When what used to be scary has become normal, what next?
As i prepared for my upcoming trip to the US this morning i was smiling at just how excited i am for all that i have planned for the next few weeks. I am travelling solo to three states for three very different visits and i’m equally as excited about them all. I am also super calm about the whole thing, happily packing and repacking as many bags as BA will let me carry.
I was terrified to take my first solo vacation in July 2010
Contrast that with the experience i had when preparing for my first solo trip to the US just over 6 years ago in July 2016. I was very excited then too but the excitement came with a deep layer of fear slathered over the top. My last boyfriend had always taken me away for my birthday and that year i had decided that i quite liked that tradition and would carry it on for myself.
I dared myself to think of a place i had always wanted to go to, New York!
Then as i had always wanted to go to Boston and it wasn’t that far away, a trip there was added on…
followed by a desire to be in Washington DC for Independence day (What an experience!)
and Chicago for the food (obviously!).
As they are all easily reached by train i thought i may as well go the whole hog and book the coast to coast train ride and a great train trip was somehow booked, finishing in San Francisco 2.5 weeks later.
I vividly remember every bit about booking that trip, dithering about the flights about 50 times. Into Washington DC and out of San Francisco, but what time and which airline? The rush of finally booking it and then the instant, “oh gosh what have i done?!” moment afterwards. I lost count of the number of friends and family that marvelled over my itinerary and vowed that they too wanted to undertake that same adventure and would come with me. Despite one coming close, none of them actually booked those flights.
Staying safe as a solo female traveller
I stayed in Airbnb accommodation the whole way, they were a new discovery and a very welcome solace as a solo female traveller. My thinking being that although nice hotels will provide the comfort i like when travelling, no big hotel receptionist is going to notice if something untoward happened and i didn’t come home at the end of the day. Someone renting their spare room to be however, would. But that involved booking it all at once, OH MY GOSH! I have just sent a heap of cash to a bunch of strangers to stay IN THEIR HOUSES! But it was wonderful, i couldn’t have had a better first introduction to Airbnb and solo vacations. The first one was a beautiful basement flat underneath an old Washington town house just around the corner from all the sights of DC.
The second one gave me my my third “Holy cow what am i doing?!” moment. When i checked into the apartment of a super friendly and welcoming couple of doctors in NYC. I washed my face in their bathroom, marvelling at the absurdity and brilliance that i was chilling in the apartment of these two random strangers. Somehow it all worked.
The trip was so much better than i dared hope, it was my first big vacation on my own. I had travelled on my own a fair amount for work and to visit relatives overseas but had never gone on vacation by completely by myself. It was a terrifying prospect. I had a rough idea of what kind of things i wanted to do in each city, but no firm plans. I had the liberty to pick what i wanted to do every day depending on what i came across as in wandered the cities. It was wonderful.
Forget the What ifs? What’s the worst that can happen?
I do remember getting on that flight out to DC at Heathrow thinking, what on earth have i done? What if i hate it? What if i don’t talk to a single soul for the whole time? What if i spent all that money and have a hideous time? But i rationalised that if i really hated it that much the worst that would happen would be that i just flew home. Not that bad really all things considered.
Every day i pushed myself out of my comfort zone on that trip, but without fail as a solo female traveller i was always looked after. From dinner invites in Boston to special photo opportunities on the South West Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles it was a blast and there were always kindly strangers looking out for me. There’s two things i’m pondering now that the fear has dissipated from these trips and i now just get excited about new travels.
- What am i going to do next to stretch my comfort zone further and keep learning and growing?
- Where is this next trip going to signpost for me next? As without fail the end of every trip leaves a little hit at what comes next without me even realising it. I wonder what it will be this time…
Baci a tutti, a very excited cake lady!