No Sex Just Cuddling

No Sex Just Cuddling. 

I travel alone a lot.

I like to travel alone. I can “vacation eat” without anyone raising an arched eyebrow and asking, “Don’t you teach Nutrition?” I can walk past museums without explaining why I don’t really like museums even though I know I should.  I just don’t, okay?

I can pee anytime I want without anyone saying, “Didn’t you just pee? You pee a lot. You should get that looked at.”

I have good memories of traveling alone, but they haven’t been all glamour and junk food; public bathrooms and freedom. 

One of my first trips alone I was a college freshman busing-it home for my first Thanksgiving break. I sat wide-eyed in the window seat; an ocean of sky overhead and a blanket of wheat beneath me. It was thrilling until an elderly man with a giant chunk of Cheetos in his teeth said, “ Hello there little lady. Traveling alone?”

I talked to him far too long before the bus driver mercifully relocated him and plunked my backpack next to me. “Boundaries,” he said.

Maybe a year later, not yet 21I drove to Colorado, in my silver Ford Granada to find a summer job. I planned to figure everything out when I got Vail. I’d heard of other college students summering in resort towns, and I wanted to be that adventurous girl. I spent my days applying for waitressing jobs and my evenings by the pay phone (remember those?) in the bus station waiting to be hired. At night I slept in my Ford and hoped nobody looked in the windows. 

On the sixth day, feeling grody and lonesome a man my father’s age, chatted me up. After our overlong conversation about the beauty of the mountains he said, “If you’re traveling alone, I’ll pay your college tuition to travel with me. No sex, just cuddling.”

[Tweet ” “If you’re traveling alone, I’ll pay your college tuition to travel with me. No sex, just cuddling.”]

“No thank you,” I said, just as the payphone rang, giving me a full-time nanny position and a whole summer in those mountains. I have always been polite in my horror even then.

Later still, in Egypt this time, just off riding a camel to the Great Pyramids and back, which sounds incredible but is, in fact, painful and sandy, the man who rented the camel to me said, “You have the sex with me, and I drive you back to your hotel.” This time, I managed a whole sentence: “No I will not have the sex with you. I can walk,” and off I hobbled, grateful for the hot sun and wide-open spaces of the desert.

Traveling alone is a lesson in yesses and nos. It’s about openings and closings and trusting yourself and only yourself in making the decisions of who to let in and who to keep out, what gifts to accept and which ones to refuse. I’m getting better as I age, less polite, more willing to be daring but also to be judged boring if that sets me free.

On a recent trip to New York, amid a subway bomb-scare, all the passengers were evacuated, released into the late-night, early morning air. I was miles from my hotel, and before long I found myself in Chinatown trying to hail a cab with little success and no battery left in my phone. When a yellow cab pulled over, I jumped in, and the man gave me an extended, odd look. After a long, silent drive uptown, he pulled over in front of my hotel and said in a thick accent, “You are Sigourney Weaver, Ghostbusters, yes? You ride for free.”

“Thank you,” I said, and as I walked away, he gave me the thumbs up saying, “Who you gonna call?” and I said, “Nobody. I’m traveling alone.”

  (Previously published in BRAVA Magazine here)


Photo credit: Photo by Jennifer Regnier on Unsplash


  1. Jane Ellen on October 30, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    I married too early. I had the sex, but not the fun! Divorce has set me free and taught me to travel alone. I like it just fine.

    • Shannon Davis on October 30, 2016 at 11:15 pm

      Both the story and comment made me giggle. And, boy, did I need that giggle. What strikes me is how women have to constantly ward off sexual advances by complete strangers just because they are traveling solo. When’s the last time you walked up to a handsome strange man and said, “Have the sex???” Mic drop!

      • Ann Garvin on October 31, 2016 at 12:20 am

        NEVER! This world, and people don’t see it–that’s the killer!

    • Ann Garvin on October 31, 2016 at 12:19 am

      Me too Jane, sometimes alone is better. Unless you need a caretaker which I sometimes do.

      • Barbara Khan on November 2, 2016 at 6:50 pm

        I follow a lovely page on Facebook, A Not So Young Woman Abroad:

        She’s got some great info. I love to travel alone and wish I could do so more often!

        • Ann Garvin on November 7, 2016 at 10:28 pm

          What a great story!! I can’t imagine a more savvy traveller than someone who grew up with you as a mother.
          Good for her for taking charge and bringing a safe partner.
          Travelling for women is fraught at any age.
          Thanks for writing, I love your comments.

        • Ann Garvin on November 7, 2016 at 10:29 pm

          oooo I’ll check it out!

      • Renee on June 28, 2018 at 5:57 pm

        I can be a good caretaker.

  2. Rachel L. MacAulay on October 30, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Love this! Traveling alone is one of the most freeing things to do. And every situation, no matter how bad, becomes quite a memory–and story.

    • Ann Garvin on October 31, 2016 at 12:22 am

      So true. I love travelling alone and the older I get the more invisible it seems.

  3. Heather Dee on October 30, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    This title could be the title of my memoir.

    • Ann Garvin on October 31, 2016 at 12:22 am


  4. karen rose on October 31, 2016 at 12:17 am

    A Frenchman invited home to have dinner with me as I walked through the Tulleries . I think he was just trying to steal my purse.

  5. Ella Joy Olsen on October 31, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    This was so funny and it made me a little nervous for my sixteen year old who has a travel bug. You’re a fantastic writer, Ann!

    • Ann Garvin on October 31, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      Hahah Thanks Ella and I’m still a little nervous from all the times I travelled and didn’t realize what was happening.

  6. Barbara Elmore on October 31, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    “I have always been polite in my horror, even then.” How I love the perfection of that sentence.

    • Michelle Donofrio on June 28, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      I love that, too!

      • Ann Garvin on June 28, 2018 at 6:00 pm

        🙂 It’s just less fuss.

  7. Barbara Khan on November 2, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    I hope you took the free cab ride!! My daughter spent this past summer abroad in Florence. It was nerve-wracking at times not knowing what she was doing. I mean it’s not like we know even when she’s here in the U.S., she lives in an apartment near campus, but still! Her dad is super protective. He’s from Pakistan originally and has what Sara and I call ADS, Asian Dad Syndrome. When she decided to take her 10 day break and travel on overnight trains, staying in hostels with a friend, who happened to be a boy (platonic friend, I might add!), the ADS was severe. I on the other hand understood her reasoning. 1) She’d rather travel with a guy than 2 or 3 girls 2) She’d rather stay in mixed hostel rooms so she and Simon would still be together 3) She did not want to stay in an all female room with girls she didn’t even know. Moral of the story, all went well, she has a greater appreciation now of how good she’s had when travel as the offspring of a travel advisor, but she also realized how savvy she really is. I’m so glad I raised her right!

  8. Linda Leikness on November 7, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    I had not remembered my own horror of traveling alone until I read yours! It was incredulous to me at the time, and still is. People are strange. Thanks for couching everything you do with humor Ann! Your delivery is so eloquent!

    • Ann Garvin on November 7, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      You are so lovely in your comments to me.
      Every woman must have these stories, something men don’t have quite as much of, I’m assuming.
      xoxo Ann

  9. kim charlton on June 28, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    OMG..that’s freakin hilarious!! Not making fun of your life, but that’s how I see myself. I just turned 50 and I love to travel, but no one in my family, including my husband is all that into it. So, I work, save , take a trip..and so forth. I don’t mind it as I talk to myself all the time anyway..even the weird stares I get don’t bother me anymore as I answer my own questions out loud. So, have fun, and keep on doing what you do!

    • Ann Garvin on June 28, 2018 at 5:59 pm

      It’s okay! I make fun all the time. 🙂 . Thanks for reading. So glad you liked it.

  10. Kathy Nickerson on June 28, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Hilarious and inspiring. Memoir to follow, I hope.

    • Ann Garvin on June 28, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      Maybe? I’m not sure I’m interesting enough. hahaha

  11. Andrea Lang on June 28, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    I just booked a work trip, which I will be taking alone and I am giddy with excitement. Takes me back to my younger years when I did it all the time. Great post!

    • Ann Garvin on June 28, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      Atta girl! I know, I have always traveled with and without travel partners and there is good and not so good with all. :

  12. Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw on June 28, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Wait… you’re not Sigourney Weaver? I thought “Ann” was just a pseudonym….

    I love traveling alone, pitfalls and all. And I too have had my share of interesting propositions, including an offer to get me upgraded to first class in exchange for my [worn] knickers.

    Oh, the stories we could tell!

    • Ann Garvin on June 28, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      hahahaha oh GWAD….Oh the stories we could tell!!

  13. Susan on June 28, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    Terrific article Ann! I enjoyed it immensely. Happy Travels!

    • Ann Garvin on June 28, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      Thank you!! Happy Travels to you too!

  14. Julie Cantrell on June 28, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    “…the bus driver mercifully relocated him and plunked my backpack next to me. “Boundaries.”

    I love this driver, Ann. What a Hero! The world needs more eyes-wide-open folks like this who step up and guide the way for those of us who had to learn the hard way.

    Keep traveling. Keep shining. Keep sharing. You deliver smiles to us all.

    • Ann Garvin on June 28, 2018 at 6:03 pm

      Isn’t that the truth? Thank God! Thanks Julie. We can do that for each other.

  15. Deidrah Shutt on June 28, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    I’ve traveled alone a lot in the past. One of my favorite memories is of a night I spent in the bus station in Pittsburgh. My connection wasn’t until morning and I got talking with an older man who, for some reason or other, reminded me of Winnie the Pooh. He was on his way to visit his grandson and was also stuck at the station overnight. He helped me stay awake (and safe) all night by quizzing me on state capitols and just chatting. He was great. And believe me, there were a few other older “gentlemen” in there that would have had me camping in the ladies room all night had I been without my new friend.

  16. denise on June 28, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    lol…Ghostbusters, but i get it.

    I don’t travel long distances alone, but I’m not fearful, just cautious. Always listen to your gut.

    • Ann Garvin on June 29, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      Yes, you really have to listen to your instincts.

  17. Nicole on June 28, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    Four days after my divorce, I boarded a cruise ship all by myself. I was nervous that I would be bored or attacked. I kept it to a minimum that I was traveling alone. It was an amazing trip. Nobody was there to ask me what I wanted to do. Nobody was there to do something I did not want to do. I met some people and chatted with them. I got on and off the ship and explored Key West and Freeport alone. It was one of the best trips I have ever taken.

    • Ann Garvin on June 29, 2018 at 2:13 pm

      THAT is the way to do it. Perfect. I should have done that.

  18. Elen Ghulam on June 28, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    Lovely Story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Ann Garvin on June 29, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      You are so welcome. Thanks for reading 🙂

  19. Susan Roberts on June 28, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    When I worked, I took a lot of business trips alone. The first few times that I was out of town, I wouldn’t even go to a restaurant by myself. That quickly changed and I learned to love solo travel. That’s one of the things that I really miss about working (I’m retired so I don’t miss it THAT much).

    • Ann Garvin on June 29, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      I was so uncomfortable going to a restaurant alone as well. Like everyone was watching me. It does change thank goodness.
      I’m always between lonely and fearless when I’m traveling.

  20. Julie Hanson on June 29, 2018 at 3:19 am

    I traveled alone frequently. It was a “perk” of being a 19 thru 29 year old travel agent back in the day. Nobody offered me “sex” for a ride to anywhere or even looked at me twice. But, when you are 6 inches taller than an average guy, I’m guessing they were more intimidated of me than I was of them. Honestly, looking back, I loved my solo adventures. I did have a romantic walk on a beach in the Cayman’s with Loc from Scotland. Wonder what happened to him? On another trip, a fantastic man named Jack Berry, who had a horse named Billy Bunter, took me on a jaunting cart ride in Ireland. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I met decent men during my travels when I was young. It’s interesting to travel alone vs. with a companion. Both have there strengths and weaknesses.

    • Ann Garvin on June 29, 2018 at 1:43 pm

      That if for sure. I think if you’re 6 inches taller than an average guy that is a definite positive when your traveling alone. Thanks so much for sharing that!!

  21. Lynn Diener on June 29, 2018 at 3:27 am

    Your words make me grin, but this traveling alone post especially so. I couldn’t hardly go to the bathroom by myself before I got married. It was the strangest thing. I guess I’d faked confidence well enough my spouse believed it. He was chronically busy (a requisite to less busy now) and I was bored after work and wanted to go out. So I did. He’d work 36hr shifts so I learned how to eat out alone, watch movies alone, take long walks in the city alone. And I’m so glad for it now when I’m rarely alone, because I know that woman is still me. I think you rock, Ann. Even if you’re not secretly Sigourney.

    • Ann Garvin on June 29, 2018 at 1:42 pm

      See that’s what women do. It’s what we have to do. Thank you for reading this. I’m glad to hear your story too.

  22. Deanna on June 29, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Bahaha ~ I remember the Cheetos story from college! I travel alone a lot for work and love every minute of it. Especially: sleeping in a king size bed by myself (that I don’t have to make in the morning), “owning” the TV clicker, and exploring where and what I want to see in my free time. Fabulous!

    • Ann Garvin on June 29, 2018 at 2:11 pm

      ONLY YOU would remember that story!! hahahahhaha. MY Dear old friend. love you.

  23. Jan Kellis on June 30, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    I love your writing, Ann! We met a few years ago at a writers conference in Madison, and I hope to attend another there and run into you again sometime. I, too, travel alone, through my days at home and on vacation. I love traveling, and I love being home. My schedule is usually a healthy mix of both. Sometimes people urge me to find another soul mate and stop my solo wandering, but my aloneness is not lonely. I’m more content, in fact, than I was when I was happily married and had to consider someone else’s point of view, preferences, and interests. Back then, I couldn’t pull over at every yarn store or bookstore I passed (not that I was driving) or stay an extra day someplace because I like the way the air smelled. Brava to all solo travelers, especially those of the female persusasion! We are subjected to all sorts of inappropriate behavior, but the journey is worth it and we are stronger for it.

  24. Ingrid Gabriel on July 3, 2018 at 7:04 am

    I, too, love travelling alone. On one birthday in my 40s, my then boyfriend and I were supposed to fly from Texas to Mt. Rainier and spend the week at Paradise Lodge. He bailed on me, and I went anyway – not even particularly disappointed believing that I would have free time to read, stare out at the mountains and drink something bracing by the lodge fire.

    But solo travel is nothing but a festival of surprises. The first night, I met a zither player in for a folk musician’s festival. He was tenting in the park and it was pouring buckets. I didn’t invite him to stay in my room (mamma always warned against the traveling minstrel), but I did invite him to come in out of the rain, shower in my room and sleep in my rented SUV.

    Because of his zither gig, I fell into a nest of mountain musicians and ended up going to parties and sing-alongs and being embraced by groups of people I dearly loved for the few nights we were together and who I would never see again.

    I drove all over Washington State on that trip, having the freedom to find my way and make my own choices. I spent my birthday on Orcas Island. Within 6 months, I moved my 88 year old mother there (she was in great shape), two years later, my daughter and I moved as well. Traveling alone, I had enough quiet to hear my heart say, “You can choose to change your life. This is home.”

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