Whether it is expected or sudden, the loss of a spouse is a terribly painful experience. Obviously, there is the initial shock of losing the love of your life but, once the dust has settled, there are larger issues as you begin to adjust to a new "normal." One of the biggest challenges I faced after my husband passed away was traveling alone.
I recently reached out to my friend Diane Gottsman for advice on flying solo--so to speak. Diane is a national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak several years ago, and I knew she was the perfect person to share her thoughts on how women can navigate the sometimes intimidating world of traveling alone. Here is what she had to say:
Plan It Out
While it sounds incredibly exciting to go on an "Eat, Pray, Love," type of excursion, real life is not as easily played out. Do your research to find the best deals on flights, hotels, events, and optimum times of year to travel to the destination of your choice. Decide if you are longing for a spiritual journey or an action packed adventure and start months in advance, collecting ideas and visiting websites. Don't overlook the value of Pinterest, Instagram, and old fashioned word of mouth referrals from friends to get your creative juices flowing. Holidays, special events, and seasons will definitely have an impact on your travel decisions.
Account for Cultural Differences
Always dress properly for the country and the culture you will be visiting. Also, studying up on simple etiquette rules such as gestures and mannerisms that may be acceptable in the U.S. but taboo in other countries will be worth the research effort you invest. Some cultures are informal while others are more stringent when it comes to what they deem acceptable. You might get by with short shorts at your local grocer in the U.S., while showing so much skin in another country would be a complete disaster. Learn what is appropriate in terms of dress codes for the country you will be visiting and don't take any chances.
The last thing you want to do is overpack and end up paying huge baggage fees. Most women wear only a fraction of their packed items, while most men pack within a 24-hour window and wear most of their clothes. Here's an easy checklist to help you decide what to bring.
Think Carefully About Modes of Transportation
You don't have to look very far to find ride share horror stories. While there is value in ride share services, a woman traveling alone must be particularly careful before getting into a car with a stranger. If you use an app, ask the driver who he or she is picking up and don't enter a car without verifying the driver's credentials. A rental car and various public modes of transportation (train, subway, taxi, shuttle) are other options to consider before determining how to navigate a strange city. Traffic is an issue in some areas while it is negligible in others and more convenient to get from one place to another in a car of your own.
Take a Tour
If you are hesitant to visit sites alone, sign up for a tour and join a group of like-minded people. You will have the opportunity to meet new friends and hear their feedback on what they have enjoyed doing on their vacation. Ask for recommendations for good restaurants and things to see and do.
Rely on Your Concierge
A concierge is invaluable when it comes to recommendations. The concierge, a.k.a "keeper of the keys," is knowledgable and full of suggestions. They can make reservations for you, secure reliable transportation, and guide you to the most coveted events in town--even getting you those hard to come by tickets.
For many people, sitting at a table alone is a fate worse than a root canal. But it's time to change your attitude! Give yourself permission to enjoy your own company. Order a glass of wine, sit back, and allow someone else to take care of you for a few minutes. Take a book, listen to a podcast, or simply savor the moment of silence.
Let someone know your travel agenda and when they can expect you to check in. Safety is always an issue and keeping a friend or family member updated will ensure that you are always accounted for during your vacation.
You are on limited time and soon you will be returning to reality. Take every advantage of the opportunity to taste different foods, experience the culture, visit museums or other points of interest, and make some memories to take home. Whether you decide to indulge in a spa or a cooking class, make a point of stepping out of your day to day comfort zone and vow to bring back a few great stories to share at your next cocktail party or girl's lunch.