Every year, when I was in college, Valentine’s Day was a day professors dreaded. They knew the chances of teaching an uninterrupted class was nil as there would be at least one (many more) knocks on the classroom door during class. But they had to open the door and let the music in. It was a day of love as well as a fundraiser for the university Singers. A popular tradition, the accapella group would sing songs of love many years before it became famous in the television show, Glee. I always wished to be the recipient of the love singing telegram but never was. For many friends, the singers were torture since they never had a visit so they started a bit of Anti-Valentine’s Day. I was always hopeful.
Flash forward five years after college graduation, when my friend was escaping her single status in the U.S. and we went to Paris for Valentine’s Day. It didn’t end well as she left me in Paris, years before the internet and cell phone (yes, there was a time neither existed – hard to imagine). That’s my origin story , and solo traveler anniversary date, which is funny and sad. Not only did we escape the U.S. because we were “still single and unattached” but I was now alone in Paris for the first time. I made the scary decision to stay and figure it out on my own, my first time as a solo traveler – no tour group, no friends, just me. I didn’t tell my parents until I was home and they naturally freaked out because girls back then didn’t travel alone (at least not from our neighborhood or family). To put this in perspective, when I moved out from my parent’s home to my house, my father didn’t talk to me for weeks because I wasn’t married and he worried about who would take care of me? who would protect me?
Now more than twenty years after that Paris abandonment, I’ve traveled the world to nearly fifty countries. My father eventually talked to me and realized that I’m ok on my own. He then told me “I was so independent I probably scared the guys away” (perhaps). We would laugh about the crazy stories from the road like the many “Where is Your Husband” questions.
Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day – you are hit over the head with marketing in my opinion – Hallmark movies, Red Roses (ugh! be original) and Chocolate. So it’s understandable if you are alone to get a bit depressed. I’m against only one day of love – flowers, chocolates, cards, attention should be a regular occurence. So while Cupid somehow frequently forgets me, I choose to celebrate each year as my Solo Travel Anniversary, one that has blessed me with my longest relationship – the one with my passport. My passport has allowed me to Date the World and continue to discover new adventures near and far and meet some cool and interesting people (and animals).
This year, I will celebrate the day with love – all the love that traveling solo for over twenty years has taught me – love of the world – love of chocolate – love of flowers – love of discovery – love of adventure – love of new cultures – love of people – love of finding commonality – love of celebrating differences – love of tolerance – love of acceptance – love of self – love of trying – love of saying yes – love of nature – love of spas – love of boutique hotels – love of indulgences – love of wine – love of luxury, love of points and so much more.
Travel continues to teach me new things and the only exam is expanding my mind, my experiences and my relationships. The professor is no longer my only teacher and sadly the cute guys aren’t singing my love song but there’s still a knock on the door to the world – what a fantastic classroom to learn from. I’ve not given up hope but I’m not sitting still waiting either – there too much to discover in the world.
So if you are alone this Valentine’s Day, find something you love and be thankful. This year, I’m going to toast to Paris, that fateful trip that allowed me to be brave and carry on. I brought a mini bottle of Moet & Chandon Rose home from my Champagne Cellar Tour with Mom in Epernay, France. It seems apropos to enjoy my anniversary with the good stuff.
So whatever you choose to celebrate (or not) Valentine’s Day, I hope you realize that you are still writing your own story. You leading man (or woman) might not have shown up yet but that doesn’t mean you can’t love the world and all it has to offer.