I’m here in Arizona, travelling alone, fulfilling my lifelong dream of seeing the Arizona desert. I’ve always wanted to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural legacies, the Grand Canyon, Sedona and a thousand other wonders in this amazing part of our world. Along the way I meet other women, young and old, who look at me with admiration and great respect.
They say: “I could never do that.” “You’re so courageous.” “I’d be too lonely.” “I so admire you.” “I wish I could be like you, but I’d be too scared.“
I’m glad I look brave. It’s often not the way I feel. Inside, I’m often quivering, not sure I’ve made the right choice and scared that I won’t remember the route I’m to take to such-and-such. Two heads with two sets of eyes would be so comforting. It’s hard to travel alone, especially at the end of the day. But the alternative is even less attractive. Staying home and missing out on checking off items on my bucket list? That’s even less appealing.
You might be saying to yourself as you read this, she could go on a tour or join a group travelling to areas she wants to see. The problem is: I like to go where I want to go and I avoid having to conform to someone else’s agenda. Aloneness is the price I pay.
I look for ways to feel less alone. For example, in the Phoenix area the restaurant across the street from my hotel served as my dining room. Dinnertime featured live music. I tried to get the high backed booth facing the elderly white-haired guitarist. He was perched on a stool, strumming to the tunes coming from a big black box. At the end of a long silver barrel the microphone picked up the songs he was singing. They were all tunes from my youth – and his.
An older couple approached the singer with a request. The man was tall and very serious about what was about to unfold. The singer considered their request, fiddled with his black box and began to strum. “The House of the Rising Sun” filled the restaurant. The tall serious man led his wife onto the floor. She too was unsmiling, concentrating on their performance. He lifted her hand in his to dance. They never smiled. They were too concentrated to even look at one another. I got the feeling they’d learned these steps and arm movements a long time ago. Being alone allows for lots of fantasy. I imagined them fifty years as young sweethearts winning a dance contest with these same twirls and spins.
That’s the most comfortable restaurant I’ve found for solo dinners. My son Frank had a good suggestion: sit at the bar. That’s what men do. That way you at least get to talk with the bartender.
In my next hotel, in Sedona, eating alone was no problem. To my surprise, there wasn’t even a restaurant near the hotel. Instead I found myself in an apartment bigger than my Kingston home. Turns out it’s a time-share business. In my next piece I’ll tell you how I got a free trip to the Grand Canyon.