Oh Sarai, beautiful mommy and traveler. My grief of your death spills over my heart and I sob with pain. As a mother and a solo traveler, I understand your reason for your last sojourn. And, I honor your decision to go alone, regardless if others condemn you. I know why you wanted to explore, why you longed to taste exotic spices and to breath the ancient air of crumbling stones. I know the longing to walk sacred paths and to capture moments that only solo travel generously offers. I know.
And, because of your willingness to explore alone, you opened your world to new experiences and opportunities that would never come your way as a housewife sequestered to carpools and care giving. I weep because you did not pass away of old age, but by a hateful act in another country. Ironically, your passing could have easily occurred in your hometown by a stray bullet, drunk driver, or random accident. You could have died on a bus, in a mall, or in a movie theater. But many haters don't seem to recognize that.
As tragic as your death is -- your life was magnificent. You lived the life you wanted. You did not let fear stop you from discovering a new country or culture. You chose to pack your bags alone and leave, explore, learn, and risk. I applaud you for that -- you were braver than most.
Unfortunately, so many are afraid to go alone or follow their passions, and truth is, they are already dead. Henry David Thoreau's epic words still ring true: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Dear Sarai, I am so heartbroken that you went to your grave -- but I know you did not go with the song still in you. You gave yourself a chance to sing, travel, live, and enjoy a life the way you wanted to. What could be more wonderful than that?
As a single mother, author, and entrepreneur I understand your wanderlust. I, too, dream of the moments I can quietly pack my bags and step on a plane to a new place. Travel is my freedom, my elixir, my healer. Without my solo trips I would go crazy. I'd easily start to resent my life, my choices, and my situation. But every time I can travel to a new place alone I am reinvigorated and renewed. I am a better mother and person because I travel alone. It is these moments by myself that heal me and allows me a chance to see my life in a new light. I get to view my situation with a different perspective -- one that is not as harsh as the one I deal with on a daily basis. For those short and sacred moments, I get a chance to breath in fresh air and live in the present. For me, traveling alone is far better than dying a slow death of desperation or frustration.
Of course, as women we need to take important steps to make sure that where we go is safe and others can easily contact us. Also, I won't go to a destination that does not respect women's rights or honor a woman's choice to be alone. Nor will I stay in a place that does not offer 24-hour security and easy access to transportation.
Before I go solo, I have 10 destination requirements:
1. Safety: The destination is a safe place for women to travel alone. Check the CIA web site, local news, general attitudes towards women. Do NOT go to a country that does not respect women.
2. Transportation: Good public transportation options and easy access to airport. Trains, buses, taxis are easy to come by, or everything is in walking distance. Do not walk alone in the dark.
3. Social Center: There's a place where one can go to meet others. Even if you plan on spending your trip completely alone, it's good to have that option.
4. Variety: Variety in places to stay, dine, adventure, and relax. Look for destinations where you won't get bored.
5. Friendliness: Pick places that like entertaining visitors and have a female-friendly reputation.
6. Cost: Look for hotels, resorts, or tours that are realistically affordable. Do not stay in cheap, random hostels.
7. Climate: The weather is something you have researched and won't be surprised by midday thunderstorms, for example. Don't get caught unprepared by weather.
8. Size: The destination has plenty to do and see and is a manageable size. A place that is too big or too small can be overwhelming or boring.
9. Communication: The destination is equipped with a way to dial home if you need to. If an emergency happens, you have a way of contacting someone immediately.
10. Medical and Health: The destination has reliable medical and health services.
I have dedicated my life to empowering women to travel alone. There is too much wonderful in the world to live in fear. And travel brings us closer together, heals us and gives us global connections. When we fly solo we get the rare opportunity to live in the present, learn about ourselves, and understand other cultures and individuals.
I won't stop my daughter's education because of the tragic events in Newtown, nor will I not get on a bus because of the horrific kidnap and killing in Alabama, or not go to the theater because I might get gunned down. No, I will not stop traveling alone.
I will NOT give fear that power. And I believe that Sarai would agree with me.
Bless you dear Sarai, you and your family.