Caught in the Act of Becoming


Hiking in Patagonia.

A dear friend whose children were a bit older than mine and who was also a principal of a school and so cared for many children, once said: “catch them in the act of doing something good”.

Empty praise, is just that. Empty. And kids know it. But being seen, really being seen as capable, hard-working, talented… that is special and that can change everything.

Stay with me here. I’ll get to the bit about solo travel.

What we were caught in the act doing as children stays with us as adults. Whether the important people in our lives saw us as smart (or not), kind (or not), athletic (or not)… to a large degree defines who we are and what we do as adults. It affects the work we choose, our leisure activities, the friends we have and everyone’s expectations of us – including our own.

I do not know one person who is totally confident and completely happy with who they are. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel, in some way, limited by their childhood.

Now this is where solo travel comes in.

Finding oneself

Last week on the Solo Travel Society on Facebook I asked the question: other than travel, what is solo travel about? The answers were voiced in many ways but there were essentially, only two answers:
Caught in the act of becoming

  • Finding yourself – this includes building confidence as you take care of yourself without backup, pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and discovering what makes you happy.
  • Freedom – including the opportunity to be spontaneous, do what you want without compromise and enjoy your own company.

As you travel solo being totally responsible for yourself, it’s inevitable that you will discover just how capable you are. As you push your boundaries, whether it’s by going to a restaurant alone for the first time or navigating a country where you don’t know the language, you will gain confidence. As you move to your own rhythm and follow your own interests you will most certainly discover what makes you happy. As an adult traveling solo, no longer is it about what others see in you. It’s about what you see in you.

It’s about catching yourself in the act of doing something good.

The photo above is me hiking in Patagonia. I’m an urban girl. Growing up, hiking was never a family activity. Further, I would never, ever, have been considered the athletic type. Sports were for my siblings.

Caught in the Act of BecomingSo as I hiked, first on a solo trip to the the Lake District of England in 2009 and again, two years later in Patagonia Chile, with a few smaller hikes in between I pushed my boundaries. I discovered a joy in new things. I gained confidence.

On those trips I caught myself in the act of becoming who I am today. I did so in Bologna, London and Paris this fall as well. Whether it’s a hiking adventure or an urban one, I don’t expect that this will ever stop. I expect to continue to evolve, grow and become slightly better versions of myself.

I hope you’ll travel solo because, as you do, you’ll have the wonderful opportunity of catching yourself in the act of becoming too.

  • Janice Waugh

    There’s lots on the blog to help you travel solo. It’s all free. If you want to invest a bit, you could buy The Solo Traveler’s Handbook on Amazon or any other online store. Happy travels.

  • Brianstorm

    Can’t believe I just found this now. Wonderful post. You had me at the title, which is exactly what I’m looking for. I traveled solo a lot, but it’s been 5 years since I don’t do it. I’m currently facing the same doubts and wonderings I did back then, so I’m looking to go back to traveling solo to figure things out. The thing is that I’m afraid I don’t know how to travel solo anymore. However, your post gives me strength. :)

  • Natalie Tanner

    What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing. I specialize in traveling with families, but I hear often from reluctant solo travelers. I will pass along your personal wisdom!
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

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  • Globedotti

    I just went on a group trip which made me appreciate solo travel even more.

  • Gillian Frances

    I housesit as well, Elaine, in Australia. I am thinking of branching out though and sitting in other countries. At the moment I am looking after a gorgeous cat in a small town called Maldon, in Victoria, Australia.
    I use a site called There are links on their site for other countries.

  • Gillian Frances

    The Accomm guide is a good idea Janice. I just hope it caters for the ultra cheap….which is the only way I can travel. It is either do it that way or stay home, so the choice is clear.
    Most people don’t travel as cheaply as myself, I find, or at least not unless they are young. If that is the case they often spend a lot on alcohol, phones and meals out. Their choice, of course! At 61 those things aren’t a high priority.
    I am happy to contribute to the accommodation guide, if you think it could be useful.

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  • Janice Waugh

    You ladies are so cool. I’ll email you.

  • Faith Dugan

    Elaine, I am happy to communicate by email with you.

  • Faith Dugan

    Elaine Beckham, I sent you a message on Facebook. At least I think it is you.

  • Elaine Beckham

    Thank you Faith Dugan – this has definitely inspired me. I’d love to email you directly too but don’t know how…. Maybe Janice could help… she knows my email address, and knows yours. I would certainly give her permission to forward my email to you, if she would be willing to do that. I was in Leningrad (now St. Petes) in 1971 and Moscow in 1970 – both times with a travel group, but traveling on my own. I love that you got to the Olympics – what an experience !!

  • Denise McLarty

    This thread brings up the question of solo travelers being able to contact each other?

  • Janice Waugh

    Hi Elaine,

    There is another reply to your comment you posted here three months ago. Click through to this page and read Faith’s post.


  • Janice Waugh

    Hi Faith,

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I’m going to ping Elaine in hopes she sees it.


  • Faith Dugan

    Elaine Beckham, not sure how to send a message directly to you however I am currently on a 6 month travel journey. I am 70 years old and do have a travel blog but it does not have specifics about logistics and accommodations and that type of information. I started the blog mostly for family and friends but may expand it in the future with more information. Janice has good information on her site. First, you will be so glad you made the trip. There may be some differences in traveling in your 60 and 70’s. Energy level is one but you just have to pace yourself. It took me a little time to simply say it is OK to have a day to do nothing. I have had a few rough moments but not as bad as I had anticipated. They passed quickly. I find that the loneliness has been minimal mainly because not a day went by that someone did not converse with me. My confidence has increased during each part of my travel. I traveled to russia for the Olympics and gosh was I ever nervous but I managed although there were a couple snafus. What I have found is to stay in a place for a little time.

  • Janice Waugh

    That is so cool. I love how language reveals culture.

    Thanks Scott.

  • Scott

    In India (my own favorite destination) there is no difference (linguistically) between “being” and “becoming” – they are one in the same word. Travel, particularly solo travel, has allowed me to Realize who I am.

    Best education I’ve ever had.

  • Elaine Beckham

    Thank you Wendy…. do you go through any particular housesitting company? Also, do you rent a car on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, or does it just depend on where you are? Wish there was some way to email each other, but like me, you probably don’t like to have your email out ‘there’. I’m pretty healthy, altho my knees have been giving me trouble just recently dammit! But am not letting that be a problem 😉

  • Wendy

    Elaine, I am 64 and have been travelling solo for the last 3 years. I have been on long trips (6 – 8 weeks each) to Australia, New Zealand, China, Arizona/New Mexico/Utah and England. I am going on another trip to England this April and somewhere in the Fall (maybe India ). I do housesitting where I can to help pay the expenses but also because it allows me to stay in a community for a while and relax into it and not feel that I have to be a tourist every day, dashing madly around to see EVERYTHING!! I spend some days at my housesit enjoying my book and the garden/balcony and perhaps just going “into town” to run some errands or go for a walk and soak up the local culture. The next day I might go further afield. A slower way of travelling if you will. If you are healthy, reasonably active, at least a little adventurous in your outlook, curious about the world around you and enjoy your own company, you’ll grow in confidence every day and have an amazing time. Don’t worry about your age – you’ll blossom if you’re having fun!
    Keep a journal!

  • Elaine Beckham

    Thanks, I’ll look forward to that Guide. Depending on what time of year my house sells will help me decide if I should spend 3 months in Australia first or 3 or 4 months in the UK and/or Ireland – haven’t figured out what I will do to get to either of those 2 places – but it will work out 😉

  • Janice Waugh

    Hi Elaine,

    I’m 56.

    What a great adventure you have planned. I’ve met women older than me traveling on their own. I don’t think it’s a lot different than it is for me though, of course, I can’t say for sure. The real difference here is that you’ll be traveling long term. Don’t expect to keep the pace that you would on a short trip. You need to slow down on a longer trip. The upside is that you’ll enjoy digging a bit more deeply into the culture.

    At the end of March we’re publishing the first Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide. It will likely be of help as you plan your trip.


  • Elaine Beckham

    I enjoy your posts very much Janice. I keep wondering how old you are (rude of me, I know) because next year I am selling my house and plan on traveling solo for 9 to 12 months, at the age of 68. A bit scary but I keep feeling its a necessity. Do you have a blog somewhere for older women traveling on their own?

  • Janice Waugh

    All you have to do is click here: and “Like” the page.

  • Stephanie

    I love this concept! As a 24 year old I’m still very much in the process of becoming who I will be in my life- and trying to make that person someone I want to be! But darn it all if being an adult is hard work!

    PS- how can I become a member of the solo traveler society on Facebook? Is it an open group or by invitation only?

  • Sheilah

    Thank you so much for this interesting and inspiring article!

  • Gaelyn

    Traveling solo is a great way to face your fears by challenging yourself. My first solo trip at 22, ah hem, many years ago, was so I could learn to be alone and enjoy my own company. Was a perfect way to get to know myself better. And I learned that I’m pretty good company.