Planning Your Solo Journey: 3 Tips

Now that it’s mid-February, I’m well into daydreaming about where I’m going on my Solo Journey this year. I started at the end of December, when the Christmas tree was down and the holiday busyness was transitioning to the quiet gray days of January. I was feeling that pull to strike out on my own.

Over the years, people have asked me, “Why go alone?”

What I’ve found is that whether you go away by yourself for a day, a weekend, or a week, traveling alone is a way of reviving yourself without the constant conversations and interaction of traveling with others. You can choose to get lost, in a good way, as an act of letting go, wandering about in a sort of timelessness. You’re able to leave behind daily responsibilities and see your life with fresh eyes—from a distance. For me, it’s also a time of listening for what God is saying to me while I’m in a place of quiet.

After the question about why go it alone, the next question people ask is how do I choose  where to go. This gets at factors for how I plan my trip.

There are 3 things I’d recommend to keep in mind as you plan your journey.

 First, I consider what is calling me. What type of environment do I need this year to be renewed? Do I want a natural setting or to be absorbed in the culture and activity of a city? This takes into consideration my personality as well as what type of year I’ve had.

When I took my life coaching course, one of the things that was new for me was paying attention to my energy. I learned to look at my energetic response in making decisions about what I really wanted.

While your head may be slow to recognize your desires, your body holds the truth.

If I feel my heart quicken with a certain idea, I know I’m on the right track—as it makes me feel my energy increase. If it seems more like drudgery to think about that destination, the planning involved, the logistics once I’m there– then I don’t have the right place in mind. For me, I most often feel my energy increase with going to any place around a body of water. If you ask the question, “Are you a mountain or a beach person?” my answer is always the beach.

While my first journey to Sedona was a serendipitous one, a happy accident, and I was at a small body of water– Oak Creek, the following journey that was intentional was to Jekyll Island, Georgia. I wanted to be at the ocean and feel the power of the surf and the possibility of vastness looking out to the horizon.


Looking out on the Atlantic from a Driftwood beach. Jekyll Island, Georgia

Secondly, when I’m cosidering where to go on a Solo Journey, I look at the circumstances of my life and what plan would fit– especially time and money. When I started taking yearly journeys, my sons were in college and I didn’t have a lot of money to spend–but that didn’t stop me. I stayed in hostels including one managed by Hostelling International on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Where on that island, besides a hostel, could you stay for $28.00 a night in a thriving international community of travelers?

Three years ago when I was still working as a school nurse and had two months off in summer, I spent two weeks at Artcroft in Kentucky. That writer’s residency was truly a gift and I paid a donation which wasn’t nearly what those 14 nights were worth. I knew that I should go then before I retired because my schedule may change and the summer wouldn’t be so open.


Quiet house at Kentucky Writing Residency, Artcroft

That was the right plan that year but wouldn’t work now with my year-round part-time research nurse job and caring for my grandson. So this year, it makes for a more doable plan to go closer and for not as many days—but still, a time away, alone, a time for renewal.

Third, I’ll go ahead and make my plan now, months ahead so the decision is settled. That will assure I have the time and place reserved, and will give me time to anticipate my trip.

Anticipation of a trip can bring as much joy as actually taking it.

I like having time to look up places in the area and narrow down activities I would like to do. It’s important to not go on a solo journey in typical vacation style—doing everything you can so you don’t miss anything. Drawing away for a while, is to have time for quiet, for contemplation, or for letting your mind, not think, just to be present in that new setting and see what happens.

When I go on my Solo Journeys, I start the day with a prayer that God will “Bless me and the people in my path” and then I watch to see how the day unfolds. Without the preoccupation of a schedule, to-do lists, usual routine, familial and friend conversations, there is time and space opened for the people around you.

Those are the ways I prepare for my Solo Journey. I’ll tell you in an upcoming post what place I’ve reserved and have been anticipating with growing excitement.

I hope you’ll make a plan of your own to draw away for a while and renew your soul.


Anticipating my Solo Journey for this year

How About You?

Have you or Would you take a Solo Journey?

What destination would make your heart quicken?

What will you do now to make that happen?


Reframing: Giveaway to Gift

You see it everywhere– Free stuff in exchange for something. Audiences on The Ellen Show jump up and down with excitement as she gives one thing away then another to her raving fans. Dr. Phil gives a book by a professional that’s under the audiences’ chairs.

Giveaways also come in meager forms like raffles at the local Swing dances for a free admission or for the potted plant on the table at a women’s luncheon. I used to cringe when there were raffles at our school staff and our regional school nurses’ meetings, thinking to myself, Aren’t we supposed to just do this because we’re professionals?

Those giveaways seemed gimmicky to me.

But apparently, I’m in the minority and that’s an older way of thinking, because that’s not how our world is now. Every business offers something to engage their audience and writers are no exception. Listening to many Indie author podcasts over the past year, the importance of connecting with readers via email has been emphasized. I’ve been slow to engage in this, not because I don’t want to connect, but because it’s been hard to figure out what kind of ‘giveaway’ I would offer that wouldn’t feel gimmicky.

Recently, my friend who has done this before with his writing business, suggested I form a collection of my blog posts into an Ebook. He felt that would ‘offer value,’ another catch phrase, to have a representative sample all in one place. So, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve crafted 9 posts from three categories—cancer, family, and solo journeys into my first book with 41 of my photos. I’ve named the book, Saturday Posts: Inspirational Essays and it will be offered exclusively to subscribers. The cover picture is of Tibbett’s Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent, New York where I took my seventh solo journey.


I think of the hours of learning then loading the pictures and text into Vellum—a formatting software, and creating the cover with Canva—a graphic-design tool, and loading the files and setting up technical support with BookFunnel. Today, I spent over an hour in a chat with tech support at WordPress to put that Giveaway button on this blogsite.

And can you believe, after all that back-and-forth with them, that neither of us saw we’d misspelled Giveaway as Givway ?! Correcting that will have to be put off until another day.

As I think about the time and care I’ve put into this Ebook, it feels like the same kind of attention I pay to creating a homemade gift. I thought about the recipient, my readers, and what stories to include. I scrolled through hundreds of pictures for the ones that helped to tell the story and made it more visually attractive. The accompanying card is the “Letter to My Readers” at the beginning of the book.

While I want to grow my email list and give my readers updates on publication of my memoir, I also want to provide something they’ll enjoy– a gift to say “Thank You.” They’ve trusted me with their email, having faith that I won’t misuse it or load up their inbox in an annoying way.

So, please accept my Gift, that is a Giveaway since it’s FREE if you provide your email and become part of my mailing list. I hope you’ll enjoy my first book and share my site with others.


Solo Journey, June 2010


How about You?

Have you ever had to design a ‘Giveaway’ to attact people to your business or event?

What did you create and how did people respond?

The People in our Path: Unlikely Friends

Ten years ago, I gave myself a birthday gift of attending a writing conference in Greensboro—about forty minutes from my home. I didn’t know anyone going to the conference and decided to approach it like my solo journeys—praying that God would bless me and the people in my path, trusting that things would unfold as they should.

I arrived late, and had to sit at the back of the meeting room of the hotel. I don’t remember what that particular session was about, just that the focus of the conference was finding faith-based publications for our writing. I hadn’t published any of my creative non-fiction at that point, so it seemed to be the right next-step for me. They closed that session with a Q and A and I remember that a woman who sat at the front table seemed to have a lot to say.

Later, when we took our lunch break, they instructed us, “Sit anywhere.”

There were tables for four and I planted myself at one and was joined by a mother and her eighteen-year-old daughter. The woman who’d sat at the front of the room and was so vocal in that Q and A, joined us. Her name was Erika.

We talked about where we were from and what we were writing. While Erika was originally from New Jersey, she had moved to North Carolina to attend Duke University, then later, she and her husband settled in the area.

No wonder she sounded forceful, I thought. She’s a Northerner, from New Jersey and had gone to Duke. As a native North Carolinian, a graduate of UNC, our most fierce rivalry is with Duke, especially in basketball.


At lunch last week with Erika

While eating together, Erika seemed more relaxed, smiling and laughing easily. The mother and daughter finished and left to join some folks they knew. Erika and I became engrossed in conversation. I learned that she lived within eight miles of me and had grown children who were close in age to mine. She’d been caring for her father with dementia while I was doing the same for my mother. Erika talked about how her father coming to live with her had changed things.

“Now, since I have to be home with Dad, I’ve found time to write. I can easily pen my essays and take care of him.”

She’d taught English for years and had that spirit of a teacher, wanting to help the curious student, offering suggestions for places I could publish my essays. Sometimes other writers can be competitive and don’t share publishing sites, but Erika freely told me the places she’d been published and encouraged me to send them my work.

When we left that day, we exchanged emails and made plans to meet for coffee. Our cars were parked across from each other. The political sticker on the back of her Cadillac was as polar opposite to the one on my Camry as our universities!

Since that meeting at the conference, we’ve had many afternoons of coffee at Starbucks and lunches at local restaurants, sharing about writing, and lately, our new roles as grandmothers. We’ve attended several writing conferences together. Erika’s been supportive of my memoir and I’ve supported her writings.

She’s been very prolific in publishing her essays in anthologies such as Chicken Soup for the Soul and regional magazines like Sasee of Myrtle Beach. Her advice on writing humor has been published in The Writer, and her essays on craft published in the online Funds for Writers Magazine and the Writers Digest website. She’s used her talent for teaching with her adult education course for Olli at Duke University on composing the personal essay. These are just some of her accomplishments and now she’s getting ready to publish her mystery. She’s generously given to me over the years and now I want you to know my friend and fellow author:


Erika Hoffman’s mystery, Why Mama will be published by Library Press Partners of Wake Forest University this April.


Erika Hoffman

Why Mama emits a gothic southern, nostalgic aura.  The story revolves around Fancy, a fifteen- year- old figuring out who killed her parents in 1974.  Three narrators tell the mystery.  One is Fancy, an upper -class teen who becomes orphaned on a summer day with gusting hurricane winds. Forced to live with her 19 -year- old sister Eve and sis’s lecherous husband in a duplex way off the wrong side of the tracks, Fancy begins her quest.  The mission is clear: to discover the identity of her parents’ killers despite the sheriff’s ruling it was a murder/suicide and despite doubts expressed by many townsfolks regarding her sanity. People, Fancy assumes, are allies betray her. Others, viewed as enemies, help. Another narrator is her sister Eve, whose judgment isn’t sound and who’s subject to panic attacks. Fancy’s best friend Judy is the most objective reporter of the murder and ensuing action.  During it all, Fancy follows leads provided by an albino doe whose soulful eyes remind her of her mother and make the teen question the idea of reincarnation. Because of her mother’s strong Christian faith, Fancy believes her mother could never have committed the crimes she’s accused of. Fancy has many questions she’d like to ask her deceased mama, but the main question is: “Why? Why did this happen to us?”

(Watch for Why Mama on Amazon and wherever you purchase books)


You never know who you’ll meet in your path or how they’ll impact your life.

I didn’t have any idea that the greatest thing I’d walk away with from that conference was meeting Erika, my mentor and friend.

Now, all these years later, we’re still unlikely friends who’ve navigated our relationship around university and political party affiliations, and the regional differences of our backgrounds. Instead, we’ve focused on the things we share, building our friendship one conversation at the time, one writing success at the time–as we cheer each other on.

How About You?

Have you had a chance meeting with someone in your path that turned into a long-term friendship?

What ways have you shared support of each other’s dreams over the years of your friendship?