Beautiful sunset on the waters of the North Sea - photo taken from my cabin on an overnight NFDS Seaways ferry cruise between Copenhagen and Oslo.
I remember this evening quite vividly from my late August tour of Scandinavia. It was mid-point of a two week tour and I had chosen, as usual, to travel alone but as part of a tour group. Usually this is the best of both worlds. During the day you're with other congenial people experiencing the different countries and cultures. And then at night you have private time to read and re-group which is essential for an introvert.
However, on this tour I began to wonder if I was getting too old to make these ambitious trips without a travel partner. I suppose I was just lonely and getting tired of each day figuring out how to gracefully join other couples for meals and conversation about what we were experiencing. And, I was feeling cut off from things back home because, for some reason, I couldn't sign on to e-mail, blogs, or facebook. I worried about how Willie was faring at the vet and if my elderly sister was okay. And then to cap it all, Hurricane Irene was moving along the east coast of the U.S. and I worried that the Dulles airport in D.C. might need to close and delay my flight home, stranding me in Norway. Without internet access couldn't figure out how to make alternate travel plans.
I remember thinking that my mood was as dark as the waters outside my cabin window and it was a sleepless night. But then, morning came. My fellow travelers invited me to join them for breakfast and to sit with them out on deck as we cruised up the narrows of the Oslo Fjord and disembarked from the ferry in Oslo without any problems. They loaned me their smart phones to check google news about Hurricane Irene. They even shared cold and cough medicines! My spirits lifted right away and I was eager for the last leg of the journey, the majestic mountains and waters of Norway.
Now, over a month since I returned home, I no longer think that I'm not capable of traveling alone any more. I'm thinking of eastern Europe and, especially, Russia. Maybe a river cruise where I won't have to be constantly packing and unpacking and figuring out how door keys and shower faucets work. And for sure, I'll have my own electronic toys instead of just an ancient cell phone. Alice Steinbach said it best in her book Without Reservations, The Travels of an Independent Woman: "I decided to take a chance and temporarily jump ship, so to speak, from the life I'd fashioned for myself." That's what solo travel is all about--getting out of your comfort zone and making some memories that will last a lifetime, even if it's not always the most comfortable thing to do.
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