Traveling alone is not a new experience for me. I have ventured far out of my comfort zone by doing citizen science in Africa, Ecuador, St. Lucia and Mexico. In the next year I will travel to Australia and Indonesia to do a citizen science trip with Dr Andrea Marshall, Director of the Marine Megafauna Foundation. These trips have been incredible experiences of growth for me, as well as the addition of friends from all over the world who are as passionate as I am about conservation, particularly in the ocean.
Why do I travel alone? I seek experience and knowledge. Volunteering in Mozambique was eye opening in many ways. Could I travel all the way to Africa by myself? Yes. Could I perform the necessary tasks to do my volunteer job? After a shaky start, the answer became Yes. Could I witness the culture and learn from it? At times it was extremely difficult, but yes, I learned a lot about the people of Mozambique, and Ecuador, and Mexico. I learned, most importantly, that I was capable and could thrive, and survive, on my own. I also learned about my own culture, and looked for ways to make it better by contributing my experience and knowledge of the world, and encouraging others to step out as well. I know many women who are afraid to travel on their own, but it is very empowering.
I also travel alone because of my husband’s health. Two years ago, Randy had a double lung transplant, a sudden and inexplicable journey that was taken with the support of our family and friends. Randy is now doing well, but traveling can be problematic for a person who takes anti-rejection medications and immune system suppressants. We have taken trips together, but he has become ill on many of them, from flying, or being in crowds. My citizen science is usually ocean based, and involves scuba diving. Randy is not diving at the moment, and we are unsure if he will ever dive again. One thing is sure: he cannot travel unless he is reasonably close to a major medical center with a transplant team. The developing nations are not safe locations for him.
Lake Tahoe is becoming a favorite destination for Randy and I, and I had the opportunity to enjoy Lake Tahoe in the snow. Randy made the decision not to go because I would be staying, and playing, in a casino. Talk about a germ fest! I understood his reasoning, and went alone. I never mind being by myself in a casino, or staying in a hotel alone. However, I wanted to go boating to see Emerald Bay and I decided to go snowmobiling. I signed up for the tours.
It was as though I was invisible. When I caught people looking at me, I saw questions in their minds. Why was I alone? No one interacted with me except a couple staying at my hotel, and I am the one who initiated that conversation, which was short. I had the feeling people were afraid of what I might tell them because it would make them uncomfortable. Widowed? Divorced? Friendless? Believe me, they did not want to know my story, whatever it was. Couples interacted, families interacted, but they did not want to interact with me. I felt a little unnerved by the silence and the quick glances, and a little lonely as well. It surprised me that a midlife woman traveling alone should be almost shunned.
I enjoyed my trip, and loved the experiences I had. Lake Tahoe in the snow is a winter wonderland! However, I find myself curious as to why a midlife woman in these situations should find herself ignored. I wonder if men who travel alone also feel like they have on an invisibility cloak?
What do you think? Ever had this experience?