Solo Travel

Solo Travel

I hate going to a restaurant by myself.  Or movies.  Or very much else.  I am just not a solo person.  So, it is no wonder that I had very little travel experience until I was much older.  However, once I discovered an alternative, I have traveled every year. 

Sometime around 2006, I had just moved back to Washington State from California. (Moves do not count as travel experiences.) I joined the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce to reacquaint myself with the community and create visibility for my business, which I was starting over in a new area. I was at a luncheon where the speaker was from a company that promotes travel in China. He was talking about a “trade mission” where a group from the Bellevue Chamber would travel to China. As I was listening to him, he described the wonders of Beijing, Shanghai, and the countryside. I thought what a great trip it would be, but surely outside my budget (which was pretty slim since I was restarting my business). 

In my mind, I thought about the maximum amount I could spend on such an adventure. When the speaker announced the price, I was dumbfounded. It was way under what I thought I could spend. How could this be? He assured us it was an introductory trip to introduce the business community to China. Perhaps there would be some partnerships formed? I could hardly wait for the meeting to be over. I was ready to make my way to the registration desk and become the first person to sign up. 

I was not alone. There were twenty or more people from my community that signed up. The China representative promised they would take care of all details — airfare, food, and lodging. They would even take care of getting us the appropriate documents and visas. Wonderful!

The entire group was on the same plane, and I met my fellow passengers. It was a harmonious group. (Several of the folks I am still friends with, even though some are only Facebook friends.) I tried to learn Chinese in anticipation. I learned to say hello and thank you. And I probably didn’t say it right, but I always got a smile because I tried. I was told a good way to engage people was to show them pictures of your children. I carried a picture of my cute grandson in my wallet. It did create engagement. I would point to my graying hair as if to let them know I was the grandma. I learned to always ask permission before taking a picture of their children. Common sense applies to travel anywhere. 

We soon learned what they meant by “trade mission.”  We traded our dollars for their merchandise. It was one big shopping trip. Silk, cashmere, jade. We complied with the trade. We were even taken to a clinic to diagnose our health by having a technician look at our tongues. We left the clinic with purchases of Chinese medicine appropriate for whatever our tongue revealed. 

We saw all the iconic places one associates with China. The Summer Palace, the Winter Palace. The Great Wall. (Yes, I got the t-shirt). We saw the construction of the “birdcage,” which would be the stadium for the upcoming Summer Olympics. And, of course, Tiananmen square. It was in Tiananmen Square that I had what I still consider to be a great adventure and also one of my most iconic photos. I had taken a DSLR camera as it was way before iPhone photography. This means a lot of lens changes. In Tiananmen Square, I was busy with pictures of a glorious sunset, the famous tower, and the picture of Mao at the far wall, all of which required different lenses.

Suddenly it became dark, and I looked up and realized I was all alone. No one looked like me anywhere I could see. A red guard came over and looked at my pictures. As I tried to explain what I was doing, he said, “no English,” and walked away. I did not believe him, but I didn’t want to talk with such a scary armed person anyway. Eventually, I saw a tall blonde woman across the square. I ran up to her, and as luck would have it, she was with our group on a different bus. She invited me on her bus, and the driver connected with my driver. They didn’t count passengers on the bus, and I got left behind. So not only did I now have another story to add to my collection, I had a photo that really captured the mood. A dark, ominous picture of the tower at Tiananmen Square. Photo experts keep wanting to edit it because the tower is too centered and should be more to the side. Still, I won’t allow any editing because, to me, it truly captures the moment. 

The rest of the trip provided great photo opportunities also, but none were as dramatic. I did not get lost and (definitely) complied with the trade mission. I traded lots of dollars for their merchandise. 

Postscript:  the trip had a representative of the Chamber who went free. No one wanted to go the following year, so I went free as the Chamber representative. I even got luxury lodging. 

So pretty good for my first “solo” international trip.

The Agony of The Pretty Girl

The Agony of The Pretty Girl

I have been reading recommendations that say it is not appropriate to compliment little girls on how pretty they are. I do it all the time. “Oh, you are so pretty.” We don’t say that to young boys. We might say they are cute, but we mean cute as children are “cute.”  We should say they are smart or compliment their behavior.

We do not want to raise a generation of girls who feel valued only by their looks. 

Being a pretty girl is not what you all might think. At my advanced age, I can look back and realize I was one of those “pretty girls.” And what’s wrong with that? First, I want to be seen and recognized for my brain as a woman. You know those dumb blonde jokes? Yeah, those are about pretty girls. In later years, I found that being pretty was not necessarily beneficial. 

When I was going through the trauma of adolescence, and I had issues with my friends, my stepfather would say, “Oh, they don’t like you because you are so pretty.” This comment was not helpful, and I think I still have PTSD over that one.

For many years, I was introduced to men’s wives as their high school girlfriend when attending class reunions. This was always a surprise to me. Finally, many years later, at a reunion, these men mentioned that I really wasn’t their high school girlfriend. Well, that’s because you never asked me. The answer was always, “you were so pretty I didn’t have the nerve to ask you out.”  Gee thanks.

Throughout my life, in business environments, I saw women do the equivalent of dumbing down. They dressed so as not to draw attention to their looks. Later, it became amusing when I proved myself competent and intelligent, and folks acted surprised. I often wish I had learned that lesson earlier. My experience is that I was often underestimated, whether it was by college professors or sales managers.

Now I find a benefit to being older. As an older woman, I am no longer judged by my looks. And I find that to be a good thing.

Now, go tell that little girl she is smart, dances well, sings well, or is just a worthy person.

But do not let her worth be related to being pretty.

The Time My Life Changed

The Time My Life Changed

(The picture above: Graduation from Western State University College of Law in Irvine, California. To my left is my son-in-law Doug Vavrick and to my right is my daughter Kathleen Quirk.)

Funny, sometimes we experience what would be life-changing events, and we know that in an instant. Sometimes we don’t realize the effect these events have until much later. In my life, the latter led to the former.  

When I was in ninth grade, our teacher, Mrs. McLaughlin, had us do a four-year plan of the classes we would take so that we met the requirements for graduation. I filled mine with the required courses, typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping. Mrs. “M” pointed out that I had no college prep classes. I immediately commented that no one in my family would go to college. 

She replied that she hated to see a smart student not at least prepare for college. Smart? Me? No one ever told me that I was smart.  

So I did take typing and shorthand, but I also took Latin, geometry, and debate! That would be lifesaving for me as I eventually went to college. Without that, the most incredible life-changing event could never have happened.  

Many years later—in 1992, I was fifty years old. My daughter had just graduated from college (there was no doubt MY daughter would go to college) and was considering law school as her dad had. Law school? Wait a minute. Did I miss a turn? I wanted that when I graduated from high school. But I was talked out of it because I was a girl.  

At the time, I could be a secretary, nurse, homemaker, or teacher. My clerical skills were nonexistent. I worked in a hospital and could not become a nurse. No one was offering me the job of homemaker. I became a teacher instead. Here I saw skipping a generation from my dream.  

I was living in Orange County, California, and wanted my daughter to move there. I mentioned there was this private, for-profit law school down the street. “Let’s go in and get a catalog,” I said naively. I have always likened it to going into one of those pushy gyms where if you went in to get a catalog, you came out a member.  

Well, one of us did become a member. Only it was not my daughter. I was now, at age fifty, officially a law student. My life had changed forever. 

And the rest is history. All because of Mrs. McLaughlin.  

No Results Found

The page you requested could not be found. Try refining your search, or use the navigation above to locate the post.

Karin Quirk