Solo Traveler: The Soloists

Rocky Mountain Park scene. Photo by Momo Vuyisich
A stream in Rocky Mountain Park. Photo by Momo Vuyisich
Solo Traveler: The Soloists

I was in high school when I read Isabella Bird’s famous book A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.

She was a 19th century British explorer who supported herself with writing. She traveled alone most of the time, and found that “pluck” was rather admired in the American West.

Most people were filled with too much admiration for her solo travel and independent spirit to do her any harm. Her adventure articles (and books) were published widely to the delight of homebodies.

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountainsis a collection of letters she wrote to her sister. It contains the story of her adventures in Colorado where she spent time at Joel and Patsy Estes’ ranch. The area eventually became Rocky Mountain National Park and the town of Estes Park.

She met a colorful outlaw, a one-eyed mountain man named Rocky Mountain Jim. He was “a man any woman might love but no sane woman would marry.” Her memoir describes their adventures, but never admits to romance, though surely there was one.

With Jim as a guide, she became the first woman to climb Long’s Peak. She dressed in a unique style–comfortable boots with a skirt over Turkish pants topped by a short jacket. It was a costume she deemed feminine, yet practical for hiking and mountaineering.

Her book made me want to travel and write! But as happens to many dreams, the demands of life got in the way. I wasn’t able to pursue that particular goal until I retired a few years ago.

The long-term desire for travel came sharply into focus when I read another book Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Gelman. Her solo travels began with a divorce in her early fifties. She liquidated her possessions and began to live “at large” in the world. She spent years in Bali, southeast Asia, Mexico, South America, and, most recently, Africa. Now in her seventies, she is still writing and traveling alone. She has a website and actively encourages young people to take a “gap year” between high school and college to see the world.

Reading about what she did to start living the life she wanted, I was also inspired to plot my own destiny. I could see the day when my son would be living elsewhere and I would be free to pursue long-suppressed dreams.

I started taking the necessary steps to rid my life of unneeded stuff, saved some money for a global trip, and discovered ways to further finance my goals.

It took a few years. My son was only 12 when I read the book. But with a clear view of the future, it was simply a matter of staying focused. Eventually, the goals were realized and I am now free to decide: where shall I go next?

Editor’s note: Photos of Rocky Mountain Park were taken by Momo Vuyisich. Check out more of his photos on display at the Pajarito Brewpub & Grill in Mari-Mac Shopping Center.

Sherry Hardage lives in Los Alamos and has been traveling solo in the Americas, Europe, and Asia since she retired from Honeywell in 2009. She is a photographer, writer, and guide who organizes tours of Chiapas, Mexico through her website:

Follow the continuing adventures at her blog:

Hardage welcomes comments via email: