My life-changing solo and light travel trip to Croatia and Italy in 2017 awoke in me my spirit of old.
This is a philosophical look at what I love about travelling light and travelling solo. It's about the huge benefits that have opened up my life to a whole new world of possibilities.
The self-belief, confidence building, and the vision for my future all stemmed from this first experience.
I needed to do this to reawaken the Katherine of old - the adventurer, the go-getter, the "I can do this" person that had got a little bit caught up in a career, motherhood, family - none of which are bad - but can just become a little too all-consuming.
Selfies and feet pics while travelling solo!
A re-cap about my travelling light journey.
Back in 2017 I went on a solo trip to Croatia and Italy. I'd been in America for four weeks with my family, and as I flew to Dubrovnik, they flew back to New Zealand. There was a huge sense of aloneness and responsibility and scared-ness as I waited in the airport for my flight to depart - not helped by the fact that my charger wasn't connecting to my phone properly and I panicked about how reliant I was on a charged phone.
The original plan had been to travel with a friend but that fell through, so, with pictures of the Dalmatian Islands firmly in my focus, I ventured forth - alone.
My husband wasn't convinced I could do it without his help - he does tend to organise me quite a bit. But this response simply spurred me on - let me show you how I will cope! Although I do recall the near anxiety attack I had when I was booking my flights online. Clicking that GO button had me hyperventilating - what on earth was I doing? Did I really need to prove a point so drastically? Had I gone completely mad?!!
Absolutely loving it on the Cinque Terre walk!
"Are you having a midlife crisis?"
I got very used to the sceptical, "why the hell" looks I got from people when I said that I was off to Europe for four weeks "by myself". Probably the people that most understood my trip were those around the same age and stage of life. In their 40's and 50's, married, ensconced in being a mother, wife, sister, daughter, uber-mum, cook, cleaner...the list goes on.
Some people riled me up by asking if it was a midlife crisis - which I'm becoming to think that this is how you get put back in your box when you step outside what is the normal behaviour of a woman approaching the empty nest years!
My response was, "if this is a midlife crisis - bring it on, and may I have many more!!" Clearly I'm not one to be put in a box.
Loving the ease of travel while solo and light.
Getting support for your solo travel.
I have some great family, friends and colleagues who were my star supporters for my solo trip. They really believed in me - that I could do it, that I would flourish. They were inspired.
On the home front - my husband said he was happy for me to go, but probably slightly perplexed as to why. But any concerns he had, he kept to himself and urged me on. I was after all, leaving him to manage two busy teenagers and run our business by himself.
There is no doubt that this was a big ask, but he's so involved in household activities as he works from home, I knew he would cope fine (I hoped). But I seriously couldn't have done it without him.
And so he didn't feel like he was completely missing out, we did a family trip to the US for three weeks - giving me a huge, immediate contrast to travelling solo.
And then I was off - flying completely solo!
Of course, now I know there are Facebook groups for solo female travellers - Where were these when I needed them???
No sign of the internal nervousness as I await my flight from Charlotte, USA.
Travelling light simplifies life!
Travelling light showed me how little I actually really need. I was comfortable, warm, safe with just the basics. I didn't need to think about the stuff I was carrying -- there was so little it was just there. But it's not just being a light traveller, when you travel solo it's just you.
You can choose to be whoever you feel comfortable being. You can be the chatterbox, or the quiet one, the life of the party or the early to bed one. No one knows you - you're not defined as a wife, mother, nurse - it's just you. I was just another traveller.
I've read of people who walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain who feel this same release. There's none of the usual work or household jobs to do, or conversations to have, or roles to play - you simply wake up, dress, eat, walk, rest, walk, eat, walk, rest, walk, shower, eat, sleep - and repeat!
I think it is this complete removal from your busy daily lives that is the life-changing bit. And it's probably why I now try and have one solo trip each year - to remind my self of my capabilities, my confidence, my self-belief.
When you only carry a minimalist wardrobe you have very few decisions on what to wear. There's nothing complicated about your day when it comes to outfits.
Looking back, and knowing how much walking I did - this trip was a bit of a camino for me.
Camo on Capri - this purple tee shirt was absolutely thrashed on this trip!
This whole experience - life changing!
I'm a bit of an over-thinker, and before the trip I was slightly concerned that I would just have my thoughts as company while travelling solo - going round and round in my head.
In reality, this couldn't have been further from the truth. I was so absorbed by what was going on around me, that I had no time to think about other things. I really was just living in the moment - a "beautiful terracotta, white-washed walls, cobblestone streets, azure blue sea and sky, pebbly beaches, cream gravel tracks, spring flowers moment!"
Why would I possibly want to think about anything else but what I was seeing all around me!!
I was completely in control of what I saw, whether I was safe, how I travelled, who I connected with. I was always aware of my surroundings and any sign of danger. I was hyper-vigilant.
Not having someone to watch my back was a very new experience. Relaxing on a remote beach on the island of Hvar in the Dalmatian Islands, while stunning, I was constantly aware of the comings and goings of others and heading for home well before sunset.
To the little doubter in my head - "I did it." And to the big doubters outside my head - "I did it." I had a huge sense of accomplishment. Some people thought I was brave, but I didn't feel brave. I didn't feel brave travelling solo, but I did feel brave challenging societal expectations.
Even while travelling, I was asked, "where is your husband?", "who's looking after your children?"
Surprisingly though, when I got to speak to women on my trip - many confided that they would like to have some alone time - maybe not four weeks, but certainly a week away to do as they wished. I know that I planted the seed in many people's heads on that trip!
Actually, that is how I started - a week long road trip up to the top of New Zealand to see my friends in Kerikeri - I stopped at every craft, art, market, ice-cream, walk, view on the way that we normally drive straight passed in order to get to our destination. I loved it - freedom to do as I wished!
Exploring the outer walls of Dubrovnik. This was day 2 and I was settling in.
Coming home after solo travel.
Coming home was strange.
I had just had four weeks of doing exactly as I wished - eating when I was hungry, opting in or out of an activity without consulting anyone else, talking to whom I pleased, or enjoying quiet time by myself.
Back home, it was straight back into home and work life. And I absolutely relished being home. Four weeks had been a long time away. And I recall that about two weeks into my trip I thought if someone rang and said I needed to come home - I would have gladly done so with no regrets.
But I'm pleased that didn't happen.
The risk when travelling solo is that no one else was there. You can't collectively talk about the things that happen. And for me it was hard to verbalise the challenges I overcame. Everything was exactly the same as I had left it at home, but I felt different.
Unbeknown to me (or them quite possibly) but I had developed more resolve, more satisfaction in my life, and more self-belief that I could achieve things. I was also more realising that I could make changes without drastic consequences, that I could take the bull by the horns and make changes - like eventually quitting my part-time but high stress job and shift work and giving The 5 kilo traveller a go. Aren't you pleased I did?!
E-biking on the Dalmatian Island of Hvar.
Solo or companion travel?
I now like to mix up my travel. And I acknowledge how fortunate I am to have that choice.
Two or three weeks of solo travel keeps life interesting for me. But equally I love travelling with my family. Travelling with others pushes you to do things you maybe wouldn't do if it was just yourself. And travelling with kids definitely gets you doing different stuff!
Either way, travel is my happy place! Long may it continue!