My niece Susan greeted me with, “A road trip! I’ve always wanted to go on a road trip. I’m proud of you, going on a road trip all alone.”
I never thought of my journey to Florida for three weeks as a road trip, but I suppose you could call it that. I left NC on a Sunday. Spent that night in Atlanta with my sister, Gay. On Monday I drove down to south Georgia, my original home, and had dinner with my last living brother, Max, my cousin, Ginger and a nephew and two sisters-in-law. We had such a good time. On Tuesday I drove further south and had a late lunch with Susan. She is a delight and someone I’d love to go on a “road trip” with if she could get off work long enough.
But my solo road trip ended there in Tallahassee. Sister-in-law, Sandy, flew up from St. Pete and drove me the rest of the way.
Had I been younger, taking a trip alone would not have made a blip on anyone’s radar screen. I met a wonderful young woman Janice Holly Booth who wrote a book on traveling solo, Only Pack What You Can Carry, at Wildacres Retreat a few years ago. I told her how much I admired her courage to travel to foreign countries alone. She told me it was not too late for me. We agreed that traveling without a companion created opportunities to meet other people and hear their tales – learn about their lives, and we could do exactly what we wanted to do without having to consider the wants and needs of anyone else. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? It is.
I do enjoy meeting new people. But on this trip, I concentrated on seeing loved ones I seldom get the opportunity to spend time with. Besides eating several meals of delicious seafood, I soaked up the silence of the complex where I stayed. Mostly folks over 55 live there, and the walls between the units must be totally sound proof. I never heard a sound on either side of me.
For the first two weeks I wallowed in the luxury of solitude, silence and rest. 2012 had been a tough year for me in many ways, and I relished the chance to leave my normal life behind and for three weeks become someone else. I didn’t worry, didn’t feel any anxiety, shut out feelings of sadness and concentrated on myself. I slept more than usual. I read more. I thought more. I walked more and in a short time I felt better than I had in a long time. I began using Jane Fonda’s new fitness program and was happy to finally find something I can do without having to see the chiropractor the next day.
I did not have Internet at the condo where I lived, so I found two nice places nearby that offered Wi-Fi. Often it grew dark outside while I answered my email at Starbucks or Panera Bread. In the past I was always the person who imagined danger around every corner, but I left those restaurants, unlocked my car in the parking lot and drove home after dark many times feeling calm and happy. And I enjoyed that feeling.
I enjoyed the feeling that I was no longer a prisoner of fear.
It reminded me of how I thought I had finally grown up when I lived through the death of my mother. From the time I was a child, my worst fear was losing my mother. But I had not become fully grown up. Losing my husband, learning to live alone for the first time ever, making all major decisions alone – I have done that now. Am I now a completely grown, adult, independent person? I think so. But there may be more tests I have to endure to assure I have reached that pinnacle I set for myself. Taking a road trip alone is one more step toward that self-sufficiency I seek. Now I can mark it off my list.