The Proprietress here. It's been awhile. I miss all of you.
I am headed off on my annual international buying trip. One of the best decisions I have made in the last decade was to start saving my frequent flyer miles from Bon Lemon to take an annual trip. For a long time, I have known international flights are the best bang for your buck when it comes to miles, but I used to have a lot of excuses, mainly financial, that kept me from going. International travel makes my heart happy. Shifting my mindset and making it happen has changed my life.
I am currently headed to Iceland-Paris-Marrakesh-Portugal. The eclectic itinerary came about, because a friend invited me to join her and her family for a beach vaca in Portugal, and I thought nearby Morocco would be a great place to find amazing goodies for Bon Lemon. When I discovered I could easily stop in Iceland (7 hour direct flight from Seattle. Let's go for the weekend in January and catch the Northern Lights people!) on my way at no additional charge, I thought, why not? (Thank you Alaska Airlines mileage card. And I don't get paid by them or anything, but I saw a billboard in the airport saying they are no longer charging foreign transaction fees, which is a HUGE deal. I have had a separate credit card for international travel for years. No need anymore. Good job Alaska!)
I have a handful of VERY seasoned international travel friends. The friend I am meeting in Portugal and I have been around the world and back. Another friend casually offers once or twice a year for me to join him in Russia, Ethiopia, or wherever other interesting place he may be visiting. But for many of my friends, Mexico doesn't feel like a good idea. And the idea of travelling, by yourself, as a woman to Africa seems absolutely crazy. My first three destinations on this trip will be solo.
So today's post is for all you ladies (and gents) who may be sitting at home wishing you had somebody to do stuff with, to inspire you to get out there and do it. Travelling alone is not as scary as it sounds. And your life will be so much fuller if you take the plunge. Here are my tips:
- Be smart. When you are planning your trip, choose accommodations that are near commerce and people. The majority of bad situations can be avoided, in any country, by not walking down a dark alley, in the middle of the night, by yourself. And, there are really cool programs like WOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) where you can stay with people if being alone feels like too much. Take copies of your documents and keep your money in multiple places. Leave your diamonds at home. Being inconspicuous will go a long way.
- Be you. Nobody cares you are alone, aside from you. When the hostess at the restaurant says, "Just one?" and you make it mean you are an old maid which is why you are dining by yourself and you are going to die alone in your house with all of your cats, you are the only one thinking that. Dining alone can be super intimidating. Once you do it, it aint no thang. If anything, there is an air of mystery fluttering about a solo, woman traveler. Who is she? What is she up to? How alluring. Own it.
Entertain yourself. I am all for being present, but as someone who likes to talk with people to share experiences, travelling alone can be a bit of a shift. Don't get me wrong sit there and take in the sunset. Enjoy not having to talk to anyone at dinner. But don't be afraid to write a blog, read a book, or take photos of your travel friend Sylvie (my pink haired troll, you have seen pictured, I paired up with for the first time on my quarter-life crisis in 2009) to stimulate your sense of connection on your trip. Being alone does not mean you need to feel lonely.
- Talk to people or don't. Sometimes when I am travelling I talk so little, people on trains probably assume I am a from a rural village in Greenland and don't understand what anyone is saying. That can be liberating. Sometimes I chit chat with the people sitting next to me, and I have unforgettable times with interesting people I couldn't have dreamed up. (Thank you Slovenian soccer team that took me under their wing in Bosnia. The best.)
- Have fun. Okay, in la-la land, you would be in Bora Bora with your true love, sipping Champagne and getting a couples massage on the beach or in Florence eating gelato and shoe shopping with your best friend talking about the meaning of life. Let me be the one who tells you, LIFE DOES NOT HAVE TO WAIT. You can have just as great of a time travelling by yourself. You will build memories, confidence, and come back with experiences that will shape the rest of your life. I am a different person, because I travel. I have better style, more compassion, and am more fun at cocktail parties. :) Do I like travelling with friends, of course! But, would I give up travelling to wait for someone to go with, absolutely not.
- Soapbox side bar: There are those people who don't travel, because of their kids. You know the story: "I wish I could do that, but I can't do that because I have kids... Once my kids are older..." I have seen four year old French kids on night trains in Cambodia, eleven year old American kids on the beach in Monte Negro, and everything in between in the townships of South Africa, the pyramids in Egypt, and the bustle of Hong Kong. Some people don't travel, because they do not have anyone to go with. Some people don't travel, because they have kids. I am not saying it is effortless, but stop blaming your marital status. Stop blaming your kids. You can do whatever you choose.
So, now that you know you can, WHERE WILL YOU GO?
P.S. I am inclined to travel internationally, but these same tips can be applied to the Colorado mountains or the heart of Chicago. Where does your heart tell you to go? Listen.