“I was never going to go if I waited for someone to come with me.”

If you asked me 30 years ago about traveling solo, my response would have been, “out of the question”. I was too afraid. I didn’t trust myself. How could I – a girl who had never been further than NYC by herself – travel across the ocean alone? That question – and a host of others – kept travel off limits for me for several years until I began to wonder, will I ever find someone to come with me. Whether that person was my husband, boyfriend, friend, or relative – didn’t matter. What would I do if I never found anyone to travel with?

Fear. Sometimes it’s a very helpful thing that keeps us from harm. But many times, it’s that loud inner voice and barrier that keeps us stuck. It keeps us from getting what we want and becoming who we honestly deep down want to be.

Those 30 years ago – I just wanted to be that person who sat in a café in France enjoying a café au lait, reading a good book and watching the world go by. I wanted to be that girl who had seen the other side of the world.

 

“I travel because seeing photos in books and brochures wasn’t good enough for me. To be there – that was everything”. ~Wiremu Ratcliffe

The realization that fear may keep me from ever setting foot in Europe, Asia or Africa, finally motivated me to cross my fingers and take a chance. Did I go to Europe? No. Asia, Africa, South America?  No.  You sometimes you have to take baby steps before you can run, walk or fly.

My very first trip completely solo was to St. Thomas, USVI when I was 23. I know, I know…. It’s the US Virgin Islands where everyone speaks English. The big attraction is the beach. You go from the hotel to the beach and back again. But, it was 5 hours away by plane – and I was by myself. The whole flight over to St. Thomas, I questioned myself. When I arrived at the airport in Charlotte Amalie, I was afraid I made the wrong decision. However, I was there, and my return flight was 6 days away. I could either stick it out in the airport or find my hotel.

I stuck it out in St. Thomas for 6 days.  I stepped outside my comfort zone and talked to people — from my fellow tourists to the kids playing on the beach.  I tried activities that I would have never tried if I were in NJ.  I can tell you I am a horrible snorkeler and I never did get the hang of riding a motor bike.  I realize that I have no sense of direction.  I got lost on a tiny island countless times, and each time a wonderfully kind person put back on the right track.

That was the beginning of my solo travels. Although it was just a small island with the beach as the main attraction, I returned home I returned home with a new found confidence.  Even if I never found someone to go with, I could more than survive traveling alone — I could enjoy traveling by myself.  That doesn’t mean all my fears magically went away.  They didn’t.  Each time I went somewhere new — especially a new place where I didn’t speak the language — I had doubt.  But I kept plugging along.

Since then, I’ve visited over 25 countries and about half the states here in the US. And, surprisingly, the more I traveled solo, the more I met people who have become the closest of friends.  Had I traveled with someone else or with a group of people that I knew, I would have never left the comfort of my known circle of friends to speak with anyone else.

Before my father passed away, every time I booked a trip, I would tell him where I was going. And, he’d pull out a paper map, and review my planned route – from one airport to another; from one city to the next. He would await my report and pictures when I returned. I miss those conversations with him. When I set out to put this site together, I thought, I’ll write a photography blog. OK, wait a minute – me trying to explain photography is kind of scary. I’ll leave that to the professionals who know what they are talking about. Then I decided, I’ll write a travel blog. OK, wait a minute – while I try and travel as much as I can, I’m not an expert traveler. I couldn’t begin to provide advice on which is the best credit card for travel.  I finally landed on this will be a place where I can post my favorite photos and write a little about the places I’ve been. Kind of like my report back to my father. So that is what this site is – at least for now. Dad, I hope you are looking over my shoulder and that you enjoyed post #1.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
Always remember, you have within you the strength,
the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
~Harriet Tubman

8 thoughts on “Why I Travel”

  1. Wonderful Story, Michelle! Thank you for sharing from your heart. It’s a story somewhat parallel to my own. In 1983, my mother had passed away a few years earlier, I was divorced, and my father announced he was remarrying and my ‘baby’ sister was having her first baby. I remember thinking “what about me? What am I going to do? I can’t live here, I feel like I will ‘wither and die on the vine’ of this small town I was born/living in. So I planned an escape as far away as I could go, pretty much, but they spoke English there, too – New Zealand! OK, so it wasn’t english you could understand, easily, but it was English and fun to listen to! I had no plan except to hike the Milford Track – (I was a backpacker/hiker so I felt I could handle that). And I was doing it all alone. Fear and trepidation set in before I left – but excitement too. I needed to find out if I liked traveling alone, even being alone. Would I meet anybody, talk to anyone? It turns out that I made friends while hiking; we kept in touch for some time, too. I met a wonderful family that invited me to stay at their farm before farm stays were ‘the thing’, and everywhere I went after my hike, solo driving and staying in hostels/hotels, I met people and the experiences of their lives taught me that there was world out there waiting for me that was safe and friendly. I came home and decided to move ‘West’, to continue the adventure, but really, the adventure had already begun within me, no matter where I lived. Life would never be the same after that journey. It sounds like your adventure also set you on a path of lifelong growth and discovery, too, and it feels great, doesn’t it?!

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