INTERVIEW: One isn't the loneliest number
Solo Travel: Interview with Linda DelMonte
Linda has visited fifty countries and forty-six of the fifty states. As she approaches her seventieth birthday, the lifelong bachelorette continues to set travel goals.
“Before I’m through, I hope to reach seventy-five countries and all fifty states,” she said over a glass of red at a local watering hole.
Linda added she will probably be reaching those goals as a solo traveler.
“It seems when you reach my age, it gets increasingly difficult to find someone to travel with. Lifestyles and routines of retirement and family have settled in. Many people just aren’t available to take off for weeks, especially if travel hasn’t been part of their routine in the first place.”
It is true that Linda does not fall into the category of widowhood as a reason for solo travel. In fact for most of the fifty years she’s traveled, she’s had companions.
“I’ve traveled solo as well, and I can’t really say I have a preference for one kind over the other.”
She acknowledges that with increasing age compatibility, flexibility and adaptability can impact camaraderie on a long trip.
“We get set in our ways, our diets become restricted, and we tend to become less adventurous when it comes to food,” Linda has observed first hand in some of her recent travels. Vegan, gluten-free and other dietary restrictions or dislikes can make finding a restaurant for an evening meal as challenging as, say, the search for the Holy Grail.
All this is by way of offering some food for thought as it were, for the newly widowed traveler, especially those in the upper middle age category, such as myself. It might be better to consider solo travel initially, instead of believing you must have a companion simply because you always had one before. My two-week experiment traveling alone after Carolyn passed came as a satisfying surprise to me. The self-centeredness and self-indulgence of my travel decisions were as enjoyable in their own selfishness, as when I’d shared experiences with Carolyn as my companion. I traveled in a way Carolyn and I would never have together, and so there were few experiences I came upon to remind me of what I was missing. (Those experiences that did remind me were painful enough. Tearing up in a fully occupied railcar or a crowded café required some hasty cover ups. That did not dampen my first experience as a solo traveler, as much as it would have being with someone who insisted on finding a French restaurant that served lactose-free cheese.)
The noted writer Paul Theroux understands why it’s important for him to travel alone: On most trips I kept rolling until I found a place I liked, and when I got a certain feeling I came to a stop. This was another reason I traveled alone, because it was rare for two people to see the same qualities in a place (“Why do you want to stop here? I thought we were supposed to keep going”). [The Pillars of Hercules]
By day three on my first solo trip, I’d become a Theroux acolyte: Most of the time, traveling, I had no idea where I was going. I was not even quite sure why. I was no historian. I was not a geographer. I hated politics. What I liked most was having space and time; getting up in the morning and setting off for a destination which, at any moment—if something better compelled my attention—I could abandon. I had no theme. I did not want one. [Pillars]
But if you as newly widowed feel strongly that solo travel is not for you, then seek out someone like one of Linda’s friends who says: “I keep my mouth shut and people take me everywhere.”
Linda is a retired Critical Care Nurse with a passion for travel.