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Free Solo!

I’m baaack! 

As many of you know, I have just returned from a fabulous getaway to Greece and Italy. What most of you don’t know, however, is that this trip was a small, personal victory for me. 

I admit to suffering from a case of wanderlust. My desire to see the world (underwater and topside) is why I joined the ‘Old Broads Dive Club’ years ago. This month, once again, I found myself in a foreign land with a great group of like-minded adventurers: 18 women members and 10 male partners (who we call Sherpas), plus 20 others who joined us on a 14-night ‘small ship’ Vantage Cruise and land excursion to explore “Greece’s Aegean Treasures.” After two weeks on buses, at meals, swimming the Aegean, climbing the Acropolis, and more, we had formed a tight-knit community of travelers.

To tell my victory story, I have to flash back to a year ago when I celebrated my grandson JJ’s Bar Mitzvah with a trip to Costa Rica. While we both had an amazing time, as I shared in this post I wrote just after the trip, I had struggled physically to keep up—and it wasn’t just because I was traveling with an energetic 13-year-old boy! In the handful of years prior, I had led a very sedentary life. The pounds had piled on, the lack of exercise had taken its toll, and I felt it every step of the way. The worst moment was when I fell. The physical damage was slight, but my confidence took a blow. Right then, right there, I made a promise to myself and to my grandchildren: I was going to change. 

Within a month, I had hired a personal trainer, changed my diet, and begun my journey to a better me. My trainer, Nancy Schwarz, began not with major cardio or weight training, but by training me not to fall. And I confess that the routine we did together each session felt utterly stupid! Simply standing… on a little dot. Moving weights from hand to hand… on a little dot. Standing on one foot and then the other… on a little dot. It felt ridiculous to me. But it worked. Nancy knew exactly what she was doing

Fast-forward to three weeks ago, and the difference was nothing short of miraculous! Thanks to Nancy’s endless help and encouragement, I’m now thirty pounds lighter and a heck of a lot stronger than I was just 12 months ago. Last year I complained that my safari tent was far from the dining room and the walk was a burden; this time I wouldn’t even have noticed—or cared. While I used to struggle to keep up with the group and was constantly out of breath, this time I was happy to climb each hill to see every gorgeous view (and take my word, ‘the most amazing view’ is always at the top of the hill!). 

While I tend to avoid being part of a large tour group, I signed up with a small, relatively intimate tour, and it was absolutely wonderful. I met so many interesting people, most of whom I would never have encountered if I’d been with ‘my people.’ And I discovered that everyone is bursting to tell their own story! Joe had just retired from the NSA (aka the ‘No Such Agency’). Leslie was taking her first trip abroad since her husband died. Myra had wild tales about her career working at a nuclear power plant. It was fascinating. 

The Greek land and sea tour was not my only accomplishment. My new physical strength also gave me the confidence to do something I’d never done before: I traveled on the next leg of the trip completely solo to the beautiful, waterlogged, car-less city of Venice.

On my own in Venice, I was free to explore what I wanted, and on my own schedule. Friends had recommend that I read the Guido Brunetti books, a series by Donna Leon that is set entirely in Venice. Having taken that wise advice, I started with the first book in the series, and by the time I’d closed the cover on book number three, I felt like Guido himself had signed up as my personal guide. With great guidance from Donna Leon, Rick Steves, and Context Tours, I felt like I knew the city before I ever stepped foot there. And thanks to my new body (my new me!), I felt like I was floating on air. 

If you have a bucket list of destinations and “no one to go with,” I hope my experiences give you options. You can take yourself, or you can join a tour. I hope you find yourself empowered by my own experiences and trust that you really can satisfy your wanderlust by exploring the planet on your own.

For me, a big challenge to finding my freedom was physical, and I was able to reach my goals through intention, planning, and discipline. What’s your challenge? If you, too, need to get healthier to be happier, I urge you to find a trainer and a routine that is the right fit for you. If finding your freedom is a financial challenge, I guarantee that working with a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) to learn how to navigate your financial life can make a life-changing difference. And if you are able to achieve health and wealth in your later years, who knows… we just may run into each other on the Champs Elysees someday as we’re each exploring the planet—solo.