Women’s Travel E-Mail Roundtable, Part Ten: Ode to the Mother Road
Speaker's Corner: All this week, four accomplished travelers -- Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Liz Sinclair, Terry Ward and Catherine Watson -- talk about the rewards and perils of hitting the road alone as a woman.
10.11.07 | 3:29 PM ET
From: Stephanie Elizondo Griest
To: Terry Ward, Catherine Watson and Liz Sinclair
Subject: Ode to the Mother Road
Thanks, Terry, for the assignment: convincing Kate and every woman out there to hit the road sola, at least once in life.
I have spent much of 2007 crisscrossing the nation, holding Traveling Sola workshops for women. The first question I always ask is: “Who here has wanderlust?” Every hand blasts skyward. Then I ask: “So why are we here instead of out there?” The responses are myriad, but they boil down to this: “We are waiting” and “We are afraid.”
First, the waiting. Traveling is highly subject to postponement. We wait until we finish school before commencing our big adventure. We wait until we’ve paid off our college loans. Until we’ve paid off our mortgage. Until our kids (dogs/ferrets/ferns) are grown. Until we’ve retired. Until a travel partner comes along.
At some point, we must ask ourselves: Is that day ever going to come? And will we still be wanderlusty when it does?
The time to travel is when you have the desire, the dream, the hunger. The time to travel is when you pass the night poring over blogs like this. The time to travel is now. And—to paraphrase Thalia Zepatos—if you are waiting to find that perfect travel partner, take a look in the mirror and get out your passport.
Now for the Fear Factor. This one is huge. As women, we worry about getting lost. About growing lonely. About being mugged, kidnapped, raped. I have embarked on six major journeys and—in the days before my departure—was terrified I might never return. How did I overcome fear? By writing a will. That’s right. At the ripe age of 33, I have six versions of my will, neatly labeled and tucked in a drawer. Somehow, writing those final farewells frees my mind and enables me to go.
The scariest part of traveling is everything you must do prior to boarding that plane: carving out the time, shoving your belongings into storage, quitting your job, buying your ticket. But once you are physically on that plane, you’re golden. You’re ordering gin and
tonics, flipping through guidebooks, drawing up plans, dreaming. And then you’re stepping off that plane and beholding the jungle, the ocean, the mountains. The glorious people you’ll soon be meeting. Before you know it, you’re traveling; you’re transcendent. You have joined Mother Road.
Be forewarned that traveling will alter you in profound ways. Upon returning home from a four-year journey around the communist bloc, I discovered that all of the identities I’d spent a lifetime cultivating had peeled off one by one. My vegetarianism drowned in
a bowl of yak penis soup in China. I compromised my feminism by allowing a Russian boyfriend to treat me badly. I never felt less Latina than in Cuba, where my Tex-Mex Spanish was barely intelligible to the people with whom I so badly wanted to connect.
But that’s what Mother Road does best. She pushes you to your physical, spiritual and psychological limits—then nudges you one step further. She teaches you to be self-reliant and self-sufficient, which in turn makes you self-confident. Under her guise, you’ll
soon be strolling the world’s passageways with confidence. You’ll understand the difference between being alone and being lonely, and will grow more selective of your company.
So GO! Far. Wide. Now.