Tip #2: Try baby steps at first. Start out by spending a few days alone in a familiar city before or after joining friends or family on vacation.
I have observed that anything that I did for or by myself while Lev was alive is easier to do as a widow. Moving from complete dependence to independence overnight–especially after decades of ingrained habits and customs–is extraordinarily difficult.
I traveled alone–or at least without Lev–from time to time throughout our marriage, and not just home to Texarkana for a visit with my parents or to Waco for a Baylor meeting or to Houston or San Antonio for a quick shopping trip. I made trips with friends, my mother-in-law and later with my daughter and daughter-in-law from time to time; and four times I joined groups for long-distance travel: A December trip to London with a group from Baylor in 1995; a week in Hong Kong with the Smithsonian Institution in the late 90s; a trip from Beijing to Shanghai, including a cruise on the Yangtze River and an extension to Tokyo, a few years later; and finally, in 2006, when I led a team to Sri Lanka to help build a Baptist Village for tsunami survivors. Lev and I had been to Asia together, and he hated the long flight. He was happy for me to go without him. As one friend’s husband says, “Any trip she takes without me is a trip I don’t have to take.”
Nevertheless, I was apprehensive about traveling after Lev died. As one remarkably perceptive friend said in sympathy, “I travel all the time alone, but I can call home every night and tell my husband about my day.” Those first months were far too overwhelming even to think about escaping, but my cousin offered a generous gift: I could come visit his family on the farm alone or with a friend. I could come whenever I wanted and stay as long as I wanted. I could stay in the main house with them or in the guest house. I chose to stay with them for about five days in September before going on to Colonial Williamsburg for a weekend of special events. It was a healing time.
The next spring I flew to Paris and stayed a few days at Lev and my favorite hotel before taking the train to join friends at The European Fine Arts Fair in Maastricht, the Netherlands. My daughter-in-law met me back in Paris afterwards.
That became the pattern of my travel as a widow. I didn’t venture much further until three years later, when I took two giant steps. In February 2013 I returned to the Baptist Village in Sri Lanka for two days with only a guide between organized tours to Southeast Asia and historic sites in Sri Lanka. That August, I spent four nights in Nantucket completely alone after a small-ship cruise of the Maine coast. I learned that solitude isn’t all bad, and I will continue to share what I’ve found that makes solo travel not only doable but enjoyable.
Do you travel alone for pleasure?
What are your secrets for success?
Is there a memorable experience you’d like to share?