Mary and Vickie are two gorgeous women rocking life! These adventuristas have a boatload of friends but still love traveling on their own. Campervanning in Utah, touring the mysteries of China, or gazing at the Northern Lights in Alaska, they are living their lives to the fullest and are inspirations to all of us about life’s opportunities. Fortunately, I was able to catch them between adventures and ask about their bold lifestyles.
SG: Thanks so much for meeting with me. What have been your best adventures?
Mary: Facebook pops up those memories all the time, and there have been so many. Two years ago, we had so much fun in Yosemite with great friends…just one of many amazing adventures.
Vickie: Going to Yosemite in the winter with our snowshoes was wonderful.
SG: I thought that was Yellowstone.
Vickie: We did that too.
SG: You’ve done Yellowstone, Alaska, and Yosemite?!
Vickie: Yes, during the winter with lots of snow.
SG: Do you prefer winter because there are not as many people?
Mary: We wanted to see Yellowstone National Park at Christmas with snow, so we went in the winter. And then we went to Alaska to see the Northern Lights.
Mary: What always comes to mind, as a favorite, was my 10-day very remote Green River, Utah canoe trip. It was an ideal year and I trained a lot for it. I was so afraid I would not be able to paddle all those days. It was magical. Just incredible. (Don’t get any ideas, dear Reader, Mary did not do this by herself!)
SG: Sounds amazing. Vickie, what was your favorite?
Vickie: When I was married, we hardly went out of Southern California. So, my very first trip that I took by myself was China.
SG: You did that by yourself. Was it a singles’ trip? Did you pay the singles’ supplement?
Vickie: Yes, because I wanted my own room. And that was exciting because it was my first big international trip.
SG: It’s like you skipped some steps!
Vickie: Yes, next was Thailand where I scuba dived. Those beaches… It was incredibly beautiful. But all my other trips were good too, but that was just so new. I was learning to travel. Now I go alone and look forward to going alone but I also love my group. Our trip to Havasupai…
Mary: Havasupai was incredible in many ways.
SG: Does doing things by yourself come easily to you?
Mary: Very easily to me. I’ve also mostly been on my own since childhood. I was raised in an independent atmosphere and learned to do for myself and solve my own problems. I suppose this is partly why it’s easier for me. I’m independent and feisty.
SG: What made your trips so great? Some people would be sad, they did not have a partner. What was so great?
Mary: Anything outdoors, anything adventurous, with good people or alone is great. The interest and enthusiasm is the key. If I can’t have good people, I’d rather just be with me.
Vickie: You have to love travel.
SG: What adventures have you done by yourselves?
Vickie: Besides China, last year I went to Whistler on my own. That was really fun. And the year before I went to Jackson Hole. I did a kayaking tour on Jackson Lake. The first time I went to Alaska I went with the Sierra Club, but I did not know anybody. Whistler and Jackson by myself without a tour group.
SG: Did you get lonely?
Vickie: When I’m alone I always schedule day tours, or I have an agenda. No, I’m not lonely. When I retire, I’m going to buy a one-way ticket to Spain and I just want to hike the Camino by myself.
SG: I find you plan something by yourself and people want to come.
Vickie: For certain things, I like traveling alone. I love being in an airport by myself, my own hotel room, my own agenda.
SG: Mary, do you ever feel alone in your camper van?
Mary: No. I feel cozy, safe, and secure, mostly because of my faith and relationship with God. I also enjoy meeting new people and find it easy to do so because of the setting and the common interests, space, and circumstances.
Vickie: That’s where I’m different. I don’t meet a lot of people when I’m by myself.
SG: You like it that way?
Vickie: No, I would like to meet more people. I just don’t. Sometimes when I go on my day trips maybe…. When I travel alone, I always sit at a bar, get my wine. I have my book and I order my dinner. I’ve had men come and sit and talk but it never goes beyond…which is perfect.
Mary: Your book is taking the place of a friend.
Vickie: I’m so comfortable doing that.
Mary: When we have a book or our phone, we’re appearing somewhat closed, I think.
Vickie: True, but it gives me confidence to sit there by myself. Because I don’t have to look around or make eye contact with anyone, I can just feel comfortable and it’s interesting. It’s not just boring because I have a book and it’s so much more interesting than reading in my room.
SG: You both have your different strategies, but you really enjoy traveling together.
Vickie: I would never want to do all trips alone. Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed when there are so many people, but I also love it when there is a big group of us. It’s nice to have variety.
SG: I notice you both have guy friends. I think that’s a challenge because sometimes there are misunderstandings. How have you navigated that?
Vickie: Very careful. Do not give any signals at all. I give no signals…
Mary: I give signals all the time and I get in trouble. I’m very flirty apparently… I’m being my sarcastic, feisty self and I can get in trouble, but I love my men friends who can handle it.
SG: It is very charming.
Mary: I cherish them. I really do.
Vickie: Me too!
SG: Right?! How do you find friends to accompany you? Meetups? Church?
Mary: Prior hiking meetups opened up a wonderful circle that grew and changed as the years went by, and we’re still adding to it.
Vickie: Facebook events…every day of the week you could do something.
Mary: Facebook is huge. That’s where I’ve met a lot of people doing what I do. Every day of the week there’s probably 10 things you can do according to your interests.
Vickie: Sometimes I sign up for events where I’m not that wild about the people, but I go because if you say yes to things and you meet people, you’re more likely to get invited to other fun things. If I’m free and interested…I go.
SG: And then you meet your people…
Mary: There’s no excuse to stay home and be lonely.
Vickie: I read something today: I really want to be invited but you know I’m not going to come. That is why people are lonely, they need to say, “Yes, I’ll be there.”
SG: Do you have any advice for women who would like to be like you? Getting out there and being adventurous...
Mary: I’m counting on you to compile all that. It gets really old…
SG: You mean people who talk about…
Mary: How do you do it? Why do you do it? Why don’t you have a friend? Why don’t you have a man? I want to do what you do, but I’m scared.
Vickie: You have to have a strong desire to want to do it. Some people love sitting home watching TV. They do it every night.
Mary: You only have so many tomorrows. Stop finding excuses not to do it.
Vickie: There’s just not enough days in the week. You have to have the desire to get out of your comfort zone.
SG: Do you think there’s any way to get that desire? People want to be like that but it’s frightening to them. How do you not be afraid?
Vickie: Find something interesting in like Meetup…something that meets every week…a class or series of events. Something where you’re going to have more than one encounter with the same people. Mary, when we met, we hiked every week. If it had been a one-time thing…I never would have gotten the friendships I did. We would have never made the connections we made.
On traveling in a campervan…
Mary: Start small. It’s all within and maybe you can foster that…gumption, strength, baby steps, all you can do is try.
Vickie: You can’t be doing these things to meet a man. You have to be doing this to enjoy life. If you’re doing all this to meet a man you might as well…
SG: …be disappointed.
Mary: Some women always had a man to deal with it and that made all the difference for them.
SG: Are you ever afraid things will go terribly wrong?
Vickie: I’m not but I’m always thankful because things can go seriously wrong. Even with a friend.
Mary: If it weren’t for GPS I wouldn’t…couldn’t… The old days with a Thomas Guide I’d break into a sweat…always worry about car trouble. But it doesn’t stop me. I just maintain, take care and do anything ahead of time to prepare. AAA
SG: Have you had any bad experiences?
Mary: No. Prepare as much as you can. Get the right gear. There’s every excuse in the world. If you can’t fix that, you can’t do it.
SG: Do you go places where you are all by yourself?
Mary: Yes, with the help of Facebook travel groups, apps and gut instinct.
Vickie: I always do a lot of research when I go by myself. I have an agenda, I know what I want to do. You don’t end up somewhere crazy.
SG: What are the advantages of going alone?
Vickie: You can do whatever you want, whenever you want…
Mary: What she said!
Vickie: When you’re alone you just do whatever you want. Sleep in. When someone turns on the TV in a hotel room, I just want to run out.
Mary: Do you really want to fall asleep to that at night?
SG: Anything you would like me to include which would make readers more comfortable?
Mary: Keep it simple, google, plan.
Vickie: There are so many women’s tour groups as well. I mean just even day trips. My stepmother and all these women go all over Southern California. They have the best time.
Mary: I have so much gratitude to be able to do what we’re doing.
Vickie: What we do is cheap. Sleeping in your tent or campervan, you can afford to be gone for a month.
Mary: Yes, and traveling together, sharing expenses is great! Find someone who is a good match. You won’t agree on everything, but you have to be willing to compromise.
SG: From the outside looking in, it looks fabulous. Seeing you two on Facebook and all your adventures and how happy you are. There’s almost a giddiness.
Vickie: I have a friend who moved and is having a hard time meeting friends. We were lucky, we made friends fast. (Referring to connecting through Meetup hiking clubs.) When we would hike, we didn’t talk about jobs, the boss, troubles, you would talk about movies, trips, hobbies, books… I found my peeps!
Mary: And anything funny to make everyone laugh…everything seems to do that though.
SG: Go home and feel inspired…
Mary: Filled up
Thanks to Mary and Vickie for taking time out of their busy, adventurous lives to inspire us!
Dear reader, if you have any tips, please share in the comments section.
A few months ago, my friend Gail and I hiked up to Devil’s Bridge near Sedona. The end of this trail features a natural rock arch stretching around 50 feet above the canyon below. The path across is about 4-5 feet wide so you’d have to be trying pretty hard to fall off. At the access point, hikers, one by one, stride to the center of this arch and throw their arms in the air for a social media moment. When I was there, one woman smiling broadly at the camera, aligned her chakras and whipped her leg up into a tree pose. My photo moment was a little different. I quietly and slowly plodded across the natural bridge trying not to look down and keeping my knees bent. I’m not sure why I had my knees bent. I think I was trying to lower my center of gravity. I get to the middle of the rock arch and look back at the camera. I cannot put my arms in the air in a hurray gesture; I am using them as balancing devices. Feeling like I had won…a little, I turn to withdraw and freeze. I absolutely cannot move. There is a long line of non-acrophobics dying to cross the bridge and I’m stuck. Finally I turn, get on all fours and crawl back across, staring at the terra firma ahead of me. It was not one bit elegant and very embarrassing. Leaving, several fellow hikers ask if I was the one who crawled across the arch. Yep, that was me.
This acrophobia or the fear of heights has haunted me since high school and is incredibly burdensome. Hiking in the Grand Canyon, I actually forced my partner to turn around because I could not stand the terror any longer. And, I avoid high elevations with my daughter because she did not inherit one molecule of this fear and inevitably will want her picture on some precarious precipice. It takes every ounce of my will power not to swoop in and save her.
And don’t think I haven’t tried to get rid of it. I have purposely watched a terrifying video of a guy unicycling around the lip of a defunct smokestack in China, ziplined above the Costa Rican rain forest, ridden the tram to the top of Aiguille du Midi in the French Alps and stepped into the oblivion, dropping 10,000 feet tandem-skydiving. But, I’m still terrified.
I figure this is the year to fight back. Acrophobia has been messing with my life for a long time and I’m sick of it. After much thought, I’ve finally narrowed down my problem. I’m not afraid of flying and I love ziplining. I’m terrified when I’m the one in control in a high place. I guess I’m afraid I’ll accidentally but on purpose throw myself over the edge. Who accidentally on purpose throws themselves over the edge?! Researching, I learn this actually is a thing. Jean-Paul Sartre writes about it in his classic Being and Nothingness and the French have a word for it: L’Appel du Vide or “call of the void.” This is so not helping.
With more reading, I realize in the acrophobia realm, I’m not that deeply impacted. There are actually people who cannot climb on ladders or chairs. This makes me feel better although I have enormous empathy for those afflicted. I also discover a way to manage it: systematic desensitization. One exposes one’s self to acrophobia-inducing situations gradually growing in tenor and as a result the fear progressively recedes.
I decide to create my own systematic desensitization plan:
My ultimate goal is to hike to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. This narrow trail features 1500 foot drops, smooth and slippery sandstone surfaces, cables, and an other-worldly view from the top. My palms get cold and clammy just watching the Youtube video of it. But, don’t worry dear reader, this goal is not beyond the realm of possibility. In these clips I also see women carrying their babies in Bjorns and 12-year-olds stealthily making their way up the trail. Also, in the past 100 years of hiking Angel’s Landing, only 7 people have fallen. I figure my odds of survival are pretty good.
In preparation I’m going to…
I need to get ready physically too. I’m going to…
Regarding equipment, I plan to give myself every advantage for success. I will secure
In planning this trip I will…
On hiking Angel’s Landing. I will…
I’ll report back periodically on how the training is going. Maybe you too, dear reader, have a fear. I hope this inspires you.
Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it. ~ Bear Grylls
P.S. I woke up last night in a cold sweat. This fear is bigger than I thought. I may need to do a little rethinking. And, I'm worried about you too, dear Reader. Be super safe and careful while addressing any fear. Fear is sometimes there for good reason. ;-)