You wonderful, joyously intrepid women who travel alone, fend for yourselves, sure of where you're headed and how you will get there, and once there, set off eager and unafraid on new adventures—you are an inspiration. If only I were that kind of traveler!
But I'm not. I always start out scared, trying to whistle up courage, taking Anna's advice to her Siamese pupils. There is that unsettled feeling in my stomach very much like the first day of school. At a new school. No friends to shore you up, no teachers who know you. And that's just getting on the plane. Once settled in my seat, I'm fine.
It starts all over again when the plane lands. It's a different city, a different country, a different set of rules, a different way of talking. OK, everybody speaks English, right? Only they don't. And even if you know the language, if you haven't spoken it for years, it hits your ear like gibberish, and you find yourself tongue-tied. At least, I do.
I feel more stupid than intrepid. Still, there is nothing to do now but forge ahead. Find transportation, find the reservation, hope it's all going to go as planned. And when I'm finally in my hotel room or my Airbnb, I think, how on earth am I going to survive? But somehow, I manage.
I don't do it alone. I know I can't do it alone, so I reach out. I talk to whoever is available, ask questions, ask for help. If I'm lucky, at least one person will take pity on me and go above and beyond the call of duty to get me headed in the right directon. Little by little, I get oriented. I get a map, check the neighborhood out on my laptop, find a nearby grocery store, a pharmacy, a park, and oh, thank goodness! a tourist information office. I pay attention and am soon finding my way around by landmarks—a café, a building that looks like a fortress, a soaring church spire.
That's when I tell myself, "You did it!" And, maybe, feel just a little intrepid.