Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Someone recently posted to me that she thought I hated England… if so, why did I continue to go back?

As I mentioned in my My First Experience in England blog post, things hadn’t gotten off to a great start.  Nor did they get any better, particularly, over the next three years.

The first year we were there, my husband worked while I stayed at home, alone.  I knew no one, and the folks in Harrogate weren’t particularly outgoing.  I knew the young family next door and that was about it!  Then, there was the Faulklands War (which the English thought we should have joined in on).  When we didn’t, we got the cold shoulder (to put it mildly).  About the same time, Cruise missiles were being sent to UK bases.  The protests began.

The only things that saved my sanity back then were the ability to sightsee, my dog (Sheba), knitting, and taking university classes.  By the time our three years were up, I remember my plane taking off for the last time and thinking, “I never have to see that godforsaken country ever again!!!”

Famous last words!

Over the next few years, something happened.  I began to notice I missed the culture and the history… the tradition and the dialect.  I made plans for us to take a trip back over the pond. 

It was fun, but it was also difficult with my (now) ex video taping every single move we made!  There *were* fun times, though, and I continued to muse about my penchant for England.

And then I divorced.  One of the very first things I did was to go to England.  I went with a friend back then, and had a blast.  That feeling of how fun the trip I’d had was carried over to the next trip.  And the next.  And the next.  Each trip adding on the last.  My knowledge of dialects, places, history, literature, art, hiking, and sightseeing constantly growing with each trip. 

I had become an anglophile!  God, how I hated that.  Anglophile sounds like some sort of English groupie.  It’s not that.  It’s a deep seated love for the land and the history that made it what it is and where it’s going. 

And then someone said…

“Why don’t you teach a class on it?”

And I said, “me???”

Hmmm…  well, it is my passion.  I guess I could!  So, I began teaching travel classes to the UK and enjoying the heck out of them.

And, of course, I continued my travels. 

Well, it IS my passion.  :)

To Solo or Not to Solo... That is the Question!

The year was 2003.  I had been working at a Fortune 500 computer manufacturing company for two years, and in those two years, I had seen the most miserable management model and most depressing corporate culture ever invented for the torture of modern woman. 

I had gone to the ER for (what was later determined as) an anxiety attack.  Each day shuffled a mountain of stress down my throat.  It was inhumane.  So, it was no wonder that I when I handed in my resignation, I just wanted to get away from everyone and EVERYTHING. 

I’d traveled numerous times to England, but never alone… but if I wanted to get away from it all, this was just about the furthest I could get.  So, with passport in hand, and no new job on the horizon, I booked a trip by myself.

Now, I do have some friends over there (so I wasn’t going to be alone all the time), but I was dead set that I was not going to mope around.  I was going to see what traveling solo was like and it was going to be fun, by God!

That trip was epic.  I saw Warwick castle that year.  Traveled to my beloved Yorkshire.  And, saw London.  But, what I hadn’t counted upon is that solo people traveling in foreign countries who look like they’re having fun are a magnet for even more fun!  I’ve since traveled solo almost every year – enjoying each adventure as much as the last.

You meet more people traveling solo than you would if you had a travel partner.  If you’re outgoing and upbeat, you make new friends instantly! People appear out of the woodwork to chat or have a glass of wine.  People find out you’re from America and they want to talk about their trip to America or to ask what your part of America is like.  You become an Ambassador of sorts! 

Traveling solo means you don’t have to go to dusty museums if you don’t want to… you can go for a hike up a distant mountain or sit quietly by a placid lake in the Lake District.  Your itinerary is your own!
I’m a morning person, and there are very few travel partners who could keep up with that early to bed/early to rise philosophy on vacation.  I enjoy wandering empty streets.  Smelling warm bread baking for the day, watching market stalls being set up, and catching a sunrise over a churchyard. 

I don’t sleep well, so if I want to get up in the middle of the night, I’m not bothering anyone.  I just turn on a light, open a window, write in my journal, or read.  It’s up to me… I’m doing everything I want to do!  Who often gets a chance to do that?

There are pluses and minuses to being in a relationship.  I count this as one of the blessings.  To paraphrase Richard Bach, I’m not tying myself to the limits of someone else’s airplane!

I do make exceptions to traveling solo on rare occasion.  Last year, I didn’t know a country I was traveling to, so I spent a week on a guided tour to familiarize myself with the area.  I don’t typically recommend guided tours, but they are good for the more timid tourist, the elderly tourist who doesn’t want to mess with baggage handling for the duration of the trip, and for familiarizing yourself with unfamiliar places so you can tour unhindered the next time and have a general idea of the lay of the land.

Next year, I’m traveling with someone who I know will be exceptionally fun as a travel companion.  If you do choose a travel partner, there are some things you should ask yourself:
  •  Are we personally compatible or will they be a downer? Last year, a friend of mine met a lady from her travel meetup group who wanted to go with her to England.  The friend found herself tied to a dismal rock for two weeks!  Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your potential travel partner before saying yes to traveling with them.
  • Are their habits in tune with mine?  Do they smoke? Drink? Keep unusual hours?  I definitely need a morning person who doesn’t smoke or drink overly much.
  • What sorts of things do they want to do?  Are they the same things I want to do?  My travel partner suggested a “King Arthur” themed tour, and I hadn’t considered that before.  We’re going to be doing it!
  • Are they independent travelers or dependent travelers?  I love showing people places and things they may never have known existed.  I also know I need my personal space.  So, a travel partner who understands I need some “me” time now and then works well!
So, if someone wants to know my opinion about traveling solo vs. taking a travel partner, I have to say there are pluses and minuses to both.  I’ll probably continue to travel solo on those years a fun partner doesn’t land in my lap, but if one does… rest assured, we’ll be painting every town red!