The rain cascaded down the subway stairs, pooling into puddles of slimy muck. Cursing silently, I fumbled with a cheap umbrella and turned to the wall to avoid hitting passersby. It refused to cooperate. Relenting, I stopped and sighed. As I realized that the subway was now terribly quiet, I suddenly couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move. I knew he was big by how deeply I was buried in his violent embrace. Attacking from behind, he pulled me tighter, covering my face, trying to immobilize me as he began dragging me to a dark corner.
I struggled; stamping on his feet, squirming, aiming to pound his middle with my elbows. Intuitively, I grabbed that broken umbrella with both hands and swung my arms upwards praying to connect with his face. It did. But dammit, he was strong. My resolve was stronger and I fought hard. Then he tossed me to the ground like a rag doll. As he loomed over me, I was consumed with fury.
I jumped up to ram into him. I fully intended to kick his ass. He had royally pissed me off. Abruptly though, he turned and ran. Concentrating on freeing myself, I had been fighting silently. Now, I roared with rage. I sprinted after him up the subway stairs and onto the busy Manhattan sidewalk. Perhaps it was my good fortune that he was very fast and very gone.
I stood panting, furious and alone, as crowds of people pushed by me preoccupied with their own thoughts. It never occurred to me to ask for help.
It rarely does.
In a nearby restaurant I checked my look in the restroom mirror. I did my best to clean the filth from my high-waisted acid-washed jeans. I repaired my make-up, stylishly coordinated with my outfit. I teased and sprayed my hair. Bigger. Satisfied, I resumed my trip to the theater district where I planned to buy tickets to a show as a gift for my parents.
Was I afraid? Hell no. I was angry. That young man invaded my sacred personal space, uninvited.
It was 1987 and I was 25 years old. I’d already been through some shit. I considered myself a rock, an island. Ridiculously petite at two inches shy of five feet tall and a mere 95 pounds, I lived alone and often enjoyed entertainment alone.
That is my super power. My strength is in being completely comfortable alone.
Growing up, we were taught to be resourceful and self-sufficient. We understood that, as newlyweds, our parents had very little; they sacrificed and struggled to eventually achieve financial stability.
More impressive to me were the tales of how my parents blazed their own trails in their respective histories. Both chose unconventional paths in their young lives that were unpopular with their families. Their reminiscences fascinated me and I deeply romanticized their stories of resilience and rebellion. I conjectured that I must be nothing less than entirely independent, or I'd be considered shamefully inadequate and weak.
And so, I did not report the assault in New York and learned to watch my back. Literally. Just as I had learned to venture out on my own. It had been part nature, and part discipline. I naturally enjoyed solitary pursuits. And relying on someone else to accompany me prevented me from the experiences I wanted to have. That was unacceptable. I began seeing movies, having dinner, and attending concerts on my own and realized I didn't have to miss anything. Rather than halting my evolution, the subway incident taught me to be vigilant. Over the years, this has become second nature to me. It keeps me safe.
As I continue to work toward my goal of full-time RV life, my research has led to articles about women newly single, afraid to travel alone, seeking guidance on how to take that leap. I understand the apprehension. Adventure holds inherent danger. Combat that danger with common sense strategies for safety. Then, just do it. Get out there. Every successful excursion is a notch on your belt. There's euphoria in overcoming fear and accomplishing that thing you thought you could never do. It's thrilling.
I can't get enough of that thrill. I travel as often as I can. Long road trips to concerts and story slams, legendary honky tonks and mountain trails. Sure, I've been thoroughly lost and terrified more than a few times. But part of the allure is conquering adversity. Alone. Each time, I manage to score a victory I can celebrate. Each time, I've tucked the experience into my backpack; another tool for the next adventure. It's intoxicating and empowering.
While the solitude that I protect has its complexities, today I choose to emphasize how it serves me well. Today, as I look forward to another road trip I'm amazed by how well this new lifestyle suits me. A lifestyle in which I don’t much have to negotiate or compromise; my decisions are my own. Today, all the weirdness that plagued me as an adolescent and chased me into adulthood, that isolates me, that drove me to bad decisions in an effort to find my place in the world, today that weirdness is my strength.
I love to share my photos, stories, and travel plans with my friends. I'm embarrassingly directionally-challenged, but I'm a silly map geek as I describe routes, mileage and planned stops; imagining adventures in unplanned detours.
Alone, yet connected to the world in a way I hadn't always been. Because I know who I am. I own who I am. And, I have a super power that yields genuine freedom.
When friends invariably ask, incredulous, “By yourself?”
“Aren’t you afraid?”
My answer is always categorically and emphatically, “No. I’m not.”
10 Stunningly Beautiful Places I Traveled Alone
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