the joy of travel

Sandy’s Story: The Lure of Traveling Alone

As summer draws to a close, we are pleased to share with you a
reader’s travel story…

The bad news came swiftly and completely unexpectedly – the office
was being closed and I was out of a job. This was not the first
time I had faced unemployment. In the past, I had always
hunkered right down and launched a job search. This time I made
a very different decision.

I love to travel but the lure of traveling completely on my own
had always been offset by the intimidation factor. But, I
decided the time had come and planned a six week journey;
two weeks in Australia by myself, two weeks in Papua, New Guinea
with a tour group and two weeks again on my own in New Zealand.

Maybe, if I was a twenty-something, I would have booked only my
airfare in advance and located accommodations upon arrival. But,
I’m fifty-something and worried that I might end-up in either a
fleabag, or an expensive hotel that I could ill-afford. I used
the Internet which makes acting as your own travel agent
relatively easy, albeit time consuming.

I left full of bravado and confidence. Everything looked
promising. I even managed to get an attractive male for a
seatmate on the plane. And then I landed in Sydney 22 hours
later. My official welcome was an extraordinary long wait for a
taxi in the broiling sun in my hot winter attire; a prolonged
taxi ride in morning rush hour traffic watching the meter climb
exorbitantly high (I never took another airport taxi – super
shuttles are far more reasonable and very reliable), and, when
I finally arrived at my hotel, learning that they would not honor
my pre-paid Internet reservation. Not an auspicious start.

Tired, hot, and very apprehensive that all my reservations might
be problematical, I went to the ladies room, washed up, changed
into lighter clothing, checked my bags and went out in search of
coffee. Within minutes I came upon the charming Queen Victoria
Building, filled with boutiques and cafes. The perfect
restoration combination – strong coffee and shopping. I returned
to the hotel with caffeine raging through my body, one small
purchase and the resolve to handle the situation with the
manager. And I did.

I traveled throughout Australia by train, easily meeting people
along the way. Train travel means never worrying about getting
lost; never having to figure out how to pump gasoline, and most
importantly, never missing the scenery because of the
concentration required driving on the other side of the road.

In Cairns, Australia, I met up with my travel tour. We were only
seven. Papua New Guinea is not this year’s (or last year’s) hot
spot. Experience has taught me that tour groups always coalesce.
People with whom you have little in common can become instant
friends because you share a love of travel and are experiencing
new places and cultures together. Inevitably there is another
single in the group – as there was this time. I do not think
I would like to be the only single among couples.

I could write pages about Papua New Guinea. It’s a common
experience when traveling to lose track of days. In PNG I lost
track of centuries. We visited the Huli in the Highlands where
married men and women live in separate huts; one’s pig population
is the best indication of standing, and men still paint their
faces in bright colors and don elaborate wigs.

Travel along the Sepik River near the coast was equally
fascinating. For six days we lived on a small cruise ship
boarding speedboats every morning to reach small, isolated
tribal villages. Our arrival was always cause for excitement
and a small flotilla of canoes would be launched as soon as
we approached by people heading to the village center with
their carvings and crafts. Primarily a barter society, the
opportunity to earn hard cash is infrequent, yet people never
pushed their wares. Papuan New Guineans are somewhat reserved,
but extremely friendly and everyone had a smile. For people
(like me) who love native carvings of masks and statues, it was
a heart palpitating experience.

On my own again in New Zealand, I rapidly decided that first-time
single travelers should cut their teeth in New Zealand. Kiwis
can’t do enough for you. They are the genuine article –
friendly, helpful and extremely approachable. If there was ever
a slight problem, someone would offer to help. For example, a
bus I was traveling on had a minor accident which delayed us.
I had scheduled a city tour at our destination point and assumed
that I would miss it. No way. The hotel shuttle driver at the
bus station insisted on taking me directly to the Visitor’s
Center where the tour originated, called them to hold the tour
for me and then took my luggage on to the hotel.

By the end of six weeks, I was travel weary and ready to return
home. I had hoped that I might experience a major epiphany on
the trip that would help me determine what to do in the next
phase of my life. I didn’t. But, I did experience the joy of
doing what I really wanted to do and met challenges that had
previously daunted me…did I mention that I went para-gliding?


Stepping Stones: A Single’s Guide to Travel

Taking the first step of any journey can be exciting and
challenging. Right now you may feel that your life is at a
crossroads. Or you may be ready for renewal, a change of pace,
a break from your routine.

Whatever the case may be, reflecting upon Sandy’s story could
change your perspective, give you the courage to make that
initial move, open a new world of possibilities. Or it could
just be a fun end of summer read.

Writing a travel journal can provide a variety of benefits:
a way to focus your thoughts while on the road; a source of
sharing your experiences with interested friends and family;
a reminder that “you can do it;” a lifelong opportunity to
go back and savor your memories.


Recommended Resources: Websites to Explore is an excellent resource which includes an
online newsletter, connecting traveling women around the globe. It offers tips
for women-friendly travel including tours, restaurants, shopping and activities.
The site presents women’s travel stories. is
chock full of ideas and descriptions of trips for active 50+ women who have
a passion for travel. You will find information here about specialty
tours around the world including grandmother/grandchild tours. is an international directory of women
travelers. It provides a free e-mail based service that allows
women anywhere in the world to connect with others who love
to travel. Over 10,000 women from around the globe are
registered with them, assisting other women in their travels.


Our Invitation to You

Do you have your own transition story? We invite you to
share it with our readers for the benefit of women who
themselves may be dealing with similar changes. The skills you
used may be Stepping Stones for others. If you are interested,
please e-mail us.