Being a travel writer certainly does have its highlights. Take right now for instance – as I type these very words, I’m sprawled out in a gorgeous one-bedroom villa at The Kapalua Villas Maui overlooking Moloka’i. Yes, Maui! And it’s amazing! The 12 hours of travel it took me to get here from Florida – including being surrounded by honeymooners on the flight from Phoenix – has been well-worth it!
The only thing that’s missing right now is someone to share my experiences with. I’m meeting up with a group tomorrow, and that will be a lot of fun, but for today I was on my own. Ironically, the #girlstravel chat on Twitter (Mondays, 1 p.m. EST) for which I am a co-host was just about this same topic a few weeks ago – solo travel, and how to do it right.
Don’t get me wrong, traveling solo can be great fun – wake up when you want, laze around as long as you want, do just what you want and eat where you want. All good things, to be sure. But then, there are some things you want to share.
Like this morning. I walked from my villa down to Kapalua Bay for some sunbathing and snorkeling. As I lay, soaking in the warm rays, I heard a passerby say, “Do you see the turtle?” I propped myself up onto my elbows and sure enough, there was a huge sea turtle swimming not even 10 yards offshore, clearly visible from our vantage point. SO COOL. I’m a HUGE nature lover, and have a particular fondness for sea turtles, having volunteered with them for more than four years at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida. But, other than those around me who were also thrilled to lay eyes on such a magnificent creature, I didn’t have anyone close to me to share this first-time event with. So, I did the next best thing – I texted two of my turtle- and nature-loving girlfriends. Their replies were that they were psyched, too.
After a bit of snorkeling, I decided to venture beyond the resort and check out Nakalele Blow Hole, just about 10 miles up the road. Boy, could I have used a passenger! The road was windy, hilly and, let’s be honest, scary – especially from this travlin’ girl who lives in flat, straight, hill-less Florida. Add to it that I’m driving the behemoth Dodge Charger when I’m used to my beloved Mini Cooper, and you’ll quickly understand the sweaty fingers gripping the steering wheel. I was in dire need of some girlfriend reassurance!
Once I got to the turnoff where I thought I’d find the blow hole, I gathered my cameras and started the trek down to the ocean’s edge. This is when I really wished I’d had someone with me. I found one of the blow holes in the area, and I knew there probably was another somewhere not far beyond. But considering I’d seen just seven people during my hike, and only four cars were parked near mine, I didn’t want to go crazy and find myself stranded somewhere. Alone. To be honest, images from “127 Days” flashed through my mind!
I shot my photos and took the time to take in the dramatic beauty of the solid lava rocks and fluidity of the Pacific Ocean just beyond, and simply enjoyed the moment. The quiet, the wind, the waves.
And I gathered the gumption to make the white-knuckled drive back the other way.
Susan B. Barnes is a travel writer and photographer. A proud Army brat, she was born on a military base in Belgium and has been on the go ever since. While Susan has traveled across the United States and into Canada, she has also managed to visit such European cultural hot spots as Paris, London, Ireland, Athens and Rome, and has even explored the second largest reef in the world off the coast of Belize and the cloud forest of Venezuela, among many other exotic locales. Having learned to rock climb in Yosemite National Park, surf in La Jolla and swim with whale sharks in Mexico, she’s always looking forward to her next adventure.