Dinner for one? No thanks. Wander around a strange city by myself? Nope. Some women delight in solo travel. They wander through Paris, Peru, and Egypt. I know these women. They are not me. But then, how am I going to see the world? Watching travel channels won’t do. I am delighted I discovered group tours. Many tours cater to solo travelers. Do these travelers skew older? Probably. And the problem is?
There are tour groups specializing in learning, and they will wear you out as you tour castles, cathedrals, Mosques, and Roman Ruins. It can leave you breathless, but that’s what you signed up for. There are more rugged expedition tours where you get off the ship and go ashore on zodiacs. Then there are leisurely river cruises which are really ideal for solo travelers.
Here are my tips and some of my experiences.
First rule: Find a small ship. Ships with around 100 passengers are ideal. Usually, they have a high crew-to-guest ratio, and you will be well cared for. There is usually one dining room, and everyone eats at the same time. You can find a different table every night or stay with a small group you just met.
Second rule: No large ocean-going hotels. I find those too disciplined, and I only meet people in a small crowds. Also, there is usually a piano bar at night. Sit and enjoy or make a new friend. BTW, do not
expect to meet a man. A tour leader in a recent group I was with said that in the five years, she has led groups, there has only been one man. Don’t ask me why. In my opinion, when you reach a certain age, you do not want to share a room. (Well, with an intimate partner, but that’s another story).
So watch out for the “single supplement.” Notice prices are listed as “per person per room.” In other words, double what you are looking at. Some tour groups have lower single supplements, and sometimes they will have specials with no supplement. They would rather have one person in the room than none. An experienced travel agent can be beneficial in this area.
Third rule: Another area to watch is “optional tours.” The cruise sounds delightful and goes to ports you want to visit. But are those shore excursions included in the price? Are there the “standard” and the “premium?” My preference is that all shore excursions should be included. But I have made exceptions—the German beer garden, for example. What about mobility? Many brochures will have a graph for the degree of difficulty. A recent tour I went on specified no walkers or wheelchairs.
I take the measurement with a grain of salt. Folks who know me know I am not the most accomplished hiker, but I want to avoid seeing the world from the back of a bus, so some walking is necessary. When they say one to two miles a day, they mean for the whole day! Occasionally there are steep steps without handrails. I either stay below, or there is often a hand to help me. So don’t be intimidated if it sounds like a heartier tour than you think you can do. Of course, I am not going to Machu Pichu or the Himalayans.
Here then, is a summation of some of my solo travels. Expect to learn more about these over time.
Riverboats: I have done three— all in Germany. I was supposed to do one in Venice, but the boat was in an accident and was not serviceable. So another trip down the Rhine. Two were what would be considered high-end, more luxurious, which I enjoyed, but I would have to say my favorite was Viking. While not all excursions were included, I didn’t mind paying a nominal fee for some fun shore excursions. Viking had speakers almost every night. Or sometimes musicians. Always enjoyable.
Small ships: I have taken several small ship excursions, including my most recent trip to the Iberian Peninsula. Unlike my other tours, this was with an “affinity group”—many people I knew and the rest from a shared community. I highly recommend finding such a group. You could get a free cruise if you gather enough friends to go with you. This particular tour was with Overseas Adventure Travel OAT.
Not a leisurely sit around the pool with umbrella drinks; this was educational and exhausting in a good way. We learned so much history, art, and architecture. Then we had a wonderful meal every night on a very luxurious ship. Another small ship and very different tour was an expedition from Vancouver, Canada, to San Francisco. We toured my own backyard of Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. Rather than castles and cathedrals, we saw mountains and beaches and tide pools.
The crew was very credentialed marine life enthusiasts. When a planned hike was beyond my capabilities, one of these scientists took me on a beach walk. I learned more about lichen than I had ever thought about. This was a special excursion and not a regularly scheduled cruise. A big shout out to Silver Seas for a fabulous trip; I missed travel in the fall of 2021, and many borders were closed.
However, I heard an ad for Iceland. Iceland was allowing vaccinated individuals into the country. Count me in! This was a land tour, but we didn’t have to change hotels every night. We stayed in one central location, and the buses took us to different sights. Highlights were the Blue Lagoon and Northern lights. I very much liked Iceland and, once again, the friendly people on the tour.
What would I like to do next? I am not sure. I want to spend some time savoring and organizing my photos. And, of course, writing about my trips some more. I would love to engage with folks who want to know more about solo tours. Let’s start our own affinity group.
Purses, totes, handbags, pocketbooks. Women have owned all these for as long as I can remember. We always have to have our purse – handbag – with us. Need tissues, lipstick, a checkbook, a wallet, and now a cell phone. Even multiple cell phones. Men are mystified by women’s purses. What wonders can be found there? The queen of England always carried a purse. What was in there? What could she possibly need while out and about? I should include the men. Some of them now carry some bag. It must look manly.
There are purses in department stores that must be under lock and key. Believe it or not, some of these bags cost tens of thousands of dollars. What possibly could be in such a treasure? Tissues, lipstick, checkbook, wallet, and cell phone. No different than all the other purses. I myself have fallen victim to the highly-priced bag. Not the one for tens of thousands, but one or two name brands that no one should spend that kind of money on. It scares me even to read that. Yes, I fell into that trap. I wanted to look like a woman of substance, hence the expensive bag everyone would notice. There is even the fake expensive bag someone gave me. Then there is that boxful of no longer used bags I mean to take to a thrift shop, a shelter, or somewhere helpful. Add that is on the to-do list.
I have noticed that older, much older women carry big purses. Of course, they may need it their medications and their address book. Can’t trust those electronic devices to have all those names and birthdays. But what else is in that mysterious darkness? I once saw a woman find a cell phone in her purse that had been lost for weeks. And why are these ladies’ purses always black? Wouldn’t it be fun to carry a red one? Ah, the mysterious women’s purses. Does a fanny pack count as a purse? I guess so. Some of my friends do carry these with the same contents. I hope there is a passport in there, as these are mainly used for travel.
Sometimes one needs a big bag—a tote- for the laptop, iPad, notebook, tissues, lipstick, checkbook, wallet, and cell phone. And where IS that pen? I have several sizes of these totes depending on where I am going. Lately, I have been experimenting with going out with (gasp) no purse. What do I need? My cell phone now has a holder for credit cards, so I don’t need a wallet. I need my keys, of course. That’s what pockets are for. Most coats have pockets. My yoga pants have pockets. Yes, even dresses now have pockets. There is freedom in not worrying about where to keep your bag. The floor? The back of your chair? I was taught in a Miss Manners class that a lady never puts her purse on the table. And bless those establishments that have purse hangers under the table. Oh, but the freedom of NO purse. Yes, it takes some getting used to. Almost as if I’m not fully dressed. I love the freedom of not carrying a purse.
Oh, I still am keeping my collection. The large tote for work days, a tiny one that holds about as much as I can keep in my pocket, something fashionable that shows I am a woman of substance. But it sure has been a fun experiment weening myself of the ever-present purse. Now, where are my reading glasses?
Spiritual advisor, counselor, guru, therapist, resident philosopher, teacher – all terms for someone who gives you guidance mainly by listening without judgment, perhaps interjecting just the right words of wisdom. Many people pay for such advice, but most of us find them in the most unlikely places.
My “advisor” happens to be my hairdresser. Always listening nonjudgmentally but occasionally calling me on “my stuff .” Of course, he didn’t call me on my stuff until he knew me better and found I was open to his taking on such a role. He will share with me a book he just discovered that he thinks will be of interest to me. Once he gave me a CD of some lovely inspiring music. I always leave his shop with some new perspective.
I started looking around to see who else filled these roles. I found that many people rely on their hairdresser for such counseling. Some friends tell me that their massage therapist often fulfills this function. One of my friends found that her massage therapist could reveal hidden emotions just by how she held her shoulder or turned her head. Still, often it was the equivalent of talk therapy.
If you judge by movies and TV shows, bartenders often play this role. Is this true? Do today’s bartenders exist in places where “everybody knows your name?” Is there such a thing as a local pub where people discuss their most profound thoughts? I wonder. Maybe this is worth an exploratory adventure.
Some of these encounters might be very brief. I have had brief spiritual counseling by a checker in the grocery store. Short, but a lesson was there. Coffee shops? Not my experience in the bustling Starbucks of today, but perhaps some have found a passionate barista. Years ago, I frequented a coffee roaster. They insisted they were not a coffee shop. Still, everyone would hang around there anyway until the owner reluctantly added bar stools. Philosophy was definitely handed out. One day when someone asked the clerk how she was doing, she replied: “I’ve got my health, I’ve got the Lord, and my car runs.” That gratitude statement has served me over the years. Spiritual guidance in the coffee shop.
As I contemplate this idea, it occurs to me that we can find guidance most anywhere if we take time to truly interact with people. So you engage. The hairdresser, barber, or massage therapist is holding you captive for a set period of time. There is nowhere else to go. Nothing else to do.
What if you make it a habit to engage more people? The person in line, the receptionist at your next appointment, the grocery clerk? They each have their own wisdom. All we have to do is tap into it.
Be open, listen. Engage. Find your spiritual guidance in an unlikely place.
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