When I tell people that I travel by myself, they seem shocked as if I have done something completely different or created a new invention.
“Really?” a cousin of mine recently exclaimed. “You traveled all the way from Germany to Scotland by yourself? I could never do that.”
I was puzzled. Of course she could do it if she wanted.
“Well,” I explained, “I just bought a bus ticket and sat down.” My cousin walked away, silently shaking her head.
I have come across quite a few head shakers. A few years ago, a friendly seatmate on the airplane was asking about my travel plans.
“I’m going on an archaeology dig in Ireland,” I told her.
“You are traveling alone!” She gave me look of astonishment.
“I am meeting up with the field school participants in County Mayo,” I clarified. Slowly, the woman shook her head, then nudged her friend next to her.
“Melba, this girl is traveling all by herself!” Melba peered around her friend to get a good look at me. I had the window seat, otherwise I would have jumped up and headed straight for the loo. I felt a bit like a bug under a microscope.
“But we’re landing in Dublin,” Melba pointed out to me. “How on earth are you going to get to County Mayo?”
“By train. You see, I am meeting a group of people in County Mayo.” I tried to explain that I wasn’t going to be alone the entire trip, but I was silenced by my seatmates. Melba and my neighbor gasped in unison, eyes round.
“Across the country by yourself! That’s quite an adventure young lady. You be careful!”
I suppose it was an adventure although I have found public transportation more boring than adventurous. As I had told my cousin, I buy a ticket and sit down. Sometimes I sleep. Sometimes I talk to other passengers. Sometimes I read a book. Adventure, to me, involves bungee jumping over the New River or flying a hot air balloon around the world – physical risk.
I get it. These people were worried because I was traveling on my own and I am female. I could understand their reactions if I told them I was hanging out in London’s SoHo by myself at midnight. Or if I were climbing the Alps completely alone.
I was not sure what to make of my airplane friends’ reactions. I wasn’t going to spend the entire summer as an ecclesiastical hermit. I was meeting a group of archaeologists for a month-long dig. However, I neglected to mention that I intended on spending a final week on my own in Dublin.
When the travel bug bit many years ago, I had originally planned to backpack across Europe with my roommate. Then my roommate got a boyfriend and our trip got put on the back burner. I was left with a desire to travel and lacked the proverbial ball and chain (actually, my boyfriend at the time was very supportive of my plans but also very poor). I planned to backpack around Ireland and found a hiking group to join. I enjoyed hiking the Emerald Isle and drinking the Guinness with the group but overall, I found that I prefer to travel on my own. There is more freedom. I meet more local people. The fact that I’m female – well – cannot be helped.