I once had a yoga teacher who travelled a lot – and always alone. She wouldn’t travel any other way. Why? Alone she met such interesting people. If she’d been with a friend or part of a group, these friendships would never have happened.
As I write this, I’m on a ten-day guided tour of Italy ALONE. Did I choose my single travel status? Certainly not. It’s just that I had nobody to go with. I had a choice. Go alone or stay home. I chose to go. And so I joined the Story Land and Sea small group tour of five major Italian cities. Maybe, I told myself, there would be another compatible single man or woman.
My plane from Toronto landed at Venice’s island airport. True to their word, the Story Land and Sea representative was there to meet me. This was definitely a reassuring sign. Landing without a travel companion was, for me, a daunting experience. If no one had met me, I’d have been really shaken.
All of us passengers walked out onto long wharves and piled into low motorized launches, the sort you saw in cottage country a century ago. The airport is on an island. We were en route to the city of Venice which I learned is made up of 100 islands. Nearer land, the motor launch slowed and we made our way through a network of canals. Surprisingly, our boat docked at a wharf that turned out to be the water entrance to our hotel. Climbing up out of the low boat, we stood on the dock while our legs steadied and we could push open the glass doors leading to the dark panelled hallway where the desk clerk welcomed us.
The hotel turned out to be gracious in an old-world sort of way. My room was hugely spacious and elegant. All of Venice’s old hotels, it turns out, were originally mansions belonging to private families.
After a struggle to open my ornate white door, figure out the light switches and borrow some international electric plugs for my computer, my phone and my electric toothbrush I begin to feel slightly more competent about managing the complexities of this historic world.
At last, it was time to meet the rest of the group. About a dozen of us gathered in a sitting room where the leader greeted us and laid out the programme for the coming week and a half. Then it was time for introductions. Guess what?! Everybody was with a partner: 5 married couples and two women who were twin sisters. My heart sank.
As I write this, we’ve been together for a week and I have to say my fellow travellers are wonderfully thoughtful about including me and making sure I’m in the right place at the right time. I no longer feel stressed by my single state. They are particularly aware of my safety since I’m much older than my fellow travellers. After a struggle to open my ornate white door, find the light switches and borrow some international electric plugs for my computer, my phone and my electric toothbrush I begin to feel more competent about managing the complexities of another world.
Right now I’m feeling surrounded by caring people. I have all the companionship I need to feel happy and safe. In fact, I seem to have the best of both worlds: caring, thoughtful people for shared activities with the freedom to do as I wish for a good part of each day.
Would I do it again? You’d have to ask me next year or whenever I get the urge to travel again. Besides the fear of loneliness, it’s stressful not having a second set of eyes and another mind to make decisions as you travel. I’m not sure what I’ll decide.
Here’s a rhyming toast my much younger fellow travellers made to me at dinner:
Here’s to Mary, fearless and bright
From the climes of Canada she suffers no fright.
May we all be so bold as to follow her lead
And never let time inhibit our speed.