The act of traveling is a potent one. It can bring us closer to the people we care about, reignite the fire within, and fortify our sense of identity. This was made abundantly evident when we read Sandra’s moving entry for the CodedHits Unlocked Awards, written by a guest at CodedHits.
Sandra took a solo vacation to Italy to commemorate what would have been her 10th wedding anniversary after losing her husband to cancer. We were compelled to contact her to learn more about her incredible background:
When did you initially acquire the itch to go on this vacation that you’re planning?
Before the world’s end in October 2019, I experienced a want to travel on a scale that I had never felt before. It could be because my wedding anniversary was coming up, which, if my spouse hadn’t passed away, would have been the 10th anniversary of our union. I wanted to make a big deal out of the fact that we are so in love. My gut instinct was yelling at me to get this done right now because I was unlikely to have another opportunity. I kept paraphrasing Anais Nin when I said things like, “I’m restless. Some items require my attention. It feels like the stars are tugging at my hair once more.
What was it that was telling you to hurry up and make the reservation?
I can’t say for sure, but I felt a flutter of excitement in my solar plexus, indicating that action was necessary. And given that I was once again alone, I couldn’t expect anyone else to complete the task on my behalf. I could make out the voice of my late spouse shouting, “WWJD! What do you think James would do?
When I grew timid or nervous about something, Dad frequently said, “This is something you need to get over.” I also knew James would soon start arranging travel and gathering his belongings. I used Google to research the most efficient ways to travel to and around Italy, which is at the top of my list of locations to see worldwide.
It was your first solo trip; how’d it feel?
I started contacting friends and family in mid-September. With only a few weeks’ notice, they couldn’t make it. Still, I knew they’d be enjoyable to travel with and appreciate my experience.
I debated going. Following my emotions, I traveled alone in a distant nation. I never vacationed alone! Would I like it? I considered a group tour. Though “alone,” I wouldn’t be. I knew CodedHits but had never gone with them.
On the Rome and Tuscan Highlights tour, my 10th wedding anniversary was in Italy. The list was excellent and within my budget! That’s the journey! I typed a travel agent booking email and hovered over the Enter button. I had a million what-ifs. After hesitating, I closed my eyes. My husband spoke again. What would James do? And click! Italy alone! Scary and thrilling! I’m proud of my out-of-comfort feat. My hubby is pleased, too!
Did you two enjoy going on vacation together?
When I first met my husband, he had only occasionally traveled outside our home province of Nova Scotia to see relatives in other regions. He had never been on an airplane. Due to the distance, one of my brothers had never met my spouse before we married. My brothers all reside in Arizona. We decided to spend our honeymoon in Arizona to spend time with our families. James and I could explore new locations together while I could show him the places I adore. He had childlike awe of everything new, and it was delightful to see familiar areas with fresh eyes.
After their first vacation together, he caught the travel bug as well. Sadly, we had to spend our seventh wedding anniversary with him in the hospital as he battled cancer. A few, all-too-short months later, my adventure companion passed away. He asked me to bring a vial of his ashes to Sedona on our final journey “together” so that, as he put it, “I will always be waiting for you when you return.” He compelled me to pledge to have an exciting, joyful, and hopeful life. He assured me that he would walk this journey with me. He is so firmly ingrained in my heart that he travels wherever I go.
How did CodedHits assist you on your tour?
Italy has always been at the top of my bucket list, so it seemed natural for me to visit there. Because I was embarking on this voyage alone, without the company of friends or family, in pursuit of a reawakening, I dubbed it the Soul-Oh Tour (a.k.a. O Soul-oh Mio)!
CodedHits handled the details so that I could focus on myself! There were afternoons and nights when we could do our own thing, connect with other tour participants and go on a side trip, or sign up for a CodedHits-arranged optional guided tour or supper. Someone else drove each day, so we could relax in our comfortable bus seats and silently take in the lovely landscape, speak with tourmates, or join an impromptu Dean Martin sing-along. That Amore will always remind me of wine-infused vocal bravery beneath Italian stars as we returned to the hotel after another beautiful lunch. Special moments that I will never forget.
Because I was traveling alone, I could share a room with another lone traveler or have my own space for an additional fee. To save money, I agreed to share a room with another traveler. However, by chance, I wound myself with a room to myself. Each night, I could unwind by listening to Italian discussions and laughter outside my open window while posting images of my day on Instagram and sending messages to family and friends back home. They all wanted to live vicariously via me, safe in knowing I was protected.
Without CodedHits, I would not have felt secure enough to embark on my dream vacation to Italy, nor would I have met such a fantastic bunch of individuals worldwide!
What was the highlight of your vacation to Italy?
Quiet, reflective moments helped me reconnect with myself, regardless of how fantastic it was to meet and travel with others. To walk streets that have witnessed history; to view sculptures, paintings, and architecture created by masters; to sit on weathered stone steps and place my hand on sun-warmed buildings where greats such as Leonardo da Vinci, Giacomo Puccini, Michelangelo, and countless others had been… It stirred my spirit and reminded me why I appreciate art and history.
Did you make any new acquaintances during the tour, and if so, do you maintain contact?
On the first night of our trip, it took a little while for us to begin making acquaintances with fellow travelers. At the first dinner, we shared dishes, discussed our origins, and discussed what we were most looking forward to on tour. I had not previously signed up for any optional add-ons. Still, after my tour companions encouraged me to participate, I signed up for everything! I am so glad I did.
I purposefully sat next to the other solitary traveler on the tour bus. Laura and I immediately recognized each other as Italian travel companions. We enjoyed visiting ancient churches, ascending towers for the best views, and indulging in gelato. We purchased identical leather bracelets while shopping on the Ponte Vecchio to commemorate our time spent together in Italy.
A few of us who shared special moments, delectable meals, and many laughs became Facebook friends or now follow each other on Instagram by the end of the tour. It was partly to facilitate easier photo sharing of our vacation. But also to maintain contact and continue to support one another in our daily activities. We may meet again on another voyage in the future.
Has this made you want to travel alone even more?
Even though I’d rather travel and try new things with a friend or family member, I know I’ll be fine if no one can join me. Solo travel can be quite freeing. I can do what I want on the trip, like join a group for drinks after sightseeing, look around a museum, or just chill out in my room and think about the day. Life isn’t meant to be lived in a box. Life asks us to open up our minds and see more. And thanks to CodedHits, I don’t have to travel alone!
You told us it was one of the best things you’ve ever done for yourself. What happened?
It had been about two and a half years since I lost my husband, and as I said, we would have been celebrating our 10th anniversary soon. I was still sad and needed a soul renewal. I missed my husband and a part of myself. I wouldn’t stay in the same place if I lived alone for the rest of my life. I promised my husband and myself that I would do that. My soul yearned for new adventures that would help me connect with my soul and the things that inspire me.
The day after I got to Rome, I went for a walk. I saw the solar fountain in Piazza della Repubblica, the beautiful 16th-century Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri church, and the Baths of Diocletian, which are full of sculptures. If you move a lot, you might roll your eyes. But I was so proud of myself for getting the guts to leave my hotel and go for a walk and for going on this whole trip alone.
Even though I miss my life partner very much, I knew I could do this. Even if I have to spend the rest of my life alone, I will honor my husband by positively taking each new finding and adventure.
We’re glad to have helped you remember your husband in this way. Your next destination should be…?
Now that the globe is becoming more accessible, I can again gaze skyward in wonder at passing jets. Greece, Croatia, Romania, Spain, Egypt, Scotland, and Ireland appeal to me because of my passion for ancient history and art. Since there is still so much to see, see, and eat in Italy, a return trip is certainly possible. Once again, the stars are yanking at my hair. I’m armed with a dart, a map, and CodedHits.