Vacations are, for many people, a wonderful, much-anticipated event. Travel to new and interesting places or to family favorites as well as being off work and away from the normal routine can be relaxing and rejuvenating. That may not be the case, though, for those whose lives have been irrevocably changed by the loss of a spouse. In fact, solo travel can be downright intimidating to many widows and widowers; concerns about safety and lack of companionship, for example, can cause them to simply stay home.

I have been fortunate in this respect. For the first few years after my husband passed away, my son and daughter vacationed with me.  I knew last summer, though, that our July trip to Disney World might well be our last real family vacation. With my son starting his residency and my daughter her Masters sometime in late May or early June this year, it was clear they wouldn’t be able to travel with me, and I’d be on my own.

With that in mind, last Fall I began researching and considering options and was pleasantly surprised at the many options to choose from. After considerable though, poring over websites, and turning down page corners on some gorgeous brochures, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. When I was in elementary school, my family took a trip to Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee and only 6 hours from home. I was about 7 or 8 at the time and, I must admit, I really don’t remember much about the trip.

One thing I do remember, though, is stopping at a state tourism welcome center along the way and picking up a copy of every one of the tourist attraction brochures located in a wooden case in the lobby of the center. At first, my mother told me to put them back, but the sweet older lady with a charming Southern accent told my mother it was alright, that’s what they were there for, and it would give me something to read while riding in the car. Read, I did. I read every single brochure, and I made 3 stacks — one for the places I really wanted to visit, a second for the places I might want to visit, and the last for the brochures to be thrown away. For some reason, I was captivated by the brochure from The John C. Campbell Folk School, and I saved it for several years, begging my parents every winter to take us there for vacation the following summer. It never happened.

Thirty years later, I attended a scrapbook retreat and heard several ladies talking about their “100 Things” albums. In it, they kept a list of 100 things they hoped to do — everything from something as simple as “find a 4-leaf clover” to a “go on a 10-day African safari”. List-maker that I have always been, I was intrigued by the idea, and when I returned home, I began creating my list of 100 things. The 2nd item (right behind “attend a Neil Diamond concert”) was “take a class at The John C. Campbell Folk School”. I couldn’t talk the rest of my family into a trip there — none of them wanted to take a class for vacation, so I put my dream aside, saving it for when the children were grown and gone.

This past November, I dug out my old “100 Things” list, revised it a bit, and decided that starting January 2013, I would accomplish four of the items from my “100 List” every year. I knew right away that attending a class at the John C. Campbell Folk School was a priority, so I studied their online calendar, signed up for a class, and 2 weeks ago tomorrow I made the drive to Brassville, North Carolina to attend a Beginning Jewelry class. It was without a doubt the perfect choice for my first solo trip!

Are you intimidated by the idea of solo travel? If so, please check out the links provided below. Many of these companies cater to women; I’ve marked those accordingly, if that is not indicated in the name of the site. I hope at least one of these sites piques your interest and causes you to step out, meet some new people, and have some wonderful experiences. Then, I hope you’ll come back and tell share about your experiences! — women’s trips with an adventurous bent, but don’t be put off by the name — trips are available to women of all levels of experience

www.adventuresingoodcompany — women-only trips– active and fun women-only trips (I have to admit that I love the name!) — hiking and biking trips all over the world, with trips for every skill level. These trips are not restricted just to widows/widowers but from what I’ve read, singles of all ages are welcome, attend, and have a wonderful time. — an interesting blog for women who like to camp with a list of women’s camping groups and lots of other fantastic information — adventure trips and excursions for women of all levels of experience — facebook site for a company specializing in international trips for women — the home site for The John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina; the school offers weekend and weeklong classes for men and women (multi-generational week as well) in a variety of arts/skills — formerly known as Elder Hostel, this group offers trips of all types all over the world for men and women over the age of 50, with some trips for grandparents and their grandchildren — the site for arguably the most famous female camper’s groups out there — this site will make even an avowed Hilton-gal consider renting or buying a camper and joining the caravan — an online network of travel opportunities for women travelers — the name says it all — this company offers walking vacations for women only — backpacking trips for women — an interesting article with a tips for the female solo traveler

If you know of any other sites or companies, please share by commenting below. Happy trails!