“You Traveled To Ireland…ALONE?”

Howth Cooking.jpg

“I could NEVER do that!”

“Weren’t you scared?”

“You brave girl!”

“How did you manage with all your luggage?”

“You mean your husband LET you go so far away all by yourself???”

“Weren’t you lonely?”

OK, my friends, time to debunk some myths here.

First, traveling alone is not for everyone. I happen to love it, but traveling with someone–or several “someones”–is fine too. It depends on what you want to do, and where you want to go. Do what works for you. On this trip, I traveled alone, for about 90 percent of the time. I met up with one of my dearest friends at the end of the trip, and stayed with her for a long weekend, which was glorious!

Ah, the fear factor. Um….I wasn’t in any country where there are travel bans or travel warnings. I could–more or less–understand the language, and I could read the signs, so it was all good. I had done a lot of reading and research beforehand; I kept a small map with me at all times; and I found several wonderful apps for my smartphone. (ALWAYS have a smartphone along!)  I have traveled with various family members, friends, and groups in countries where I could NOT read the signs–my German is very elementary, my Greek is almost non-existent, and I don’t read Arabic at all!–and those are places where it has been helpful to have others around. And the joy of discovery in places such as those is multiplied when there are people to share it.

Luggage. Two words….PACK LIGHT. Carry on only. I cannot stress this enough. No, I am not a backpacker, despite my nearly-20-year-old son’s efforts to magically turn me into one at my particular age. Been there, done that. However….I have researched (oh yes, as a former journalist, I love me some research!) the ins and outs of travel bags, proper dimensions for the airline(s) I’m flying, and what I can carry comfortably over long distances. I have switched between a drop-bottom duffel made by a name brand clothing and luggage company (the duffel, alas, is no longer in production) and my old, trusty, but-still-in-great-shape soft-sided rollaboard. Both are tough, with in-line wheels, plenty of space, and fit the dimensions for both foreign and domestic carriers. I believe in the power and organization of packing cubes, heavier items always go on the bottom by the wheels, and I pack for seven days. SEVEN. Unless I will be gone fewer days than that. Going for three weeks? Pack for ONE WEEK, and do laundry. One base color, other multiple colors to go with it. Scarves, inexpensive jewelry will change the look. My other bag, which stays with me at ALL TIMES, is a convertible shoulder bag/backpack or a messenger bag if I’m carrying my bigger camera. This goes under the seat and has my toiletries, documents, any medicines, my tablet, phone, etc. I also carry a spare set of underwear and something to sleep in, should my rollaboard and I get separated (heaven forbid!). A purse? It’s an unobtrusive cross-body bag, and I carry it empty in one of my other bags. When I get to where I can unpack, I put my basic necessities into it, and I’m ready for anything.

So, now, this is the best one. My husband “let” me go. By myself. People….seriously? It’s not a matter of “let”.  I’ve been flying on my own since my parents sent me off on my first airplane trip at the age of TEN! I went to upstate New York, a cousin from western Massachusetts met me, and I spent a week with her.  My husband understands my wandering soul, sees me off on my trips, and makes wonderful “welcome home” dinners for me when I return.  We stayed in touch daily via Facebook Messenger; when I travel in-country, we call each night.

Lonely. Yes, sometimes I was.  My husband was here in Missouri, our son off on a gap year; at the time, he was in Central America. Friends are scattered all over the world. Those of you who know me, know my gregarious personality. I’m definitely more of an extrovert than an introvert. But I do need my downtime…my time to listen to the sounds around me, to reflect, to watch and hear the people. Some of my most precious memories of Ireland are the hours I spent at a beer tasting and cooking class with 11 Irish people, and me the only American, laughing and talking and eating.  Equally precious–the hours spent alone sipping wine and eating my own simple dinner, watching the BBC and reflecting on the world news as I sat in the living room of my Airbnb rental.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. We have only one life, only one chance to see the world around us….I once lost a chance to travel with my dad (long story there), and promised myself that, if and when the chance came back around, I would grab it. I did. I have. And I have never, ever regretted it.

Will I take a friend or two with me? Of course!  Either virtually or in real life…come on along!

Questions? Let me know in the comments–if I don’t have the answer at hand, I have those mad research skills!

*(Photo is me at Howth Castle Cookery School, June, 2017, creating Mousse au Chocolat with a great group of people.  Yes, that is a cognac bottle near my left hand. Yes, a bit extra may have gone into the recipe…..or into me.)

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