When I travel I think I'm pretty flexible. With that said, I value a reasonable shower. And over the years I've had some issues with showers in Europe; mostly related to water containment. Maybe I'm not as flexible as I think I am or maybe I just don't understand how to shower the European way. So ...
When I planned my first solo trip to Paris a couple of years ago, I made sure to carefully consider the shower situation as I searched for a small apartment to rent. I found what appeared to be a great option. The apartment was small, which was fine. It was cute, which was appealing. And it was in a great location, which felt safe. But ... there were no pictures of the shower. Via the VRBO website, I was able to ask the owner for a shower description or photos. After a bit of back and forth he wrote: I don’t know how to send pictures there ... thé d’homériques is simple And Work perfectly ... what do you want to know more !!"
At that point I decided to let it go (at least with him), book the place, and arrive prepared. Even with the mysterious shower, it seemed like my best option. So after booking the apartment, I started thinking about how to "arrive prepared". It got easier when the owner sent me the WhatsApp contact info for the apartment manager/cleaning man whom I promptly contacted and asked for photos of the shower. He wasn't able to provide any, but connected me with the owner's wife, who was staying at the apartment at the time. She understood my question and sent multiple photos immediately. That helped the planning process a lot!
Her photos made it clear that there was an opening with no door nor curtain, and a hand held shower. So here are the contents of the shower upgrade "kit" I assembled and brought with me:
Traveling alone in retirement wasn't a goal, but when it became obvious that European travel was giving my husband long lasting migraines, we had to rethink our plans. I described this in the recent Expect the Unexpected post. One friend suggested that traveling alone would make her feel self-conscious, but I love it and appreciated that another friend produced a recent AARP Bulletin article called "Travel for One". The article points out that "Fueled by women over 55, solo vacations are becoming increasingly popular".
While I never expected to be traveling alone in retirement, here are five unexpected pleasures I've discovered along the way.
Relatively early in our retirement, we took a three and a half week trip to Europe and visited three countries; Spain, France and Belgium. It was wonderful!
About nine months later I was ready to plan our next adventure. Given the fun we'd had on the previous trip, more European destinations seemed logical. When I asked my husband which places he wanted to visit he asked, "You want to go again? Already?" Apparently he wasn't eager to go again. Or at least not so soon.
That shocked me! We'd spent over 30 years working hard and saving so that we could "travel in retirement". His ho-hum attitude about European travel threw me for a loop and had me re-thinking how I was going to spend the second half of my life.
It's worth mentioning that my husband suffers from migraines, and overseas travel and many foods trigger them. Even though he's a really good sport, he made it clear that Europe with a migraine isn't all that magical.
For the next few months I did some serious thinking and took some imaginary trips via YouTube. I stumbled across the concept of "Solo Travel" and listened to advice from a number of female solo travelers. Interestingly, they were all young, but as far as I could tell, age would only make my experience easier.
I also thought about traveling with friends more and do enjoy that, but I found myself wondering what I'd do if I was able to make every decision myself. The thought was suprisingly energizing.
Up to that point, I'd never considered the idea of traveling alone, and initially I wondered if I could do it in a foreign country. It took me a while to realize that I'd done it many times in the past for business, and I figured a leisure trip would only be easier.
The next thing I knew, I'd booked a flight to Paris and it departed in 27 days. Then I rented a tiny apartment. (And by tiny, I mean tiny; Airbnb advertised it as 194 sq ft - not meters.) The. Trip. Was. Heavenly. Having spent over 30 years working full time and raising kids, 11 days to myself was not too long. I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed it, but will simply include one proof point; eight months later I spent 23 days alone in Rome :)
Did I plan to visit Europe alone in retirement? Not in a million years. Do I enjoy spending time with my husband and even traveling with him? Yes! But I've learned that sometimes the unexpected can be even more fun than the expected.