Forget diamonds, there’s only one thing a middle-aged woman needs for a solo trip round Cornwall and Devon – and that’s a reliable Satnav. If you’ve ever tried to drive and read a map while a dizzying bend, or terrifying roundabout, loom up ahead, I’m sure you’ll be nodding wisely at this point. One of the benefits of getting older is recognising that stress just ain’t worth it.
My Satnav did her best. Apart from going all silent on me while negotiating the motorway lanes outside Bristol (and nearly being thrown out of the window in consequence) she guided me fairly painlessly to exactly where I wanted.
This visit to Cornwall was the first I’d made on my own
I’ve always travelled with friends and family before, and last time I was in a Romahome campervan, and so at least had the company of Phoebe the collie, and my house on my back, so to speak.
Gardens at Lanhydrock
This time, I was completely on my own, three hundred miles from home. It was quite a challenge being that self-reliant. The trick, I found, was not to think about it, and definitely not dwell on all the things that could go wrong.
The imagination can run riot, while no disasters happened, and the minor hiccups I got on and dealt with
The Eden Project
It’s surprising what you can do when you have to! It helped, of course, that this wasn’t simply a trip, but I was on a mission to collect photographs to publicise my next book, out next year, so I was dashing from one place to another with a sense of purpose, and keeling over after a meal and a glass of wine in the evening.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
It’s fun doing things with friends and family, but I also enjoyed my solo road trip. Part of its challenge was that it’s still fairly unusual for a fifty-something woman to be travelling around on her own, to all intents and purposes simply having a good time.
Most people were lovely, friendly and cheerful and weren’t bothered, but there were always one or two (women, as well as men) who clearly felt uncomfortable at a lone middle-aged woman on the rampage
Gardens at Lanhydrock
I’m still trying to work out exactly why, along with the reasons for the occasional hostility. I’m quite harmless and respectable, really. I’m not after anybody’s husband (I’ve got my Satnav), and women are allowed out on their own nowadays (although not in the time of my historical novels, which is not that long ago in the grand scheme of things).
Women over fifty are even starting to appear in films and TV, so our existence shouldn’t be that shocking
Ironically, I was trying very hard to maintain the invisibility that is the lot of women of a certain age – it doesn’t half give you freedom to get on with things, plus the pleasures of a spot of people-watching into the bargain. Ask Miss Marple.
Wild seas at Perranporth
For the rest, it was a real confidence boost having dealt with everything on my own (scary roundabouts and winding road down to Mousehole, involving considerable amounts of Language, included). One reason I went on my own was that I was dashing from one place to the other, but I also enjoyed the freedom of doing exactly as I pleased – I didn’t even have a dog to worry about leaving too long and wondering if I could bear to sit outside a café in a howling gale to enjoy a coffee.
It also meant I could take in so much
Inspiration at Westward Ho!
I made flying visits to Polperro and Mevagissey, to Mousehole and Limorna Cove, and I sat watching the waves crash and the seals play at St Ives. I watched the wildness of the North Cornwall coast, where the surf was spectacularly high, and once I reached Devon again re-visited the old house at Westwood Ho! that has proved so much inspiration for so many of my stories.
I had a wonderful time, a total blast, and a confidence boost into the bargain. So, ladies of a certain age, I certainly recommend escaping the family and responsibilities and going off on a solo road trip now and again – and deliciously selfishly do exactly as you please
- It’s perfectly acceptable to go round any roundabout as many times as you need. I always do.
- Most people are lovely, and you get to chat to so many more when you are on your own.
- The ones who aren’t are seriously sad, and just be grateful you aren’t married to them.
- Your Satnav is your best friend, but feel free to disobey her. She doesn’t understand about scenic routes, and has a seriously unhealthy obsession with tiny country lanes.
- It’s okay to throw off responsibilities. They’ll survive. And you’ll be back in the middle of them 24/7 before you know it.
- A road trip is a journey with yourself. I came back stronger, more confident, and having ruminated much and learnt a lot about myself and where I’m going. The lessons will be unpacked bit by bit for months to come. It’s something we all need, whatever our age.