Planning trips and fulfilling my dreams is so second nature to me, that I never consider “alone” being part of the equation. Inevitably, when I tell people that I went camping, hiking, drove to this place and saw that, when out to dinner, out to the theater, took in a movie, did a photography class, went out snow shoeing went to the art gallery or the orchestra….etc. The most common question people ask me ” Did you go alone?”
I am always shocked this is the first question out of peoples mouths . Of all the things I would expect people to ask; Did you enjoy it? Tell me about it? How did you find out about that? What made you go there? Was it far? How long did take to get there? etc. None of these questions ever arise. I always have to answer the same damn question; Did you go alone? My answer is usually “Yes”
Yes, I go alone. Not that I don’t want a companion, but “yes” because I am not willing to wait while my life speeds by. Yes, because I have a long list of things to see and do and I am not getting any younger. Yes, because it is only an hours’ drive or a four hour flight, or two days away. However, I have learned that because I am comfortable with striking out alone, not everyone is. Here is a scenario depicting most people’s fear and why you shouldn’t worry.
March in Atlantic Canada is maple syrup making time. I can honestly say I have never taken part in a sugar bush outing. I heard an advertisement broadcasting on the radio that it is sticky season. Come out and enjoy sugar bush activities around New Brunswick. The vision of hot pancakes and fresh maple syrup had me licking my lips. I looked up the closest place to me. Dumfries Maple, on highway 102 just before Nackawic. I gave them a call and asked if I needed a reservation? No, unless it was a large group. “Just me” I said. I figured I was all set.
Saturday morning My eyes popped open at 6:45 am and I was on the road by 7:15 am. It is only a 40 minute drive from my home but a missed turn had me delayed, so I didn’t arrive till almost 8:30 am. I parked and walked into the large maple wood lodge and opened the door.
Surveying the room it was an open plan, a wood stove in the right hand corner, a cooks pass through kitchen in the back right. An L shaped glass counter set up for product display and payments in the center. Stairs lead up to a loft slash office on the far left. A sprinkling of long tables with benches filled the rest of the room . One table had six adults, and a small child in a high chair crowding the stove. The front tables were filled, and four people occupied the center arrangement. I looked in the direction of the three waitresses standing near the kitchen. Not singling any one of them out, I pointed towards the right, indicate I was head to the nearest vacancy.
I picked up a certain fear or confusion resonating between the two young staff. Neither moved towards me. I took off my coat and hung it up. Picking up the menu, a narrow framed woman with a knitted hat and a slinky walk ventured over to me. She leaned in and whispered ” How many will be joining you?” I said ” Just me” She scooted away to deliver the horrible news.
I think I can related to how a black person walking into a room full of white people in Mississippi circa 1960’s may have felt. Shunned defiant and unwelcome. The waitresses avoided me like I had the plague. The narrow woman came back and leaned in too close again. I spoke first, ordering my blueberry pancakes and a coffee before she could speak. She waited a long moment with a smile and blinking eyes then replied “one of the waitress would be with you shortly.”
I sat people watching. Observing the interaction of the families on an outing . I waited for someone to come over and speak to me, rather than stare at me like a road side attraction. The narrow lady brought my coffee and said she passed my order into the kitchen. A second woman came over and asked me if I was ” OK ?” in a sympathetic tone I would expect from someone greeting me after a cancer treatment. I smiled and responded “I am fine just waiting on my order thanks.”
As more groups filed through the door, seats where dwindling. I waved to a family that needed some direction. “Come join me at my table” My pancake arrived. The waitress was seasoned and I could see she understood I was good with company joining me. To my relief, I could feel the tension of the whole staff relax. Perhaps, they were worried about how they where going to break the news to me that they would need to squeeze someone next to me.. What they didn’t know was, I have squeezed in at the bar many times when restaurants where at capacity. It is not a hardship. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that this could be a problem.
I had a lovely chat with my table neighbors they introduced each family member. We had a “where are you from discussion? followed by a what do you do? discussion. “I teach fitness, which allows me to eat as many pancakes as I want.” Chuckles were heard from all. It was actually a jab to the fact that I only got one pancake when the menu clearly says Pancakes. I had expected two. I finished my food scooped up my bill and rose to leave. The man across from me said ” don’t rush your meal because we arrived”. I said I was genuinely finished and I had travel plans. I was headed to Hartland covered bridge area for the day. I thanked them all for joining me. I hoped they enjoy their breakfast.
The Moral of the story, whether you are traveling or having a meal at a restaurant, not all that wander are lost, and not everyone that is alone is lonely. It has been a long time since I was made to feel like an outsider. This example of misunderstanding from the staff is rare but as usual, I meet some lovely people in the process.
If you are waiting to find the right companion to bust out and begin traveling or doing anything on your own, I say don’t wait life is short. For those that can’t imagine going on a journey by them selves, I offer a starting point. Go to a local tourist information center. Picture yourself as someone from far away and this is your dream vacation. Trust me, you live where others want to travel.
If you can bring yourself to do a mini vacation in your own town, then you can go to the next town down the road. Follow it up with the next county, the next city, the next province, the next country. It starts to snow ball, but you have to start.
You also need to know what you enjoy. I know I enjoy art and hiking so I always find the local art Galleries, and inquire about out outdoor parks. I also love wildlife so I find a local wildlife areas, but it could be the SPCA. Perhaps a dog park. Maybe you like skating find all the skating rinks, what about water falls and historic attractions? Tourist information centers will have ideas for you.
Until the right travel partner shows up, my travel play book, a map and a local tour book are my companions. Travel safe and happy journey’s from Maritime Mac.