In a couple of days I will be leaving on a ten-day trip across the country trip that was originally planned just to visit a couple of my very special great-aunts who live in northern Minnesota (both in their 90s). Don will stay at home in Maine to care for our 12-year-old Australian Cattle Dog and the vegetable and flower gardens that are just getting established. Truth be told, Don has become less enamored with air travel over the years and increasingly balks at joining me unless the travel is to a unique or exotic location, especially one with endangered wildlife or landscapes. It also helps if the destinations are lightly populated. He is not keen on security lines, airport crowds, short/long layovers, flight delays/cancellations, and really just about anything related to air travel. To be fair, I don’t think anybody does. But I am willing to deal with those things if the end result is that I can see places I want to see, visit people who mean a lot to me, and experience new destinations. So while I always invite him to come along, I have come to realize that more and more I can expect to travel solo, as I will be on this trip.
On the plus side, Don is supportive of my solo travel as long as I keep the our budget in mind and the trips to a reasonable length. Since we first became a couple more than 35 years ago, I have always been the one to make the necessary reservations for our family vacations with the kids (campsites, ferry tickets, accommodations and attractions) and later the more involved travel arrangements as our son and daughter were accepted to universities 3,000 miles across the country. This made plane tickets mandatory if we wanted to attend parent’s weekends, bring them home (or visit them for holidays) and attend their graduations. And, as luck would have it, their college educations began just after 9/11 and the subsequent rapidly increased security measures. I learned a lot in the six years between the time our son started college and when our daughter graduated 6 years later. About that time we both retired from our jobs, and were ready and able to take on trips to more exotic locations. International airline travel introduced us to the world of passports, visas, currency exchange, and, of course, safety and security measures to help achieve a positive travel experience. We’ve had our share of missed connections, delays, being stranded overnight in an airport, and miscellaneous other inconveniences, but I have learned to roll with the punches. I feel confident in my ability to travel on my own when the opportunity presents itself. In just the past 10 years or so, I have traveled solo to visit my folks several when they were in assisted living, attended high school reunions in California, and flew west to help my son recuperate for a couple of weeks following shoulder surgery.
This upcoming trip has evolved from just a short 3-4 day sojourn to the upper midwest, to a week and a half journey to include a visit to Idaho to see my sister’s new home, a puddle jumper to Seattle, a light rail commute from Sea-Tac to King Street Station, a ride on Amtrak’s Empire builder to Chicago (with a four-day layover to visit the aunts) and finally catching a flight home out of O’Hare. I invited my sister and brother who both live in the Boise area to join me on the Boise/Seattle/aunt visit portion of the journey and was able to help them coordinate their reservations. I am looking forward to see my siblings and sharing this experience with them. Travel really can shrink the world and expand one’s horizons, even when it means you have to sometimes go solo.