Category: Solo travel

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed

As I was listening to the news from Paris today, they mentioned that, for safety’s sake, they had long ago replaced their metal trash receptacles with plastic bag holders.

This is a photo taken in Paris several years ago. At the time, I was just taking a photo of textures, patterns, and shadows. Today, however, it seems especially appropriate.

Paris, 1989

For more interpretations of this theme, click here.

Notes from Economy Class

Passengers Onboard Plane

(Another recycling effort from an earlier blog. I still like it and hope you do, too.)

I usually don’t travel that much on business any more, but today I find myself sitting in an airplane in Economy Class and on my way to a conference.

I booked my “Economy” ticket two months ago at what passes for an inexpensive fare in this era of exorbitant fares and no perks. Because I booked early, I got to select my seat and be assigned to “Boarding Group I” status. I’m optimistic.

Although I suffer from just enough claustrophobia that I need to sit on the aisle, I selected seats on where I could sit by the window. I do this to keep from being constantly bumped with the food and beverage cart or by all my fellow passengers heading for the restroom the second that the Captain turns off the Seat Belt sign.

I arrived at the airport two hours early and went through the humiliating security check. “Prove to me that you’re not a terrorist,” the security officers seem to taunt. Shoeless, sweater off, I stood in the tube that is the full body scanner with my arms over my head and wondered why they just don’t throw in a mammogram while I’m there since I’m already half undressed and totally uncomfortable.

There is barely a vacant seat in the waiting area. There are fussy babies being given sugary drinks by their parents. There are too many vacationers, a troubling sign, since they do not know how to travel efficiently and (most importantly) quietly. I spot two couples traveling together: Brenda and Fritz, and Bethany and Todd. They are filled with new-traveler giddiness. Everything is funny. They are especially witty, they think. This will be their Best Vacation Ever. I fear that we will be sharing a row of seats or that one of the women will spend the flight facing backwards and kneeling in her seat so that she can carry on the conversation with her friends seated behind her.

They announce that we are about to board the plane. Being in Boarding Group 1, I gather my things, double-check that I have my boarding pass, and stand near the podium.

First they call for people traveling with disabilities to go first. I can understand that.

Next to board are members of the military traveling in uniform. Who can argue with that?

Then they call for persons traveling with small children. I know how long it can take to get a young child to move briskly in a straight line, so I’m all for them going ahead of me.

Next up is the First Class, Business Class, the Platinum Class of frequent fliers, followed by the Gold Class, and finally the Bronze Class. By my count, Boarding Group One is actually the ninth in line to board the plane.

By the time I step inside, there is no storage left in the overhead bins, and those poor losers in Boarding Group Two haven’t lumbered down the Jetway yet.

I find my way to seat 25A and, sure enough, Brenda and her husband Fritz soon arrive to occupy seats 25B and C. Bethany and her husband Todd are directly across the aisle, so they can chat. Oh, swell.

As soon as we’re in the air, they set out a picnic lunch: sandwiches, pretzels and potato chips, cups of pineapple chunks, bottles of water and iced tea. I check my ticket and discover that there are no meals or snacks on this flight. I assume that I can go 2 1/2 hours without food or drink. I do it every day.

My knees are already up against the seat in front of me when the seat’s occupant reclines his seat as far as it will go. I return the favor by pressing my knees into the back of his seat at where I estimate his kidneys should be. It’s childish of me, but it distracts me from Brenda and Fritz and Bethany and Todd, who are now trying to play gin rummy.

I check my watch. Only two hours and fifteen minutes to go. All this luxury for only $500.00.

Go figure.


Why I travel alone now: Provence

Marche des Capucins

I was having dinner with four people I met shortly after I moved to a new town. The conversation turned to travel and I mentioned a great trip to France that I took with two other friends a few years earlier. We rented a farmhouse and a car and spent a week château hopping in the Loire Valley. Our evening entertainment was to drive into a village, find a small hotel, and spend the next three hours in their dining room enjoying a 5- or 6- or 7- course meal for maybe $20. Easily the best trip ever.

“We should do that,” one them said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Provence.”

We rented a beautiful home and a car large enough for the five of us: Tom and Phyllis, their neighbor Maggie, and Carolyn, who we would later discover to be a sociopath. Game on.

Carolyn would never commit to getting her airline tickets, so I called her from the travel agency and offered to get her tickets while I was there as long as she reimbursed me for them as soon as possible. (I needed the money.)

Before I got into travel mode, I paid my bills a little early, nearly draining my checking account in the process. I was counting on Carolyn’s check for the tickets to replenish my account.

The day of our flight, I took my dog to the kennel and on the way back home, the travel agent called me to say that Carolyn, who had never picked up her tickets, just called to say that she had an ear infection and couldn’t fly.

And so it began: the worst vacation ever.


Business traveler

This is another previous post from an earlier blog. A favorite of mine that I wrote at two airports on my way home during a very long day of travel.

Forty years. Half a lifetime.

Forty years looking for,  going to, work.

Employed on Thursday; fired on Friday. Not because you are bad at what you do. Just because.

Because you make too much money now. Because you didn’t want to truncate your life and move your family to the other side of the country. Because the new owners want to cut expenses to the bone so they can find new owners in a year, or two. Everyone is expendable. None of it really matters.

Forty years. Fifteen jobs.

For your father, it was thirty years with the same company. Then retirement. A pension.

For you, it’s Monday mornings in the airport, waiting for the first flight to Dallas, or Chicago, or wherever it is this week. Through security, shoes off, liquids and gels in a zip-lock bag. You wheel your bag towards a good seat in the waiting area, one on the end and not in the path of traffic. Not back-to-back with another row of seats because they always move whenever someone sits down. A good seat, out of the sunlight, close to an electrical outlet for your laptop.

Priorities change when you are a business traveler. You leave behind the family you love and now try to avoid families who dare to travel for pleasure on your flight. You avoid them at check-in, avoid their eight bags of matched luggage, avoid their children. You especially avoid them at the security check-in because things will not go smoothly for them.

You love your children but not children who travel, except children who travel alone. Those children are perfect travel companions. They are pros, just like you. No whining or fidgeting. No running up and down the aisles. No kicking the back of your seat. Those children are compatriots, younger business travelers on their way to see the non-custodial parent, or their grandparents. You like children who travel alone. Many years ago you learned that you can pull the tray table closer to you by watching a child traveling alone. (more…)

Why I travel alone


(Note: I’ll admit it. This is a post from a previous blog I had. I decided it needed to be re-published, as it’s a favorite of mine. And so true.)

It’s hard to find anyone in the office lately. No sooner does one person come back from vacation than another one is heading off on his or her vacation. I’ve had other single women invite me to travel with them on tours or cruises, but I always decline.

It’s not that I’m anti-social, it’s just that I’ve learned my lesson. Sadly, I’m not a fast learner, so I’ve taken enough bad vacations that I could write a book.

(Hey! Wait a minute! i have an idea for a book!)

I have three favorite kinds of vacations:

  1. I say at home and visit local shops and museums.
  2. I visit friends for no more than 3 nights, usually 2.
  3. I pick a place I’d like to visit and travel alone or with my faithful dog.

Solo travel is my preferred way to vacation. I’ve traveled with people before and had an absolutely terrible time. Sadly, I’m a slow learner so I’ve had too many terrible vacations. Even sadder, all these stories are true.

1. Hold the Ice

I and a (former) friend and our two dogs are on vacation right after Christmas. We check into a pet-friendly hotel and she immediately fills the ice bucket with water and sets it down on the floor for her dog to use as a water bowl.

I’m horrified. “What in the world are you doing?” I asked.

“Oh, they just throw these out when they clean the rooms,” she said.

“No, they don’t! Why do you think they leave a little plastic bag to use as a liner? Gawd! I’ll never use an ice bucket again.”

“Oh, chill out.”

2. Upon Seeing One of the Seven Wonders of the World

“I didn’t care for the Grand Canyon.”

3. As We are Seated at a Lovely Paris Restaurant for a Pre-Paid 5-Course Dinner:

“I don’t know what any of these items on the menu are. Would you like to share a salad?”

4. After Being Dragged All Over Austin, Texas to See Old Missions I’d Never Heard Of:

Me: “These were all very interesting. I hope we’re going to see the Alamo, too.

He: “Oh, no. That one is too touristy.”

Me: But we’re tourists and I’d like to see it.”

He: There’s a more interesting mission about two miles from here.”

5. On Being Offered a Free Round-Trip Ticket to San Francisco for the Weekend

“What would we do in San Francisco?”

6. After Being Told it is Customary to Tip the Tour Guides in Europe

“Well, I’m not tipping her.”

7. After Checking Into the Hotel Following a Long Flight

“I sure hope I brought enough enemas with me.”

8. On Being Told the Price of Admission to See the Coliseum in Rome

“I’m not paying all that money just to see some old stuff.”

9. After Being Told That I Managed to Add a Weekend in London for Less Money Than the Direct Flight to Nice

“What would we do in London?”

10. After Learning That the Snow Storm Had Canceled All Flights Out of New York for a Day and She Might Have to Actually Pay for a Night in the Hotel by Herself

“Gosh, until this happened to me, I never fully realized what those poor people in New Orleans went through after Hurricane Katrina.”