Solo Travel for Adventurous Boomer Women

by Nancy Mueller
( June 22nd, 2015 )

Nancy Mueller Alaska

It’s no secret that we encourage solo women travel here at Wanderlust and Lipstick. Yet I marvel at how often my traveling alone to exotic destinations provokes a variety of reactions from fellow women travelers who are not, ranging from:

“You’re so brave!”

“Really?” (as in, Why would anyone want to do that?)

to:

“Wow.” (as in, How do you get to do that?)

“Cool!”

Solo Travel Nancy Mueller Langley, WA

While I’m a great proponent of travel with family and friends given the opportunity, I’m also a strong advocate for solo women travel. In fact, according to recent reports cited both in The New York Times and Oprah Magazine, the number of solo travelers, American women in particular, is on the rise.

As a Boomer woman living life single, as an empty nester, or with a partner who doesn’t share your travel bucket list, perhaps, you too, wonder whether solo wanderings are for you. Having ventured around the world on my own and with travel companions, here’s what I know for sure:

“You’re so brave!”

Solo Travel Nancy Mueller Ecuador

I’m not really. But given the choice of seeing the world solo or not at all, having once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences or not, my bags are always packed. Traveling feeds my soul and the confidence I’ve gained from doing so on my own has returned to me a thousandfold when facing similar, potentially intimidating situations in life. Susan Jeffers said it best in her ground-breaking book. Sometimes you just have to Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway in order to get where you want to go.

If the fear of traveling on your own is preventing you from doing so, make a list of your travel fears, followed by an action plan to minimize their impact. Ask for help from experienced travelers. Browse the Internet for tips from travel pros. Find out how to protect yourself from possible theft or handle other safety concerns. Don’t let fear drive your decision to stay home if you want to see the world but don’t have a travel companion.

“Really?” (as in Why would anyone want to do that?)

Solo Travel Nancy Mueller The Danube, Kelheim

Lots of reasons. Because all the award-winning photography in the world can’t compare to the unexpected emotion you feel when surrounded by Monet’s waterlily paintings at the Musee de’Orsay in Paris. Because when you witness the pristine, natural beauty of sites like Alaska’s Inside Passage up close and personal, you understand in a visceral way why it’s vital to protect our environment for ourselves and future generations. Because the memories of sailing aboard a felucca on the Nile at sunset or biking the backroads of Provence can sustain you when all else around you fails.

Besides enjoying exotic destinations, besides building self-confidence, traveling solo exposes you to fast friendships and exponential growth when you interact with others who speak another language and who see the world through a different lens than you do. Why not learn how to cook the cuisine of Ecuador on location? Why not listen to Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the opera house in Vienna? Why not saddle up for a solo horseback ride in Patagonia if that’s what you want to do?

“Wow.” (as in How do you get to do that?)

Solo Travel Nancy Mueller Montreal

I get to see the world in my role as a travel writer. But you don’t need to be a travel writer to enjoy the best that solo world wanderings have to offer. Research your travel options with the help of a travel agent or tour company that specializes in solo journeys. Network with like-minded adventurers. Set your intention, make a plan and get going.

For more information on solo travel, check out these articles:

The New York Times
Oprah Magazine

Wander on!

Nancy

What solo travels have you taken, wanderboomers? Please share your experience with us here.

 

 

 

 

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Ziplining 101 with Ziptrek Ecotours

by Nancy Mueller
( June 5th, 2015 )

Nancy Mueller Ziptrek Ecotours

Ziplining has never been high on my bucket list of travel adventures. While I’m not overly scared of heights, I’m respectful of the distance between heaven and earth with a strong preference for staying grounded unless winging through the air from one exotic destination to another from the comfort of a Boeing jet. Think cushioned seats, seatbelts and a stiff drink.

Still, an invitation from Ziptrek Ecotours to experience “eco-exhilaration™” on their Eagle Tour at Whistler, BC, beckoned, hung in the air, so to speak. When I tweeted before the Big Event, asking readers to remind me why I was doing this, Ziptrek shot back in a nanosecond: “Because it’s FUN!” Ohhhhh. Right. The FUN factor. But for whom, I wondered: for me – or for those watching as I hurl myself like a shell from a loose cannon off into the stratosphere?

Ziptrek Ecotours

Yet here I am, poised on the edge of a platform alongside a hearty group of twelve, a mix of first-timers (thankfully, not our guides) and repeat zippers. We stop our pre-zip nervous chatter long enough to fix our gaze on our hero guide who shows us exactly how it’s done. He smiles before launching off, zipping through the air effortlessly before landing way too far away for my Boomer eyes to follow.

Ziptrek Ecotours Adventurers

Lost in our own private reveries while processing the FUN we had just observed, another guide steps forwards and asks in a cheerful tone: “So who wants to go first?” A long silence follows. Finally one participant speaks up: “I will.”

My fellow zipper whips around to face me: “What!? I can’t believe you just said that!” Wait – why is she looking at me? I said that?? In my lightheaded daze, I must have been reflecting on what my dinner host had shared with me the previous night. “My mother was terrified before she went ziplining the first time,” she said. “If I can offer you one piece of advice, it’s this: volunteer to go first. That way you won’t be standing around getting more nervous than you already feel.” How else to account for my inexplicable moment of madness?

Ziptrek Ecotours Nancy Mueller

So this is how the body of a jellyfish feels from the inside out, I marvel, in my own out-of-body experience. With a smile plastered on my face, heart pounding, I step towards our launching pad. My guide opens the platform gate and closes it behind me, separating me from the supportive womb of the others. My smile fades as I fight the urge to curl into a fetal position, cry “Wah!” and ask for my mommy. He checks my helmet and full-body safety harness as many times as I ask, then says matter-of-factly, “You’re good. Just take one step at a time until you feel the slack between your harness and the zipline tighten. Then go!” Sure. Okay. Just a step at a time. Easy-peasy, right? I mean, hundreds of thousands of real people have been on a Ziptrek tour in the last 10 years. Real people from age 6 – 96 do this all the time – theoretically, at least – since to date, the oldest participants on Ziptrek Ecotours have been only 92 years old.

Of course, stepping down stairs into space with a railing on either side of you is one thing. But stepping down into space with no railing on either side in sight, even when harnessed? Can’t I take the stairway to the stars instead?

Whoa! I remind myself to breathe. Long, slow, deep breaths follow. Just do it, I coax myself, becoming my own best coach in the moment. Don’t think about the fact that you’re about to dangle somewhere over Fitzsimmons Valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains from a height of up to 300 feet. Or that you’re about to zip through old-growth rainforest at speeds that can reach up to 56 mph depending on weight and weather conditions. Never mind that the first zipline on the Eagle Tour is the longest – 2400 feet with a 30-story descent. No, better not to think about any of that now. Better to hum a few notes from Donna Summer’s blockbuster hit, “I Will Survive!” instead. Remember, I tell myself. The actual time on each of the five ziplines (yes, there are five on the Eagle Tour) is only 35 – 40 secs. That’s it! Oh, well, in that case . . .

Nancy Mueller Ziptrek

In one cotton-mouthed gulp, I’m off! Whee! Sure they can hear the screams of my inner Jane all the way down in Whistler Village. No matter. I’m doing it! I’m zipping through the air, well, maybe not with the greatest of ease, but on my own terms, eyes tightly shut until I remember to open them two-thirds of the way through my run, twisting and twirling most of the way, hearing the whoosh of the wind surround me as I zip my way to the landing platform. Yes! Success! One down, only four more to go. Whew.

The Pacific Rim Caesar

And the payoff for accepting Ziptrek’s offer of this thrilling outdoor mountaintop adventure? Besides my personal treat of The Pacific Rim Caesar at Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill (“Make mine a double – stat!”). Besides gaining new-found confidence that comes from working through one’s fears and picking up tidbits of ecological information from knowledgable guides which I would gladly have shared with you here had my focus been on learning rainforest lore rather than on survival, is this text exchange with my 16-year-old daughter afterwards:

DD (for Darling Daughter): ZIPTREKKING? What have they done to you? Looks like a blast!!


Me: Ha, ha – It was totally FUN! First step off into space was the hardest. And I went on 5 different zip lines!


DD: OMG. You’re crazy. That sounds like so much fun. Hahaha. I’m impressed. Becoming an adrenaline junky?


Me: No worries.


There. That’s it right there. Thanks to your showing me how to zip through the trees, Ziptrek Ecotours, you helped this Boomer woman impress my 16-year-old daughter. Not an easy feat – and reason enough for me to sign up for another of your amazing tours again. Great FUN all the way around, just as you promised!


Nancy Mueller Post Ziptrek Ecotours


For more information on how you, too, can soar through the forests at Whistler while dazzling your own children and grandchildren on a ziplining adventure, visit Ziptrek Ecotours.


Rainbow Backdrop


Thanks to host Ziptrek Ecotours for sharing this FUN adventure and to our most amazing guides, Keir, Admir and Kiah, for putting up with the likes of us!


Wander on!


Nancy


What about you, wanderboomers? Have you gone ziplining? What are your travel fears? How have you overcome them?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beyond “Gong Xi Fa Cai!” in Richmond, BC

by Nancy Mueller
( April 18th, 2015 )

Chinese New Year

Smiling faces and friendly greetings of “Gong Xi Fa Cai!” follow me as I stroll through the bustling Asian shopping extravaganza. Here at Aberdeen Centre, hundreds of Chinese lanterns hang high overhead. Everywhere I look, a sea of red and gold, lucky colors in Chinese culture, light up storefronts in dazzling vendor displays. Packages of red envelopes, gold-foiled candies and small stuffed rams line the tables from end to end. The scent of fresh flowers and fruit fill the market mall. Meanwhile, the promise of exuberant lion dances express the joyous spirit of revelers on the scene. The celebration of China’s longest and most important holiday appears well underway even though the official kickoff is still days away.

Annually the holiday occurs between the end of January and February, with a variable start date, based on the Chinese lunar calendar. Closely connected to the Chinese Zodiac, each year features one of twelve animal signs that rotate in a twelve-year cycle. 2015 celebrates “Year of the Sheep,” or “Goat” or “Ram,” depending on the translation.

Whether you wish another person “Gong Xi Fa Cai” in Mandarin or “Gong Hey Fat Choy” in Cantonese, each expresses the same sentiment: “Wishing you great happiness and prosperity!” Translating the English version, “Happy New Year,” into Chinese becomes, “Xin Nian Kuai Le,” or “New Year Happy.” It’s a time for leaving the old year behind, symbolized in ritual house cleaning, in eager anticipation of new beginnings, a sweeping away of the past for the promise of what lies ahead.

Tastes of Asia in Richmond, BC

On the restaurant scene, delectable dining menus feature “lucky foods,” tokens of good luck, longevity and prosperity: a whole squab for wholeness with family (the head and tail for good beginnings and good endings), fish and dumplings for money, tongue for ease, oysters for good business and long noodles for longevity. But with menu names like “Beautiful Family Happy Days,” often the real adventure lies in discovering exactly what foods comprise the dish. Visits to the Richmond Public Market and Osaka Grocery Store at Yaohan Center shed some of the mystery by offering a peek at Asian meal ingredients and an authentic Asian food court.

Chinese Calligraphy

Sixty percent of the local population in Richmond, British Columbia is of Asian, predominantly Chinese, descent. Little wonder then that Chinese New Year has become a favorite annual festival in this once-sleepy Vancouver suburb. But a visit to Richmond, B.C. reveals the region’s diverse cultural traditions beyond celebrating Asia’s lunar holiday.

Lingyen Mountain Temple

For starters, visit Richmond’s No. 5 road, better known as “Highway to Heaven,” to see how residents of different religious faiths and spiritual practices co-exist peacefully. Mosques, temples and churches encourage visitors for guided tours, special events, lectures, celebrations and art exhibits. Our Richmond stay includes a brief stop at the Buddhist Ling Yen Mountain Temple, home to 10,000 worshippers. Welcomed with a cup of fragrant Asian tea upon arrival, we next tour the Chinese palatial-style temple and hibernating garden grounds while sounds of chanting surround us, creating a calm and peaceful presence on our walk.

Tea Ceremony

To gain further insight into the diverse cultures of local inhabitants, visitors can attend a tea ceremony, explore a traditional Chinese medicine shop or browse the two-dollar Japanese bargain store, Daiso, all at the Aberdeen Centre. And with summer on the horizon, why not extend your cultural explorations at the area’s two Asian Night Markets, a stunning array of vendors serving sweet and savory dishes, together with live entertainment and performances.

For more information, visit:

Tourism Richmond
Four Points by Sheraton Vancouver Airport
Ling Yen Mountain Temple
Golden Paramount Seafood Restaurant
Lulu Island Winery
Bushuair Restaurant
Chef Tony Seafood Restaurant
Richmond Public Market
Yaohan Centre
Aberdeen Centre
Uncle Lu

Many thanks to my host, Tourism Richmond, for this glimpse into the cultural wonders of the region!

Richmond, BC

Wander on!

Nancy

What about you, wanderboomers? What’s your favorite way to discover a new region through its cultural traditions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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