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At the beginning of the year, I was having coffee one morning with the proprietor of a bed and breakfast where I was staying. She said to me, “You need to travel, Crystal.”

I treated it as an idle remark. “She doesn’t know me well enough to say that,” I thought. Mostly, I love being home, surrounded by books and familiar routines.

The idea of travelling lost some of its allure after Jim and I were exposed to bedbugs on a vacation six years ago. (I can finally talk about it without having a panic attack. Much to my relief, we didn’t bring them home with us! And we both learned some valuable lessons about how to diminish the risk. Let me know if you’d like to have a primer on how you can do the same.)

By the start of the second quarter, I had to admit Sherry Lee was onto something. On a whim, I booked a solo trip to New York City in April. It was my maiden voyage to the Metropolitan Opera. Seated next to family from Naples, Italy, I saw Lucia di Lammermoor on a Tuesday night. The next day I caught a guided tour of the Norman Norell retrospective exhibit at the Museum at FIT.

The tour marked the opening of a fascinating new book, Norell: Master of American Fashion. It’s the first biography about the celebrated designer, born and raised in the Indianapolis metro area. My book review and a few additional photos of vintage Norell can be seen at Pattern Indy.

Norell is known as the American Balenciaga. The Indianapolis Museum of Art has a large collection of Norell fashion, which is how I first became acquainted with him. All the clothes you see in today’s post are vintage Norell, photographed at the exhibit.

I felt so refreshed by my little vacation. How could I keep this secret to myself? As I’ve talked to girlfriends, many of them admitted they fantasize about just such a trip.

Here are three reasons to consider planning your own solo trip.

Make a better connection. Maybe traveling alone sounds like a lonely endeavor. It’s not! A recent study shows that 54 percent of Americans are lonely. One of my young friends from my library days has a theory about this: we don’t talk to each other! It was one of the first things she noticed about re-entry to American culture after returning from a two-year stint in Europe. Americans do not linger for conversation in cafes and other public places. They eat and run, or carry food out. Or, at home, they jump up after dinner to clean their kitchens. All hope of conversation is gone.

If ever Americans are willing to talk, it’s when they travel. I met (and some would say, interviewed) no less than 20 people on my trip, including a new friend from Indianapolis who was on her way to a trade show.

In your daily life, it’s very easy to make the world revolve around you and all the things you have to do. Traveling has always been a recipe for broadening one’s horizons, and not just because of the exposure to a different part of the world. When you’re surrounded by people with a multitude of demographic traits and reasons for travel, your attitude becomes more global. What a concept: my problems and concerns are just a tiny little drop in the bucket of world priorities.

Would I have talked to this many people if I had been traveling with a partner? Probably not. At least once in a while, you need to go it alone.

Do more of what you like. A lot of women are pleasers. I’m one of them. If I’m traveling with someone, I tend to set my preferences aside. There’s nothing wrong with being thoughtful of other people, but this trip was planned for research purposes. I wanted to milk it for all it was worth.

I ate where and when I felt like it, saw as much as I wanted to see, and moved from place to place at will. If I felt like changing my plan, I did so without a worry. I wasn’t distracted by a companion’s reactions. That allowed me to concentrate more fully on what was in front of me, digesting it at my own pace.

I know so many women who lead such selfless lives. Every one of them deserves a mini-retreat—a few days to move at their own pace, rediscover their preferences and replenish themselves, free of obligation to others. If that’s you, get busy and plan your own little solo journey, even if it’s only a day trip.

Exercise your problem-solving skills. I’m married to an alpha male. When we travel together, he barks orders and decides every little thing—where the luggage goes, who’s carrying what pieces, which line we should stand in and where we’ll turn next. You get the idea. After 27 years of marriage, I know one thing: there can only be one driver at a time. I’ve always been a mostly independent woman, but, for the most part, we don’t fight over who’s running the show. When we’re traveling, it’s going to be Jim.

There are some perks to being married to an opinionated, decisive person. The downside is that you get out of practice with making decisions on the fly—which is sort of fundamental to traveling. If you’re married to someone who is like this, you need to make a conscious effort to practice your problem-solving skills, lest you begin to imagine that you can’t do it on your own.

From finding the remote airport location for the shuttle between Newark and Manhattan, to deciding what to do and where to stay when my flight home was canceled, I had to figure everything out. How much to pack, what could I carry without another set of hands, best gear to take without adding more weight—living with the choices I made all along the way.

A woman’s ability to move freely in the world should never be handcuffed by her own lack of confidence. Traveling alone and staying calm and safe—no matter what happens—is an important skill set. It’s a wonderful thing to have a protective male in your life, but he should never dominate you to the extent that you lose your verve or self-confidence. Some of us must take extraordinary measures to cultivate those skills—and travelling alone is a great test.

Where and when is your next solo journey? One of the perks of my New York trip: TWO $800 travel vouchers, earned by volunteering my seats on overbooked flights. What do you think? Should I take one wingding of a trip or a few short ones?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.