Thinking about Life and Travel

an anniversary trip to Seattle

This morning, when I awoke at 5:00 a.m. in my apartment in Oaxaca, I wondered what Monsieur was doing. Likely, he was sleeping. After making an effort to go back to sleep, I turned to the comfort of the blog world. Blogging is like having friends everywhere in the world who are available at any hour in any time zone. As a solo traveller, connection is extremely important. A Skype or Face Time call reunites me with my loved ones. Yesterday, I talked with Maman, my daughter and my walking buddy.
I e-mailed Janet, my sometimes travel  partner and my longtime friend, a picture of my lunch. It's a joke!

Well, back to the story. Duchesse at Passage des Perles posted about solo travel. It seems that there are many women who are married to husbands who do not enjoy foreign travel. This can become more evident when we retire. Personally, I would like to travel as much as possible in my early sixties when I am relatively healthy and strong.  I have enjoyed tours, cruises and resorts but I am really
a person who likes to "pretend" that I live in a foreign country. I'm a dreamer and a romantic.

We slept in the back of this truck many times.
Monsieur and I spent the first 15 years of our relationship camping in the Pacific Northwest. I have stayed in many campgrounds from Washington State to Northern California. I have backpacked, slept in the back of the truck when ice formed on the windows, and slept in Oregon yurts during Winter Break. I always insisted on a hotel stay once in a while to clean up and/or dry out. Survival, solitude and "roughing it in the bush" are a recurring theme. Monsieur probably owned a "Davy Crocket hat" when he was a boy. His dreams are different from mine.

As years go by, it seems that we need to decide "what do I really want to do?" In a perfect world, we would have unlimited resources and a partner who enjoys most of the same activities as we do. I don't know those people personally but I am sure that they exist. Monsieur claims that "most couples envy our arrangement."
a wine-tasting and  golf  holiday with friends
Which brings me back to solo travel! If you choose to travel solo, there are lots of groups where you can meet other people of similar interests. I went to study French in the Auvergne 28 years ago and met one of my walking partners. We found that the level of instruction wasn't appropriate to our needs so we explored the countryside. I found Walks in Spain offered a modified version of the last part of the Camino at good prices. The group was mostly congenial 55+ aged people and the accommodation was excellent. Last year, my cousin and I joined HF Holidays for walks in Cornwall and Devon. The single supplement for this group was very low and the oldest member (92) was a veteran HF walker who literally went along for the ride. She came on the bus and drank tea while her friends walked. Some days, I just explored the villages by myself.
graduation at the Sorbonne
 If you are like me and you enjoy learning and teaching, you might enjoy studying French at Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne. The course is offered for different lengths of time and at different levels. One of my personal dreams was to study in Paris. My professor, who is retiring this year, was truly the best teacher that I have encountered. She had high expectations, was available to students for consultation and marked with such rigour that I felt extremely satisfied with my progress. For all the prestige and quality of instruction, the cost of the course is not high. If you take the longer course as I did, you will need a visa to remain in France longer than 90 days. If you are renting an apartment in Paris, don't book with any agency that demands an agency fee or payment in full before you see the apartment. There are many apartments in Paris and you will be paying a fair bit of money for a central location so you can afford to be choosy.

If you want to travel inexpensively, you can always teach (volunteer or be paid) if you speak English.
I have English as a Second Language training but as a pensioner, I work for free. Right now, I am in Oaxaca, Mexico volunteering in two places,The Oaxaca Learning Center and The Oaxaca Lending Library. I can't be too idealistic about volunteering because it pretty much is doing the same work as I have been doing for the last 30+ years for free. I went, armed with some materials that I had purchased and some books that I had borrowed, to meet my first student. She didn't show up! Later the coordinator emailed that she wanted to change her time. Students seem to be the same everywhere! Today, I am meeting a 13-year old who has failed all of his English exams.  What the Center is offering is free Learning Assistance to students who can't afford to pay. My duties at the library are shelving, duplicate checking and data entry. I think this is déjà vu.  I actually enjoy handling books and working with students one on one so volunteering is not a chore for me.

I just went back to re-read La Duchesse's post which really gave lots of practical ideas about groups for women travellers. There are many women who face the dilemma of a stay-at-home spouse. I feel more reassured as I've talked to Monsieur on Skype since I started this somewhat lengthy post. Seeing his face and the apartment and learning that he had spent all day yesterday practising and performing, made me feel better.  Now, if there only were a way to transmit a hug!

It's all about the bass.


  1. So Madame. I wonder if you have camped in one of the campgrounds of my home town in Northern California - Mackerricher? Van Damme? My husband and I share little in common other than the love of one another's company. I like to think others might envy us...just a little. I must educate myself on these walking tours you mention. While not yet retired, I can see it coming into view. What an enlightening post.

    1. We probably have camped in one of them because we have visited Mendocino and Fort Bragg a few times. We drove down the coast to San Diego just a couple of years ago but now we do stay in motels when we travel together. HF tours is great because it's a co-operative and they own a lot of their British accommodation. You can do a walking tour or a number of other themed getaways in their country homes.

  2. I thought of you as soon as I began reading Duchesse's post -- you're a great example of the ways a woman can continue to travel even if her partners has lost (or never had) interest in extended periods away from home.

    1. There are so many possibilities at lots of different price points. Most days, I don't spend $20 here in Oaxaca. The Learning Center apartment costs $800 for the month and that price reflects a generous donation to the Center. Your friend's sketching group sounds interesting. I have been investigating Ireland for 2016 and with one company, I could get a free tour if I put together a group. As a sociable introvert, I'm not sure that I would do that but for a woman with the organizational skills, it would be an opportunity. I have heard of a woman aged 90+ who organizes painting workshops in Washington State. Do you know of the Ontario company that does music and opera tours? I went to a Wine and Cheese that they had in Vancouver and some musical
      friends swear by them. I really believe in "front-loading" the retirement.

  3. My husband is a partner in a very busy firm and does not get much time off and I am retired so I have decided to join a woman' tour of Paris and travel south in France to visit friends. It is my first foray in this kind of holiday and have my fingers crossed that I will not miss my husband too much., we have never been apart for as long as my trip....Skype will help us connect as I see that you use it too.
    Front loading retirement seems wise as travel might not be possible when we are much older. Although a friend told me her mother went to Barcelona solo when she was 89!!!!

  4. If you set a time for Skype, it can be a really good way of staying connected. When I was in France for 5 months, my Dad was in the hospital but I spoke with him on the cell phone and with my mum every day. I hear about those wonderful people who travel forever and my parents went away in their van until their late seventies. We just can't predict the future. You will have a lovely time in France.

  5. That's a great article. I do practise spanish on skype at because I want to travel to Spain in a few month.


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