On the fourth Monday of every month I share personal thoughts about solo travel in an email to subscribers.
These are thoughts that may be inspired by an email from a reader, a person I met, a lyric heard, etc. They often involve a personal memory or even lessons taught to me by my parents.
They are musings that are not substantial enough to be a post on the blog. They are little messages that can be about almost anything.
I often receive short notes as a result of these emails. On Monday, a reader wrote simply, “Very empowering words!”
I thought, together, these notes could amount to a post. So here you go. A few from the past.
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On Travel Without a Bucket List
I'm frequently asked:
- What's your favorite country?
- What's on your bucket list?
I have neither a favorite destination nor a bucket list. I trust that every trip I take will be enriching in one way or another and I don't worry about making sure I get to certain places before my time is up.
Holding the attitude that all destinations can nourish your mind, body, and/or soul opens up a whole world of destinations and activities. It also means that nourishing solo travel is accessible to everyone regardless of budget, experience, mobility, or any other factor.
Popular or off the beaten track, urban or rural, cultural or adventure, every destination and every kind of travel can be enriching. Seeing the Eiffel Tower is nice but chance encounters in a small out-of-the-way town can be extraordinary.
If you have an obstacle to travel, I encourage you to see beyond it. Since money is often the problem, check out this post on Cheap and Cheerful Summer Solo Travel. If you lack experience, read First Time Solo Travel: Tips for Newbies. You may also want to take The Wits & Wonder Travel Course. If mobility is your issue, I'd like to point you to this wonderful Rick Steves post. Whatever your concern, I can assure you that there is a travel blogger out there addressing it.
On Taking Small Steps Towards Solo Travel
I learned to ride a bike by taking my brother's and:
- walking it out to the street
- standing it parallel to the sidewalk
- nervously getting on, and
- pushing forward with my foot on the curb until I reached a driveway where the curb disappeared.
At that point I lifted my foot to the pedal and tried to reach the other side without falling.
There were a lot of falls but nothing harmful and, with time, I got it. When I was 15, I went on my first trip. It was a month-long cycling tour in England.
With small, determined steps, I learned to ride. Cycling continues to be a big part of my life. Small steps towards a goal can take you just about anywhere. Whether you're taking your first solo trip or planning a solo trip of a lifetime, if you're a little anxious, think in terms of small steps.
- Stories from a 5th anniversary celebration post: First-Time Solo Travel Stories
- On biking trips read: Bike Tours for Solo Travelers: Smart Tips and What Not to Worry About
On Managing Money for More Travel
“You can only spend a dollar once.”
That was a lesson my parents drilled home. It's simple, yet easy to forget.
It was likely my father who gave it such succinct language but my mother who modeled it on a daily basis.
As I planned my trip to Japan, I thought about this approach to money and planned accordingly. With limited funds and many travel dreams, I have to be careful. I decided that, in the big cities where I would spend most of my time out exploring, I would go cheap on my accommodation. I found two very nice looking, well-rated hostels. In the town of Takayama where things would be quieter, I wanted a more restful place to stay and I spent the money to get it.
Few of us live without financial boundaries. Travel trade-offs are a given but also personal. As long as we think them through we win on our terms.
- On saving money for travel: How to Save Money for Travel: Top Tips to Save
- On saving money as you travel: Cheap Solo Travel: Your Guide to Money-Saving Advice
On Training for Travel
It wasn't until last week, when my brother commented that, as a child, I was always inside reading while my three siblings were outside being active, that it occurred to me.
There were two reasons my parents didn't think I would manage my first trip at 15:
- I would have to save 470 1973 dollars to go (the equivalent of $2,300 today) as they were not in a position to put that out for only one of four children.
- They didn't think that I could bike over 1,000 miles in a month on this tour to England and Wales. I was just not that active.
So they said yes, I could go, because they didn't really think I'd do it.
Well, I did. On both fronts. And, in addition to the cost of the trip, I saved $110 for a second-hand Peugeot bike to ride the tour's 1,000 miles (1,600 km) in 30 days.
Why do I raise this today? Because, once again, I'm planning active trips–two very active trips, in fact. Thanks to them, I'm in training!
- On training for travel: Physical Training for Travel: Preparing for Demanding Trips
- The biking trip I was in training for: Bike Ontario: Rail Trails Make it Easy
- The walking trip I was in training for: Travel Solo on a Self-Guided Walking Tour: Seeing France Slowly
On Traveling at Your Own Pace
My task for the evening was to inform and inspire others. At the end, it was I who was inspired.
Two weeks ago I spoke at the Toronto Reference Library. After the talk a woman, who looked to be in her 80's, approached me for a short chat. She seemed a bit frail but also strongly independent and energetic. She told me that in the spring she was setting out to walk the Camino for her 16th year in a row. She admitted that she doesn't walk as far as she once did. On this trip, she will take a taxi to her starting point each morning which will be within two kilometers of her finish for the day. A simple, but important, modification. One that makes the journey she loves possible. She was an inspiration!
Do you have an inspirational story to tell? A challenge you overcame? A trip that presented surprising personal growth? Please feel free to share your personal thoughts about solo travel. Perhaps we'll put together a post of inspiration for all to enjoy.
On My Second Home in the World
In the context of this great big world, Belfast is my second home and that's where I am right now.
My grandmother was from Belfast. She immigrated to Canada in 1924 as a domestic servant. Her Northern Irish brogue is deep within me and still pops out now and then with the occasional lilt in a phrase or a “that's grand.”
I've been traveling to Belfast since 1985. On most of those trips I visited relatives but on my last trip all those of my parents generation and before were gone. I spent more time just traveling and it was on this trip that I came to understand my grandmother better than ever before. You may enjoy reading Solo Travel and Identity: Learning the Source of Strength. For more practical information here's Solo Travel Northern Ireland: 32 Tips for a Fantastic Trip. And for those who enjoy a good coastal road trip: Of Gobbins and Giants: Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route