When I was a kid, my family belonged to a swim club in our town. I spent many summers there swimming with my friends.
At the deep end of the pool there were two diving boards. One was low to the ground; the other was very high. My friends and I never tried diving off the high board. Instead, we took turns jumping and comparing how big a splash we could make in the water.
It was the summer I turned 11 when I returned to the swim club with fear instead of excitement when I looked at the high dive. I could no longer even imagine jumping off it. My friends didn’t understand what had happened. I had never fallen off, and neither had they. But my panic was paralyzing. That summer they all jumped and jumped — but I never went off the high dive again.
The same thing happened to me regarding traveling alone. In my 20s I loved it. I traveled abroad for a semester in college. After graduation, I took a job that had me getting my passport stamped in so many countries that I needed to order extra pages. I loved being a world traveler and looked forward to my solo trips. At the airport store, I’d buy myself a Soap Opera Digest and a Toblerone chocolate bar — items I deemed too frivolous to purchase for everyday life — before I boarded my flight.
By the time I got married, I’d been all over Asia and Europe by myself. As a newlywed, I enjoyed travel less, and by the time I was pregnant with my first child, I was more than ready to trade in my worn-out suitcase for a shiny new baby carriage. Twenty-three years slipped by before I took another trip alone.
By the time I was pregnant with my first child, I was more than ready to trade in my worn-out suitcase for a shiny new baby carriage. Twenty-three years slipped by before I took another trip alone.
I had quit my job to raise my three kids. I traveled but only with my entire family. My husband and I never took a flight without the kids, and my few trips with girlfriends were just car rides away. So when a writer friend suggested I attend a conference out of state, I was intrigued but apprehensive. I remembered traveling all over by myself, but still I felt unsure. I hadn’t gotten on a plane alone in two decades. Like that day at the swim club, I wondered what had happened to me. How had traveling alone gone from something I relished to something I feared?
I had no reason not to go. My kids are older and can mostly take care of themselves. Anything they need, my husband is happy to provide. They wanted me to go, and I wanted to go. I needed to go. I needed to jump — or rather to fasten my seatbelt and fly.
Sometimes traveling isn’t about the destination so much as the journey. I can’t say I got as much professionally out of the conference as I had hoped, but what I learned was that I needed to let go of my fears.
My kids were not only fine on their own, they were happy to witness me following my passions. I did more for them by going away for two days than I would had I stayed home. The same is true for my husband. He was happy to support me in my career after years of me doing that for him. Even though I love saying goodnight to my husband, it was kind of nice to spend two nights with a king bed to myself , a rerun of Friends, and a copy of Soap Opera Digest (which I didn’t even know they still printed).
Traveling alone reminded me of the person I was a time ago, before I was a wife and mother. Getting reacquainted with that young woman was the best part of the trip.
And although I never jumped off the high diving board again, I’m already making plans for my next solo adventure.