Home > Travel > Reflections on Travel: Past and Future | Group and Solo

airboundI’ve been traveling since I was seventeen and, as much as it pains me to admit, that’s more than a few years ago. My first ‘grown up trip on a plane’ was  from NY to Miami, after that it was Puerto Rico (many times) and then international travel. At a time when people thought you couldn’t go to Europe unless you went for 3 weeks, my first trip was a Thanksgiving weekend in Madrid. I’ve never regretted it.

And, although I had been traveling for a while, it wasn’t until 2001 that I took my first ever ‘group package’ tour. My friend Carolyn and I joined a Globus group for a trip to Paris, Provence and Nice. Unfortunately, it was September 2001.

Nova_9680January 01, 2013past travel for foodalogue postWe were midway through the trip in Nimes on September 11th when we heard the devasting news.

It was on that trip that I learned to appreciate the benefits of having a group, a tour escort, and large companies responsible for your well-being. We were forced to continue with the tour due to airport closures but people were working behind-the-scenes to secure hotels and flights home — and we had about 40 people who were also on the tour to commiserate with, a few of whom we remained friends with for a number of years.

Subsequent Group TravelNova_9682January 01, 2013past travel for foodalogue post

Shortly after I returned home, I had the opportunity to work with a women’s travel club for two years and during that time I escorted groups to destinations like Italy, Ireland, Cuba, and Mexico — but it is the very first group that I escorted in November 2002 that stands out most in my mind. It’s when I became the ‘behind-the-scenes’ person making things happen in the face of dilemmas.

Baptism by Fire: We were 23 women from all over the U.S. who took that trip to Florence. Unfortunately, we arrived and our luggage did not … for 3 days! I spent a lot of time on the phone, faxing and just trying to assure the group that we needed to keep to our itinerary while things got sorted out. And they did.

But then we got word that most of Florence was closing down for fear of unruly protests reacting to a scheduled G-8 conference and we had to evacuate to a safer area. Besides, our tours were being cancelled and shops were closing. So off we went to another city for our last 2 nights … grudgingly.

But, by then, I was getting the hang of massive hand-holding and being the go-between with the U.S. office and the women on tour. It was a “baptism by fire” but the group appreciated my efforts and we managed to enjoy our experience — and, most importantly, it did not quell my love of travel and all that it encompasses.Nova_9685January 01, 2013past travel for foodalogue post

Once again, I got a renewed appreciation for ‘group travel’ — even if, this time, I was the wizard behind the curtain.

The Traveling Sisterhood

Sorrento_Sicily 2015

After that job ended and I had gotten a good taste of group travel, I decided to form my own private  travel group — friends traveling together just for fun and the love of travel. The Traveling Sisterhood took its first trip in 2006 and we’ve been traveling together ever since. We’ve made several visits to Italy and Spain and also to Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Rhine River Cruise, Canada, Portugal — and because we are personal friends, we’ve created a few mini trips in between. And, with each trip, the bonds of friendship have deepened.

Once again, I took on the role of group organizer. I research the tours to present to the group, work with the travel planners to customize the itineraries to our liking, and a myriad number of other things that go along with pretty much being the ‘go to’ person for both suppliers and passengers. And, of course, I document everything with photography and posts on social media and websites,

Fast Forward to 2016.

This year felt different. I felt different. I wasn’t doing my usual group research. Without trying to sound too ‘new age’, I found a need to unbundle. I wanted something different than what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. No packages, no groups (even friends), no time schedules, no daily tours, no planned meals. I felt a need to slow down. To embrace discovery. To just be. Me.

Coming in September, With the help of my Facebook friend Antonello and Alex of his Southern Visions Travel, I’ll be solo-traveling for a week in Southern Italy from Lecce to Matera with a stop in Alberobello on the way. It’s a more remote part of Italy than I’m accustomed to, one where I may be forced to communicate in Italian and assimilate with some old world traditions, but I’m up for the challenge. I think. While in Matera I’ve arranged a 1/2 day tour to Craco, the ‘ghost town’  from which my paternal grandparents immigrated to America in the late 1800s.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 3.28.21 PM

Although it sounds idyllic and very ‘eat-pray-love‘, I expect I’ll encounter some challenges along the way. The biggest challenge I foresee will be slowing down, taking a real breath and getting accustomed to not micro-managing every minute of the day as is my way — here, there, everywhere.



17 Comments, RSS


    says on:
    May 16, 2016 at 5:26 am

    Travelling is one of the best things to do. Have a wonderful time in September.
    BRENDA BENOIT recently posted..Brunch In ParadiseMy Profile

  • Norma

    says on:
    May 16, 2016 at 9:10 am

    This will be so exciting for you and for us that follow your adventures. I cant wait for this trip to start and to hear all about it.

    Buen viaje, Amiga!!!!

  • Dorothy

    says on:
    May 16, 2016 at 9:21 am

    You are a very brave and adventureous woman. It took me 50 years just to go to the movies by myself. Have a delicious time. Looking forward to the photos and stories.

    • Joan Nova

      says on:
      May 16, 2016 at 9:22 am

      You still make me laugh.

  • Patricia Durr

    says on:
    May 16, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Looking forward to hearing about your adventure and seeing your photo’s.

  • Carolyn

    says on:
    May 16, 2016 at 10:56 am

    I’m so excited for you. We have had some really great trips together but this one will be very different for you and quite an adventure. I know you’ll have a great time.

    • Joan Nova

      says on:
      May 16, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      I enjoyed looking through France photos for one to feature here. I had to leaf through a lot of poor quality prints from instant film days but when I saw this one, it really made smile. We look so happy — and young! And, of course, we were being charmed by Olivier sitting across the table. 🙂

  • Sally Mycustardpie

    says on:
    May 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Joan. I feel inspired to get on a plane and bump into you on the way but this would ruin your solo experience!! Totally inspired by your past memories but this solo trip in particular. I will be glued to your accounts. It’s going to be amazing. PS I believe friendships are forged through travel too.
    Sally Mycustardpie recently posted..A sloe gin cocktail for summertimeMy Profile

    • Joan Nova

      says on:
      May 16, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks Sally. Would love to meet you somewhere — we’ve been online friends for so long.

  • Dina

    says on:
    May 16, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    lovely post, thanks for sharing. I have always travelled solo or at the most with my husband (never been on a group tour) and have always been the “tour organizer” on our journeys. Now that we have retired and have time, I have slowed down the pace when we travel and love how it allows us to enjoy the moment wherever we are. Your upcoming trip sounds like a dream come true. I look forward to following you adventure on these pages.

    • Joan Nova

      says on:
      May 16, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      … and I’ve enjoyed all your travels!!


    says on:
    May 16, 2016 at 6:28 pm




  • Victoria of Flavors of the Sun

    says on:
    May 16, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Very interesting post,Joan, to see how your travel has unfolded. Mine was in reverse. I have traveled the globe alone–occasionally with my cousin or one other boyfriend, ex-husband, etc. But mainly alone. Six months at a time in Asia or Africa. Living in Paris, London, the Middle East…And now, I still like to go it alone, but love leading my small groups to Morocco, a place I could live if I didn’t love Mexico so much. I predict you are going to have a journey like no other. I find when you are traveling alone, you really do meet more people. I think we have to honor whatever our instinct tells us. Different modes for different periods in our lives.
    Victoria of Flavors of the Sun recently posted..Beautiful, Beloved, Misunderstood Mexican Mole, Demystified!My Profile

    • Joan Nova

      says on:
      May 16, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      So well said and interesting. Thanks for adding your comments here.

  • Jenifer Mangione Vogt

    says on:
    June 8, 2016 at 7:02 pm


    Your Matera trip sounds wonderful. I enjoyed reading this post. I now know you well enough to see what a competent, can-do, pay-attention-to-detail gal you are, so it’s no surprise you’re also an accomplished travel planner and guide, and I enjoyed learning about another side of you, in addition to your impressive culinary magic! I look forward to following your posts about Southern Italy.

    Jenifer Mangione Vogt

    • Joan Nova

      says on:
      June 8, 2016 at 7:07 pm

      Grazie mille cara amica.

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