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The Lady is a Tramp(er): An Interview with Yours Truly

June 25, 2010

It’s Friday. I started blogging about my wanderlust roughly two weeks ago and it dawned on me that I hadn’t yet talked about my journey towards becoming a solo traveler. So here’s a little more about me, interview-style.

Single Occupancy: Why’d you start traveling solo?

Marsha: One of the very first things I did after graduating from college was set up an account at I was dying to get to Europe, France in particular. The only thing stopping me was I didn’t have anyone to travel with. Well, I waited and waited for years for a travel companion and no one ever materialized. Finally, I just decided that it was useless for me to wait: better to travel alone than not at all. When an opportunity to go on a backpacking trip in California arose, I decided to go for it. I haven’t looked back since.

SO: Where have you traveled solo so far?

M: Since that initial trip to California about two years ago, I’ve spent some time on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, in Vermont, and Montreal, Canada, plus a cross-country trip driving between New Jersey and Washington state. I have yet to travel alone internationally–the Virgin Islands and Canada don’t really count in my book–but I hope to soon.

SO: What’s the typical response you get from people when you tell them you’re traveling alone?

M: It depends on who I’m talking to. Younger people generally think it’s cool but older folks, particularly women, generally ask me if traveling alone is scary. I usually tell them no but the truth is yes, it can be a scary thing to travel alone.

SO: What’s scary about it?

M: Well, you’re putting yourself in a situation where you’re unfamiliar with the culture and the environment and you’re expected to navigate that world using limited knowledge and personal resources. But there are other strengths you can draw on as well. You become more observant and more creative in ways you probably wouldn’t if you stayed in your comfort zone all the time. I think traveling solo has made me a stronger, bolder, braver person.

SO: What’s one of the best things about traveling solo?

M: There’s an unbridled freedom you feel when you put yourself out there in the world like that. Your schedule is your own. There’s no need to compromise your desires. You do what you want, see what you want, go where you want.

SO: Any downsides to solo travel?

M: When you have those moments of discovery—say, perhaps, you’ve just witnessed a breathtaking sunrise or sunset, or eaten an amazing meal, or just came across something really intriguing, not having anyone to share those moments with can be a bummer. I’m really handy with my camera, though—I’m big on using photos and video to try to capture those moments so they can be shared later.

SO: Speaking of cameras, what’s your technique for getting photos of yourself on solo jaunts?

M: I’ve become quite masterful at the obligatory arms-length self-portrait. Honestly, I love photography and I try to be really aware of people around me when I’m traveling. If I see a couple who might want to have their photo taken together, I usually offer to do the honors and for the most part, they’re willing to return the favor. I also highly recommend the flexible tripods like the Joby Gorillapod or the Targus Grypton. Very, very handy.

At The Window, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

SO: Any favorite shots you want to share?

M: I’m constantly taking photographs but one of my all-time favorites is a self-timed shot of myself at The Window in Badlands National Park on my cross-country trip last year. The image encapsulated the freedom I experienced on the trip as well as the wide-openness of the American landscape. I’m constantly encouraging everyone I know to take a cross-country trip at least once. It makes you realize that there’s so much to see in the world and that life’s way too short to wait to enjoy it.

SO: Any long-term plans?

M: Although the lure of Europe initially motivated me to start traveling by myself, I find myself drawn to all sorts of different places and landscapes. There are a few places on my radar right now: I’d been aching to get to Peru and to Macchu Picchu or Choquequirao but in the last year or so, Newfoundland and Labrador as well as New Zealand have really come into focus for me. I don’t really have a timetable to get to these locations. I just try to stay as open as possible to whatever airfare deals come my way. At the end of the day, I don’t really care where I go, as long as I go.

SO: What tips do you have for someone who’s considering traveling alone but has reservations?

M: Don’t just have reservations. Make reservations! Don’t think so much—just do it. Taking that first step is a lot like bungee jumping. Once you’ve stepped off that bridge, there’s no turning around. If you’ve got the resources to go solo, what are you waiting for? My best advice is to give a copy of your entire itinerary to trusted friends or family members. Hotels, flight numbers, confirmation numbers and telephone contact information for your airline and every place you’ll be staying. Everything.  It gives the people who care about you some peace of mind and gives you a little freedom to explore a bit off the path. And pack light.

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