I‘m a wanderer, an absorber of dust from the places I visit. The world outside my comfort zone has always beckoned me to come, to see, and to understand (not conquer). For you, whether curious reader, armchair traveler, seasoned sophisticate, or would-be traveler working up the courage to head out on your own, I offer here a lifetime of experiences and insights about our strange and wonderful world.
I believe I inherited two gypsy genes—one from my father (who probably also had two) and one from my mother (who had at least one). Both of them inspired and encouraged my travels from a young age.
Women can travel solo, but they need to be careful and prepared. The world of today might be a bit more difficult and/or dangerous than it was a decade and a half ago, when I traveled around Asia on my own. Or two decades ago when I traveled across Russia alone. Or three decades ago when my children and I traveled around Europe together by train. Or six decades ago when I was a student living in Europe, taking courses, going on a student pilgrimage, and working in a work camp for underprivileged children. Still, with a bit of foresight and flexibility, a woman can enjoy the world and its many cultures and wonders, without having to be under somebody else’s protection.
I’ve been robbed a couple of times, and I’ve avoided approaches from what seemed to be predatory males a few times. But I have had no personal catastrophes. In this blog, I’ll include tips on how to prepare for and avoid difficulties while traveling solo (this goes for men as well as women). In a lifetime of travel, I’ve learned a great deal about planning for the unknown and about coping with unforeseen hazards that can and will arise far from home.
Many people prefer traveling in exotic lands with congenial friends, a picturesque scene as photogenic backdrop, enclosed in a comfortable bubble of personal convenience and familiar language and social structures. Such a scenario is most often found on guided tours, especially expensive ones. It has not been my normal travel style. Nonetheless, I have taken a few terrific tours.
I’ve traveled whenever I could find the time and money to do it, usually as cheaply as possible, and most often alone. As I became older, and was running out of time, and had more money, and didn’t know the language of countries I wanted to visit, I have taken commercial tours to several fascinating places.
Generally, though, I’ve traveled alone. That way, I have been able focus on the place itself, explore the corners of its history, breathe in the air of others who have lived there, experience the grief of a place, feel its ghosts, know joy at the sight of the slant of sun on a country village, sense anxious babble as a train approaches a station platform I’m standing upon, straining my ears to understand words and worlds expressed so ephemerally. And being alone, I’ve been able to write about experiences and impressions as they transpired.
While amazing scenery evokes awe, it is civilization, and particularly civilizations of the past, which have most intrigued me, and which I have sought out repeatedly in distant countries and unfamiliar cultures.
As a student in high school and college, I didn’t much care for history, except for some ancient civilizations brought to life by a really great fifth-grade teacher. Otherwise, history was taught as battles and conquerors (who lived) and heroes (who died)—a guy thing that didn’t really ring my chimes. I wanted to know how people lived, not how—or for whatever stupid reason—they died.
So I’ve had the good fortune to live overseas for five years—three in Europe and two in Asia. After retirement, I also traveled around the U.S. and Canada in an RV (recreational vehicle)—sometimes with my brother (in his own RV), sometimes with my grandson, and sometimes on my own. This blog thread (Woman of the World) will document some of these travels. It will also link to other travels recounted elsewhere. I hope to gather these recollections into a book–or a few. One book about two years spent in Asia, is already available on Amazon.