Staying safe on the road and still meeting and visiting with people…my thoughts and opinion.
I live alone, I travel alone, and I eat alone. I also sleep alone and really just do most everything alone. And yet I have lots of friends and socialize and manage to have a full dance card. Hmm. This seems normal to me, but I guess it isn’t always. Especially for older women traveling alone.
Maybe you have to have a certain kind of personality (a little winky), not give a crap and like spending time with yourself. Well, that’s me for sure.
Now, I have a safety radar which keeps me on track most of the time. And I enjoy talking to people and am very curious so I often can’t help myself from striking up conversations.
I am so very grateful that I am not fearful. Cautious and careful but not fearful. I have a sister who sleeps with a gun under her pillow and is fearful doing things by herself. I have lots of women friends who would never drive in a foreign country or even travel alone and yet they are successful, professional and extremely talented. Some things frighten them and so they don’t do it.
Each person has to decide where their comfort level is. And I have some rules. Because I do drive in foreign countries and often have no clue where I am or how to get from point A to point B, I will not drive after dark. So whatever romantic, beautiful must see place I am headed to I need to arrive before dark. I plan my days accordingly. And right now, I keep my driving to around 8 hours or less if moving locations.
I also don’t speed in foreign countries. And I love speeding. Don’t do it. Don’t take the risk. When I lived in Mexico, I always drove on the Cuota roads (like toll roads in the US) because they were patrolled by the Federales and they are the head honcho police dudes. In Europe I hit the GPS and maybe some maps and ask a lot of questions and stop for a beer or glass of wine here and there. With the European Union it feels like one big country with a lot of languages and cultural differences. Very welcoming.
Just as I am curious about others, people are curious about me too. So, they ask questions and stare. Get used to staring. Wave, smile, hold up your wine glass for a toast. Pretty soon it is a conversation and often an invitation to stay for lunch or visit their cousin in the next town over or a restaurant I have to visit.
Friends. Friends are great security blankets if you are on the road or even going to another country. You don’t have to stay with them and probably shouldn’t even if they ask you to. Well I guess I had better explain that. You could stay for one or two nights at the most and then get the hell out so you don’t start stinking like a fish. Even if they beg you to stay don’t do it and remain friends. Visiting, having coffee, taking them to dinner, going to a play. All good.
When starting out on your own always have a reservation or a place to stay already set up. Relieves stress. You can always change it, but having it frees up your mind to enjoy the minute to minute wonder of living. And I don’t think you wanted to travel and have a lot of stress. You can do the seat of your pants later.
As you go along you will find you can reduce other stressors. If you don’t know how to start finding out about this new great place you traveled to you can sign up for a tour. I love the Hop On Hop Off tours. I go around once and figure out places I want to stop and on the second go around I got off where I want.
And, if there is any kind of water around, get on a boat. Breeze in your face, unique perspective of the area, lots of people to talk to, great photo ops and freeing. Buses are okay too but that damn getting off and on and having to check the time is a pain in the ass.
I’ve also hired drivers for the day. If you are panicked with foreign languages and need someone who speaks some English, then ask for that kind of driver. I’m a birder (one who stares at and gets great joy from finding and watching birds) and I often hire another birder to take me around their country and show me the birds. If you love gardens (another favorite of mine) or museums (I swear I will never go in another one) or markets (fabulous) then go to those places.
Damn, I had better mention money. If you are only going to travel in the US, then just do what you do. If you are going to second or third world countries (how degrading is that label) then decide up front how much money you want to give away and get it in small amounts and coins so you will have choice about who to give money to. Me? I’m a sucker for kids and old people. Not to be too moralistic here but I realize I was born into privilege. US, white, woman, freedom, education, choice, etc. Not so in many other places. Once again, it’s up to you.
All I know is that you wouldn’t be reading this unless you had travel on your radar. Trust yourself, do your research, watch the weather, be flexible and tolerant and caring. And get out there. The world needs your insight and understanding. The more we travel the more we understand ourselves and others.