ShowsBefore You GoBulletin BoardContactAboutSearch
Show and Features |
Culture Watch | Question of the Week | Letters of the Week |
Traveler's Aid | Library | Host's View


Women Traveling

When I was 23, after just completing my college degree in French literature, I had to travel to Europe. France and Ireland were the two most important places I HAD to go. Cycling was my choice of transportation. I tried to find someone to go with me, but everyone else was Euro-railing, so with my paniers in hand and my eyes on Freddie Laker airlines, I caught the Greyhound bus in Los Angeles for New York. (Cheap was a most important aspect of my travel desires, too!)

Three days on the bus and I arrived at my brother's house in New Jersey. The next morning we were up and on our way into New York City to sit in line and wait for tickets. That afternoon, for the first time ever, I was on my way to a destination all alone with no one to meet me in the airport. For all intents and purposes, I had never traveled alone, never lived alone and never been solely responsible for myself.

Arriving in London, tired, I made my way to Victoria station and the accommodation desk where they set me up for a "shared" room in Soho. Dragging my paniers, which were getting heavier and heavier by the moment, behind me, I found the dive in Soho in which I was supposed to spend the first night of my dream life. No one was at the "desk," so I sat, waiting for someone to appear, completely afraid that I was going to be knifed in the back at any moment. I called my parents and bald-faced lied that I was staying in a "cute, quaint" little place and was thrilled. Exhaustion took over and I dozed. When I awoke shortly thereafter, there was still no one around. I decided that, with my dad's American Express card in hand, I would make my way back to the accommodation desk at Victoria station and, if nothing more desirable presented itself, I would stay at the London Hilton for one night, while I rested and recouped.

The accommodation desk did find me a place to stay -- not quaint and cute, but clean, friendly, much less expensive than the London Hilton, and which did not leave me in fear of my life. That did begin a seminal experience for me. And I have more or less lived by the lesson learned there ever since -- figure out what the worst that can happen is, what the solution is and -- there's always American Express.

The day after I arrived, I bought my bike and began my journey. I met great people, shared rooms with incredibly nice people of both genders (with no expectations or relations), had almost exclusively wonderful experiences.

In Tours, France, as I was riding my bike away from the youth hostel, I was passed, on a secluded and somewhat lonely road, by a man on a bike. Just around the next bend I noticed that he was walking toward me. He had exposed himself and was more than a little excited by the fresh air. He had to point this out to me as I rode by, but I never really felt threatened, which was perhaps because I was too stunned to really take in what I had just seen. Later in my trip when I was sharing a room with a woman in London, we were discussing our adventures and realized that probably many women had had the fortune (not necessarily good and not horribly bad) to see this man's "jewels." It was great for a laugh.

So, my advice is...DO IT. I learned that, as I said, there's always American Express, the bad experiences make the best stories, it's the best way to learn about yourself -- I have reserves and internal resources I never would have discovered otherwise and, for me anyway, it made me more well-rounded and self-secure. I have traveled on my own more since, but I have not traveled enough.

Thanks for the show -- I enjoy it every week.




{ Previous Letter | This Week's Index | Next Letter }

{ Main Letters Page }

American Public Media
American Public Media Home | Search | How to Listen
©2004 American Public Media |
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy