Overcoming the Fear of Travelling Solo as a Senior

To escape the harsh Canadian winters of Nova Scotia, the place I call home, I do what more and more people are doing which is… to seek out some place that is warm. Florida is not the answer for me as has been the custom for many Nova Scotians in the past. For the last nine years, winters have taken me to the Far East, to such countries as Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, India, and, finally, last year to South America for the first time.

When I explain to friends, old and new, why I choose to travel to far off places by myself without my husband (Hubby), I get various reactions, such as: am I worried about getting sick, do I feel safe, how do I endure the long flights, or where do I get my energy? They might then end up by saying, “I could never do it.” Before addressing these concerns from the dubious, let me digress to the events leading up to my discovery of travelling solo as a senior female.

I never planned to do this kind of travel when Hubby and I moved to Nova Scotia from the big city of Toronto in 2006. It happened gradually. We kept meeting people in Annapolis Royal…the little town nearest to where we live in Victoria Beach… who had been to South East Asia. They helped perk my interest in the possibility of going there instead of to the south where we had gone previously. To my surprise I was able to talk Hubby into testing the Asian waters. We both realised it was so much cheaper to head east rather than south. For the same amount of money as we would spend to go to Cuba and stay at a resort for a week, we could stretch out our time away in Thailand, for example, to a month or more. Heck, after our second visit we realised we could stay for three or four months and live on a much smaller budget than we ever would if we stayed home. Home meant having to heat a century old house with oil and driving two cars.

Our home in Victoria Beach.

Annapolis Royal in December

After our fourth visit to SE Asia, Hubby announced that he was tiring of this part of the world and wanted to spend his next winter in Florence, Italy, where he had lived for a while as a young man. He also had friends in England he wanted to visit. The thought of spending my winter in either of these places left me cold (no pun intended). I was going back to Thailand again, not just for its warmth, but also because I wanted to shop. If you refer to one of my previous posts you will know why shopping in Thailand is my lure. Click on this link to read: Shopping the Markets in Chiang Mai.

Hill Tribe village in northern Thailand.

Night market in Chiang Mai

So now back to the concerns I have encountered from those who are interested in travelling solo as an older person. I say “interested” as I accept that not everyone wants to do this. We all have different ways of deriving satisfaction on our life’s journey. However, for those who would like to do it, but think it’s impossible to travel as a solo senior who is married, I want you to know it is… if you want it badly enough. You can convince your spouse or partner, if you have one, that it’s better for your relationship if you take time off from it and just trust. You can be safe if you use your common sense…this is where seniors have something that the younger set may not. You most likely won’t do anything crazy like walk around deserted streets late at night. You won’t get sick if you are careful of what and where you eat, and should you get sick there are tons of pharmacies with qualified staff and good hospitals in all the countries I have travelled to. Finally, you will survive the long trip overseas if you prepare yourself for the flight and take it easy for the first week by not eating too much spicy food and keeping a normal sleeping schedule. I have many tips for keeping in shape and staying healthy while travelling which I can address in a separate post if you want me to. For anyone who does decide to give solo travel a try, two things can happen:

  1. You will gain a thirst for more.
  2. Or if not, you will be glad you overcame any fear and just did it…once!

Either way you won’t regret it!

Fear of what disasters could happen are a huge concern for anyone starting off on a solo trip. When Hubby and I went on our separate trips in 2013, I was scared, but at the same time I was excited to be out there on my own. I could almost taste the freedom facing me. To deal with the fear factor, I started off with the familiar by travelling to Thailand first. I had friends there and was so familiar with this country that was becoming like a second home for me as Florence was for Hubby.

Viet Nam, however, was another story. My first night in Hanoi scared me to death when I was finally faced with the hoards of motorbikes and cars which seemed to be everywhere buzzing around like flies. With few traffic lights and police to direct the chaos, the Viet Namese drivers cope with a seemingly effortless charge ahead into the flow aiming for any spot that looks like a possibility. As a pedestrian, we must wait for a small gap or lull before heading out into the traffic. Then we pray the drivers see you and go around you rather than into you. I will be forever indebted to Mike and his wife, Diane, for helping me master the art of crossing the busy streets of Hanoi. Their presence was a gift because having been there many times, they were happy to not only be a guide for me, but to be my dinner companions. Aware that this was my first venture to a new place on my own, they kindly took me under their wing… or tried to. I can be awfully independent at times.

Hanoi traffic

My next leg of this solo journey took me to India and Nepal. This was the most daunting part of my whole trip. Any traveller will tell you that India isn’t easy…Thailand is a breeze in comparison. I was definitely put to the test by having to endure scams, pushy males, and sickness. You will come away from India either loving or hating it. By the end, I was somewhere in between. Should the opportunity arise to return, I would. If you want to learn more about my adventures in India you can click on my post Incredible India. 

This is Kerela in South India

Nepal came much easier to me, but it still had its challenging moments, such as my encounter with a bull who didn’t like what I was wearing. You can find out more about this adventure by reading my post Adventures in Nepal.

The Annapurna Massif – part of the Himalaya range.

What I learned from this trip was that any fear you might have about travelling on your own can be overcome by simply doing it. If you don’t have friends you can meet up with, you can always find fellow travellers willing to help you out at the places you stay or eat. Moreover, don’t discount the incredible helpfulness of the locals who in almost all cases will bend over backwards to help. Not everyone is out to scam you. Even in India which probably has one of the worst reputations for devising outlandish schemes to get your money, you will find incredibly helpful people.

So what I have learned about overcoming the fear that comes with travelling on your own is to gain all the information you can about whatever it is you need to know. And, of course, what better way to gain this information than by actually doing it. You can read all the guidebooks and talk to others who have done it, but the best teacher is your own experience. You will make mistakes, things will go wrong, you will get scammed, you will get discouraged, and sometimes feel very alone. However, look at these as the ingredients that make up the experience. Keep at it and you will get better at it. Fear will be replaced with love. Through your own growing, you will learn to not only love yourself more because you have done something you wanted to do and be proud because of it, but you will also become more accepting of all those you meet up with on your travels. You will become that better person where you will have gained a more open mind and be more compassionate towards those who have less than you. You will cease taking our wonderful country we call Canada for granted. This is what travelling solo has done for me, and I am so grateful that in my senior years I can still do it.

For more thoughts on my solo travels, you can refer to Travelling Solo or Not?

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

 

 

 

 

An Interview With Peter Robertson

This past March and April, my husband and I spent six, wonderful weeks in Buenos Aires. For the better part of a year, we call Victoria Beach in Nova Scotia, Canada our home. This was the first time either of us had been to South America. On our second day in BA, we had the good fortune to meet Peter Robertson, a lovely, kind man who was brave enough to take us under his wing and become our guide and translator for the duration of our stay. We often met Peter at a little cafe across the street from the apartment where we stayed. There we had wonderful talks on all manner of things and quickly became friends. I was particularly interested in his profession as an accomplished writer and his literary quarterly, Interlitq. Having begun a blog of my travels two years ago, I love having conversations with other more experienced writers which give me the opportunity to not only share the joy of writing, but also the hard work and dedication that goes with it.

Peter was the perfect person to discuss this with, and it wasn’t long before we came up with the idea to write something about him for Interlitq, and what better way than for me to play the part of the interviewer so his readers could learn more about him.

Of course, I was thrilled that he would ask me to contribute something to his quarterly so immediately looked up his website. I was flabbergasted at the scope of the material that he has amassed from such a talented group of writers from all over the world. There was so much to read on almost every topic and country on this planet, but almost nothing on the man who was responsible for bringing it all together. It was immediately apparent to me that, indeed, he needed to let his readers in on just who he is and what he sees for the future of Interlitq.

Here is my interview with Peter.

1.  Tell us a bit about your early life before BA, such as where you were born and raised, educated, previous career, and places lived.

I was born in Glasgow, Scotland and brought up there and in East Dunbartonshire and Perthshire. My adolescence was spent in a small town called Alyth, with a population of less than three thousand people. I spent a lot of my youth walking in the hills above the town. I went to a school five miles away, in Blairgowrie. After some time in London and Norway, I went to Cambridge University, before returning to London. I worked as a teacher and then as a United Nations linguist and researcher before founding Interlitq. I have also lived in Spain and Argentina: in Madrid for five years and Buenos Aires for sixteen years.

2.  Why did you choose Buenos Aires as your place of residence?

After my time in Spain, I felt the need for a change, but I wasn’t quite sure where to go. I didn’t want to return to the UK. It made sense for me to choose a Spanish-speaking country. Then in Madrid, I started to meet Argentines so my interest in that country grew. In the end, it was instinct, a leap of faith, and I am still here.

3.  How did your passion for writing evolve?

For as long as I can remember, I loved words. So it made sense for me to study literature at University. It’s hard to stand back from oneself and engage in self-analysis as it tends to be a futile exercise, bound up with obfuscation, self-justification, and delusion. The important thing for a writer is to have interesting stories to tell, and then to have the necessary skill with words to tell these stories.

4.  What has been the most outstanding achievement of your writing career?

It is for others to tell me if anything I write is outstanding. I was quite happy with “A Chorus of Ghosts”, but that was written quite some time ago. I would be interested in writing further examples of literary journalism. I find it a fascinating genre. I am also very keen to return to writing fiction.

5.  Regarding Interlitq, what is its main focus and where would you like to see it go in future?

Interlitq publishes international literature in many languages and is complemented by artwork. The overriding objective is to keep the publication going. We have got to that point after eight years and many vicissitudes. Then, once the review’s stability is more entrenched, to aim always to make it better. At this stage, Interlitq is becoming more flexible in its outlook. Originally the review was conceived as a quarterly, but is now publishing on a more regular basis, with featured interviews, so this is an interesting development, and we will consequently engage with new readers.

6. What advice can you pass on to all aspiring writers like myself?

Find the way that works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all. Beware of facile formulae. Do not sit and wait for inspiration – it hits the page as one is writing.

Thank you, Peter, for letting us catch a glimpse of who you are, your plans for the future of Interlitq, and most importantly for me and I hope other aspiring writers, your words of wisdom on how to approach the craft of writing.

Peter Robinson - Founder and Editor of Interlitq.

Peter Robertson – Founder and President of Interlitq.

Submitted by Betty Wright – betstravelsabout.wordpress.com

for:   interlitq.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjustment, Reflection, and Realization

My excuse for not blogging.

My excuse for not blogging.

I am using my house as an excuse for not keeping up with regular postings on my blog, and I’m sure I could find others if I cared to dig deeper. For now, I’ll stick with the house and my life here in Victoria Beach. I have discovered that in spite of the work that comes with maintaining a house in the country, I must not forget that there is a silver lining to such a life style. Thankfully life here has made me stop and reflect upon my reason for being here, and how I can keep up with my blog when I’m not travelling.

We have had our fair share of challenges since we arrived home on April 25th. In the past I’ve found it relatively easy to get back into the old groove of living here, but this year we have been put to the test. It started when we arrived home on a bitterly cold day to an empty oil tank. However, thanks to our helpful neighbours and our furnace guy who drove all the way out to Victoria Beach from town at eight o’clock at night, we had our furnace up and running before bedtime.

Just when it seemed like we were getting nicely settled into our usual routine, our old house decided to test us once again. This time it presented us with a broken water pipe leaving us with no water for four days. Again our neighbours came to our rescue with bottled water and containers for carrying water from their taps. God bless them!

Then our two old cars decided they needed some attention, too, so in they went for oil changes and inspections after being idle for five months. Mine was given a clean bill of health, but my husband wasn’t so lucky.  He received the sad news that his car was facing uncertain death from a case of extreme rust corrosion. His mechanic told him in no uncertain terms that it was totally unsafe and had to be put down immediately! Our bills by this time were mounting up so hubby decided that he would try to find a new, but used car for no more than $4000. Fortunately, he found one in short order at his price which had not a speck of rust anywhere. In fact, it looks almost like a brand new car. This was another little gift from heaven to whom we owe much thanks to Andrew, his mechanic.In the meantime a lady backed into me at the Irving service station causing over $600 damage to my front bumper. Again this has all worked out well and my bumper will be replaced at no cost to me this week.

Every year for the past seven, I have been planting a vegetable garden, an interest which I believe I inherited from my grandmother. To this day, I can still taste her delicious veggies, fruits, and berries which probably explains why each year I tackle the task of coaxing our rocky soil into something suitable enough to yield us at least some  fresh vegetables. This spring it’s been unusually cold and dry so not much is coming up yet other than those rocks that just never cease to crop up every year with a vengeance.  I am happy to report that most of  my seeds are in the ground and the peas and kale are beginning to pop up. Now if only the rain would come!

My garden as it looks right now.

My garden as it looks right now.

Unfortunately, I’ve allowed all my time to be consumed by the house, the cars, and the garden along with a  myriad of other chores required to keep a house running. One of the joys of travel for me is being able to take a hiatus from all of them! However, I do realize that if I am to continue my blogging, I must start delegating some of the household chores to hubby. Therefore, since he loves to cook, I have called on him to take over more of that. Sometimes it’s difficult to overlook the mess he can make, but I’m trying by heaping lots of praise on him for his efforts which seems to be working!

There was one more item on my list I had to deal with before getting back to my blogging and that was getting my merchandise ready for the Saturday market which is already in full swing. All my boxes, except for one containing silk scarves, have arrived from Thailand and Cambodia safely. The scarves which I somehow overlooked and  left in Chiang Mai have to be shipped separately at great cost. I am lucky that I was able to locate them at one of the guest houses where we stayed which has such an honest and helpful staff who have taken the time to pack them up and get them in the mail for me. So far our market is off to a fairly good start which hopefully will continue to get better as the tourists arrive from the US on the new Portland to Yarmouth ferry because my next winter escape depends heavily on the sales I can generate from this little importing venture.

My table of imports at the  Mason's Hall in Annapolis Royal.

My table of imports at the Mason’s Hall in Annapolis Royal.

Reflecting upon this past month, I have learned that when I don’t write and and take pictures, I feel like something very valuable is missing from my life. Too much physical work was making me more tired than I wanted to be and that old feeling of anxiety and unease was creeping in. I needed to write but I kept making excuses which were preventing me from doing it. I was also stymied by what I could write about.  What was there to write about here in Victoria Beach? These were my reasons for not writing so what was I going to do about them? I came up with the following solutions which I would like to share with you, and if they can be of any help to any ‘would be’ writer like me, then that would be fantastic. Here they are:

  • Make time in your day no matter how busy it is shaping up to be to write something even if it’s only a sentence or two.
  • Find a quiet spot away from any distractions i.e. in my case a chatty spouse.
  • Open up your computer and go straight to your blog’s ‘new post’ page. Don’t check your messages or Facebook first.
  • Type out a title which will be somehow related to what you have a vague idea you want to write on. Let this just be a guide which you can always change as many times as you wish once you start to write.
  • Now just start to write – anything. You’ll be amazed at where this can go.
  • Once you see something take shape, you will be off and running and feeling great.

This usually works for me, but I need to constantly remind myself to do it so it will become a habit. Perhaps I need to write this list out and have it in front of me until it becomes ingrained in my psyche? As I look back on this past month, I shudder to think about the agony I have put myself through just thinking and worrying about what I could write about. Well, I believe that I have that problem solved, too, making this a second wonderful realization about writing. Why not start with where I live and write about life here? As for pictures, this place is a photographer’s dream. It has the most incredible sunsets, and it’s near the Bay of Fundy which has been nominated as one of the most beautiful unspoiled spots in the world. One day it will become one for sure because just how many unspoiled sites are left in this world? It’s all about using the resources we have around us before venturing beyond. I’m thankful now for the challenges our life here in Victoria Beach has presented. It has helped me learn much about what writing is all about and how therapeutic it has become for me. It doesn’t matter where it will all lead to, if anything, but the one thing I do know is that it brings me great joy and satisfaction.

One of our beautiful sunsets.

One of our beautiful sunsets.