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Travelling Solo as a Female

24 May
altea

Altea, Spain

Travelling alone as a woman is something I take for granted. And moving solo from the Central Coast of California to the small Mediterranean town of Altea Spain was not something I considered that challenging, other than the practical logistics. Therefore, I have been surprised when I have received many comments telling me how “brave” I am.

Adventurous with wanderlust, yes, but brave?

 

I have travelled to almost 40 countries worldwide, many times solo and also with my three sons while they were children. When reflecting on those travels, I tell myself I must have been crazy to take one or all three young boys by myself to places such as Kenya, Australia, Italy, France,Turkey, Belize, Jamaica, Mexico, etc.

 

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Family swimming at Palapa Bar, Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Palapa Bar: Ambergris Caye, Belize

As I prepared to move to Spain, I chose to sell my large home, luxury car, and virtually everything I own, except a few kitchen items, but most importantly, family photos and videos. I was overwhelmed with the many photos and videos, which were too numerous to transport. I decided to have them scanned but because there were so many I had to choose which ones to take. I experienced unexpected happiness while reviewing our family travels. Travelling with children can obviously distract one from paying attention to environmental cues, but I guess I was lucky.

 

As a retired forensic psychologist who evaluated and testified on violent and sexual offenders, I am by no means cavalier when it comes to personal safety, particularly as a single woman. Here in Altea, I am often out late at night, as are many other females. Whether female or male, it is important to first know the safety of the area where you are. Certain cities are well-known for pick pockets, assaults, etc., and certainly researching the crime and safety of your destination should be an important part of travel planning. And go with your gut. If you suddenly feel an uneasy or fearful feeling, react accordingly. Do whatever will restore your sense of being safe by doing such things as getting to a safe public place, or hailing a cab rather than walking.

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Palais Garnier: Paris Opera House

 

Some advocate finding a travel partner if one is a female travelling solo, but I would rather travel alone than risk having a toxic travel partner. That is exactly what happened to me when I took a rare cruise which started in Rome and then went to the Aeolian Islands. LuLu, who I had met on a Greek Islands cruise, was interested in going on the Italian cruise. The tour started in Rome. During a private tour (her demand) of the Coliseum, she repeatedly interrupted the tour guide, telling her to move on. Both the tour guide and I were shocked at her rude behavior. The tour guide said she had never seen anyone that rude. Not one for conflict, I disengaged myself from LuLu as much as possible the rest of the trip, which was difficult as she was my roommate.

 

Travelling alone enables me to more easily meet people, something I increasingly relish. Coming full circle, today I am waiting for the arrival of my 20 year-old son to my home in Spain. He will spend the summer with me. I hope we can travel to some of Spain’s many historic and beautiful sites, that is, if I can pull him away from the young ladies.

 

 

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KENYAN CONNECTION

4 Aug
Mother and baby elephant in Tsavo

Mother and baby elephant in Tsavo

Almost everyone who has been to Africa describes it as among his or her favorite travel destinations. I am no different. When as a single mother, I took my 11 year-old son by myself to Kenya, some wondered about that decision, especially as it was shortly after the 1998 Kenyan bombings.

After a couple of unmemorable days in Nairobi (perhaps I shouldn’t elaborate), we headed toward the Tsavo National Park, one of the largest and oldest game reserves in Kenya. Because it was only the two of us, our driver, whose name we later learned was Muguro, picked us up in a smaller van rather than the usual larger Landcruiser. As we headed down what they call a “major road” or highway, we were wide-eyed with clenched fists as he navigated the road’s huge craters. Littered along the road were many overturned trucks and other vehicles sacrificed by the perilous road, but we relaxed as Muguro deftly maneuvered the van.

The flight fiascoes we faced en route to Nairobi won’t be revisited here, but suffice it to say we missed our original flight, arriving late sans luggage.  While staying in Nairobi and waiting for our luggage to arrive, we purchased one spare set of clothes each and the most basic toiletries. The suitcases had not arrived by the time we left for the safari.  As we travelled the potholed road, it quickly became evident our luggage would never make it to the safari site. That actually turned out to be a freeing experience-in the morning, we hung our dirty clothing outside our hotel room door to be washed by the staff, and donned our clean apparel-no decisions to be made about clothing or other grooming.

While driving toward Tsavo, Muguro pointed out wildlife in the hills or on the distant horizon.  Asking how he spotted them, he said you look for movement or a change in color. That lesson has helped me be far more vigilant in spotting wildlife, whether in Africa, home or other places.

Muguro was a quiet, dignified man, speaking only those things that needed to be said.  As he took us on our dawn and dusk safari rides with the backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, we gradually got to know him a little better. Besides his excellent skills at sighting wildlife on land, he was keen at identifying the many different birds.  He also explained there were about 40 tribes in Kenya, each which had its own language, with most Kenyans speaking English and Swahili.  He taught us some Swahili; my favorite word was “twiga” which fittingly means giraffe. Muguro related there were good relationships between the tribes and various minorities at that time.

We asked what area he was from, and he told us the Mt. Kenya area. Knowing the Mt. Kenya Safari Club was a popular big game safari and celebrity destination, I asked if he led big game safaris. When he affirmed he had, I asked if he had any interesting memories. By this time, we had been with him for five days, so he was somewhat less reserved, and related that he used to take William Holden on safari. Though not particularly impressed by celebrities, I asked him how those ventures went. He replied that Mr. Holden had sat around and in the tent all day drinking.

We loved our twice daily drives with Muguro, his beautiful countenance and incredible skills at spotting and tracking animals. We learned he was a loving father and husband. It was with sadness that we said our good-byes when he returned us to Nairobi. When we were at the Nairobi airport, as we were ready to depart, my son spotted Muguro and ran to give him a hug; Muguro smiled and hugged him in return.

Last letter from Muguro

Last letter from Muguro

We had already exchanged addresses, and kept in touch, receiving a last letter from him in 2003. Sadly, the next letter I sent came back as undeliverable, and I have never been able to contact him again. Near my home, I recently spotted a camouflaged fox traversing the landscape-a fond reminder our special time with Muguro.