I am by myself, I more open to connecting with others. Sometimes all it takes is a smile in another persons direction and a conversation begins and you may just make a friend for life. You never know.
If there is one thing travel can do for you, it is educate. You learn things every time you set foot out your door. You will definitely have invaluable lessons in culture, economics, history, and food. The world is your classroom when you travel. Money cannot buy a better education. Of course you do not need to travel solo to learn things, but again, you may be more open to your surroundings so you can really let it all soak in. My travel guru, Rick Steves is all about not only just seeing a place you travel to, but to immerse yourself while you are there. Talk to the locals. Eat the local food. Learn a few words of the local language. He says travel is a political act. Learning about other places can create an open mind. We tend to have this “we are the best” mentality in the US. While I love my country, we can learn so much from cultures around the world. Open mind and open hearts. The more you learn, the smaller the world becomes. It’s as simple as that. I will leave my political opinions out of this, but I seriously think we need to be more open minded as a country and drop the we are better than anyone else mentality. It’s the basis behind many of the “bad American tourist” jokes.
Let’s face it, after spending so many years raising children, building a career and running your tail off, midlife is a time to slow down and figure out what to do in the second half of life. This is the perfect time to start your solo travel adventures. Hobbies begin to fill the time that was once occupied by work and the kids. I feel this is the best time of my life simply because I decided to not sit around while the world happened around me. Travel is the perfect hobby to take up. We all have our own thing that we love to do. If you are not sure, sit down and make a list of things that get you blood pumping. What makes you happy? Brainstorm and don’t let the logical part of your brain talk you out of it! You can do whatever makes you happy. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I see travel enriching your life in this way. Solo travel fills up that empty gas tank. After spending so many years using your fuel reserves for everyone and everything else, you tank is probably running on empty. This is where fulfilling YOUR life long dreams comes in. Paris was my life long dream. It can be anywhere you want, Chicago, LA, Timbuktu, I don’t care, but it’s there. NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING enriched my life like the first time I went to Paris and made that life long dream happen. My gas tank overflowed after I came home from that trip. Why did I wait so long? Bottom line is, I was not ready to take that trip until I was 47. Anyway, it is very hard to explain in words how much that trip enriched my life. I felt it in every aspect of my life too. Friendships became deeper, I had a new appreciation of history and art, I felt like I was just a bit more interesting to people. I had found my passion not only in Paris, but in travel. I found I had something to share. I felt validated and in the end isn’t that what we all want, to feel validated?
Finding your passion is key to living a wonderful second half of life. If solo travel is your passion project, don’t wait! Just go for it and it will reward you in ways you never dreamed possible!
I’d love to hear from you! Does fear hold you back from solo travel? Where would you go first? Please share in the comments.
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