She had her hand on her bag ready to go through passport control on her own. With no idea what had delayed her friend, it was a choice of waiting and missing the flight, or going it alone and working things out. Her friend made it, just …. but that decision to go anyway answered a question that had been playing on her mind for a while. Would she be brave enough to travel alone?
The answer, to her genuine surprise, was unquestionably yes!
To a 50-something solo female first-timer, Florence seemed challenge enough for now. A couple of hours flight (so not so far away that she couldn’t be “found” if she got into trouble, she reasoned), good weather (nothing worse than sitting alone in a hotel room if it was pouring), lovely people (she’d never met an un-friendly Italian), familiar cuisine (like a comfort blanket while she addressed the “eating on my own while trying not to look like I’ve been stood up” scenario)… and long on her bucket list.
Flying alone for the first time, the first thing she noticed, was that …. she was on her own! Tourists tend to travel in groups. Excited huddles of giggly female travellers sharing “must-do’s” and “have I packed’s”, couples in their own couple-y world, families trying to keep errant toddlers under control …. and her. It might just have been that flight, that day, but it felt as though everyone was staring at her”alone-ness”, as if she had a big arrow pointing down at her in the bustling departure lounge saying “she has no friends”. She topped up her lipstick and tapped out a message on her phone …. signs to all concerned that she was being met at the other end by her Italian lover. That would explain it, naturally.
Of course, in reality, no one was concerned at all about the pale slightly fidgety middle-aged woman sitting near the departure gate, passport clutched tightly in hand, ready for the off. Or that she’d checked three times during the wait that her currency and travel documents were still where they were … last time she’d checked. Or that her hand never left the handle of her cabin luggage (can’t be too careful). Or that the message she was tapping out to her Italian lover … was actually a post on social media because she had to share her excitement with someone! Or that the seat next to her was … empty. No one cared. Absolutely no one cared.
And it was while she sat there getting used to the idea that, to anyone else, she was just another passenger waiting for her flight … that she finally got it! Solo travel means that the only person you have to worry about is … yourself! You can do what you like, when you like, if you like, how you like – and no one gives a damn. How liberating is that!
So, just for the hell of it, she checked her travel documents, again …. and queued for the departure gate. The butterflies in her stomach did an extra somersault. Not nerves any more, but excitement. She boarded the plane, head held high, with a confidence that said to all those giggly girls, couple-y couples and frantic families, “look at me, not care in the world, I’m going it alone and I’m fine, I’m really fine!”
They actually didn’t care of course … but neither did she.
She was on her way …