Local women share their solo travel adventures
FRONT ROYAL – Rebecca Altizer, a retired teacher, has a tendency to throw herself, her two dogs and cat, into the unknown and go on a path of discovery, wherever it might lead her.
“Traveling is one of those things you just do,” Altizer said. “In a way, it helps us better understand our place in the world and the life we want. But it also helps keep us humble.”
Altizer said she had always had a dream of owning an RV and driving across country with her husband. When her husband died, Altizer decided to make that dream a reality.
“Traveling with someone special is the best,” she said. “But because I no longer had that option, I decided to take life into my own hands.”
After doing some research on RVs and their prices, she said she went to an RV show with friends where she purchased an RV that holds up to eight people. It has multiple TVs, an outside grill and is the perfect home away from home.
“It was an adventure of a lifetime,” she said. “I stayed in some towns for a week, some longer. It just all depended on whether I knew someone there or not.”
Her cross-country adventure lasted 99 days. She traveled 8,700 miles through Virginia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas, California, Ohio and West Virginia. And then some.
During her RV adventure, Altizer said she mostly parked and stayed in national parks, like Glacier National Park where she recalled the “hilarious story” about her dogs locking her out of her RV.
“It’s a funny story now. Then not so much,” she said. “The park ranger was talking to me but because the dogs were barking, I couldn’t hear what he was saying,” she said. “So, I stepped out of the camper. I had left the engine running and told him I had made reservations. He let me through. As I turned around to get back into the camper, the dogs were at the window and had pushed the lock down. I couldn’t get back in.”
After a mild panic attack, Altizer said she found an open window and climbed through. “It was one of those things you’ll never forget,” she said laughing. “Chalk it up to a typical vacation.”
Throughout her adventure, Altizer said she stayed in many locations where she didn’t know a soul. But was OK with that.
“I’ve always had this mindset of doing things alone,” she said. “I’m not afraid to go to the movies alone or eat dinner alone. So why should I be afraid to travel alone?”
Altizer recalls hiking, seeing sunsets, visiting with old friends while making new ones, and an unfortunate case of food poisoning.
Aside from visiting every state in the country, Altizer has been to Ireland three times, five countries in Africa along with Iceland, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Vatican City, Greece, Budapest, Australia, China, Japan and Amsterdam.
“The list of my travels is so long, sometimes I have a hard time believing it myself,” she said.
Ginny Leser, owner of Main Street Travel in Front Royal, and a globetrotter herself, said over the past few years she’s noticed a new trend emerging: solo traveling for women.
“This concept of taking a solo vacation is something I’ve seen women doing more and more of,” Leser said. “Not only is it this great opportunity for many of them to see the world, but it’s also an opportunity for self-discovery.”
For Marcy McCann, of Strasburg, her passion for travel started when she was 21 and just learned how to drive.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with being brave,” she said. “I think it’s about wanting to experience the world for yourself. What it offers. However, you chose to do it.”
Once she learned how to drive, McCann said she became this adventurous person who wasn’t held down by anything. After her father had moved her from New York to Florida, McCann had the perfect excuse to visit her mother, who still lived in New York.
“I would just get in the car and drive,” she said. “This was long before highways existed. I would stop in little towns off the main route and see what they had to offer.” From the boutiques, to quaint little shops, McCann said she saw and experienced it all.
Throughout her many adventures, McCann has visited Marigá, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Canada, and Mexico.
“I take these little moments and make them count,” Altizer said. “I enjoy them. Those little moments, whether it’s a sunset or hiking, I always tell people to make those moments count. Because you don’t know how long you’ll have them.”