Charlotte Simpson took her daughter on holiday the Christmas following her husband's death. Two women traveled solo in their group tour to Morocco. She’d felt sorry for them because it seemed absurd. She’d ask them from time to time during the trip how they felt travelling solo and they both alluded to it being a wonderful feeling. But she just couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to go on a solo trip.
Simpson and her sister-in-law went to China on her next holiday. There they met a woman who was celebrating her 80th birthday all by herself. She had an adventurous spirit and seemed so cool about the idea of travelling alone.
Again, Simpson booked another trip. This time to Italy. She invited her family and friends but nobody wanted to go. It was at this point that she thought about the 80-year-old lady and the women she’d met on the trip to Morocco. She remembered how everyone seemed to have a great time and decided to give the solo-trip thing a shot!
She arrived Italy alone and that was a huge traveler's life lesson for her. It took several days for her luggage to turn up but during that time, she decided to let loose and be friendlier to the people around her and she ended up having the best time. This happened in 2009 and since then, Simpson has travelled alone; sometimes with people she had met on previous trips, keeping a journal as she goes, making lists of other places to visit, or sometimes even planning her next trip.
She met her husband, Roy, in college where they both lectured. Though a “frugal couple” she and her husband travelled through all 50 US states. This included visits to his family (as he had 12 siblings) and conferences when he was the principal at a school. However, the number of international trips Simpson took on her own far outweigh the ones she took with her husband during the 31 years of their marriage. Out of the 80+ countries she has visited, she solo-travelled to at least 60 uses her Instagram account with 17k+ followers “Travelling Black Widow” to share her experiences and encourage other aspiring solo travelers.
Simpson, whose age remains a secret, is fulfilling a childhood dream in some ways. Simpson longed to become an air steward in her youth and wrote to PanAm and TWA for their requirements at the time. However, her grandparents were devastated by her plans to leave college early and she "just couldn’t do it to them."
Her earliest travel experiences were based on the holidays of others. She relates that her mother was a cleaner for a wealthy family and would bring back souvenirs, trinkets, and candy each year for her little sister and for herself. She thought, "Oh God, I want to be going to these places." Holidays mostly meant traveling south with her grandfather in those days to inspect his Alabama property. As a child, Simpson was familiar with the Green Book and its guidelines for motorists of color. Simpson's family was stopped once on their journey by a "big square building" marked "Coloreds Hotel". She said that she used to look forward to seeing it along the highway.
Perhaps these experiences gave her travels an extra meaning and force. She says, "I didn't think of it that way." She recalls her recent stay at Grand Hotel Continental in Bucharest. It had a huge staircase. She remembers climbing that staircase and thinking, 'Wow! It would have been nice to have my grandfather and grandmother here because we would be together on the drives down south and wouldn’t be able to stay anywhere. And here I am, in Romania, in this magnificent hotel on this grand staircase and no one is assuming I am the maid.
Charlotte has, however, yet to complete the one life journey she started with Roy. They went to a warm place each spring with the intention of checking it out for retirement. They were in Costa Rica one spring season when Roy had fallen ill which turned out to be cancer. But even though Simpson is a lover of travel, she has struggled to find a place to settle in the 13 years that have passed since Roy's death.
She says, "That's just an ongoing thing for me." "I never thought I would have to move alone. "For now, I am happy to stay in Illinois. This is my base. "I might stay here until I am a little old lady."
Check Charlotte Simpson out here! :)