My friend Delana, an American in Aix, has just launched a new business…and I think it’s a terrific idea. Travel Solo Bootcamp is a week-long crash course for women on traveling alone in France…with eight guests max per session. Delana’s partner in the venture is Marcia Mitchell.
Travel Solo Bootcamp is for you if you want to hit the road on your own but might be hesitant because you’ve never traveled abroad…or don’t speak the language…or aren’t comfortable eating alone…or want backup in case of emergency. Or, perhaps you just want some company but don’t necessarily want to spend the whole week with a friend, a partner or a group.
"By giving you knowledge and in-the-field training, you’ll find the confidence to travel solo safely and joyfully,” Delana says. “You’ll perform daily solo maneuvers on your own or with people you’ve met outside the group. We’ll give you a local cell phone so you can contact us for support. And you’ll quickly find that a well-prepared woman traveling on her own is really never alone.”
I love their motto: “We won’t hold your hand but we’ve got your back.”
Here’s how it works. After you sign up for one of the pre-set weeks (or book a custom session), you’ll receive French language info for practice, packing and wardrobe tips in the weeks leading up to your trip.
When you arrive in Provence on Saturday, you’ll be met at the airport and whisked to you own “chic and comfortable” apartment in Aix. Delana, Marcia and their team will help you get settled and you’ll rendezvous later for an aperitif.
On Sunday, you’ll get a tour of Aix and the Luberon Valley, the region made famous by Peter Mayle in his book A Year in Provence. The day ends with a group restaurant meal. Every morning thereafter, you’ll start the day at an outdoor café or perhaps the coffee bar in a charming bookshop. Over coffee, tea and croissants you’ll chat about getting around in France, about learning the language, the history, the etiquette, about dining well alone, about how to meet people while traveling and how to have maximum fun.
Afternoons will be spent on assigned "maneuvers." These might include a cooking or painting class, a wine tasting tour, a salon visit or, according to Delana, “Look out! You might be ordered to go shopping for – ooh la la—French lingerie.”
The group will meet several times during the week for a "working apero." Over wine and nibbles, you’ll get a French lesson from a local or perhaps a session on "that special something the French women seem to have." A guest will join you for a dinner you’ve prepared together, to coach everyone on French manners and what’s expected at a dinner party or on a date.
Other topics during the week will include "How to eat lunch alone….and enjoy it!" and the best tactics for clothes shopping or market shopping: how European sizes are different, local shopping etiquette, who you can and can't bargain with. Boot-campers will each get a shopping assignment, such as buying a slightly shorter or slimmer skirt than you're accustomed to or perhaps a new scarf (no Frenchwoman is without one!).
On another day, you’ll learn the ins and outs of public transportation, with a homework assignment of taking public transportation to an outlying village to explore.
So who are Delana and Marcia and how did they learn all this stuff? You can read their bios here.
So far, boot camps are planned for three upcoming weeks: October 18 to 25, 2014, May 9 to 16, 2015 and June 6 to 13, 2015. The fee is $2000 and you’ll see what that includes and doesn’t on the website. Custom boot camps, other dates and group rates are available. For more info, visit the website here or contact Delana at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find them on Facebook.
Photos: Delana (left) and Marcia. The elegant Cours Mirabeau, the heart of Aix, as photographed by Andrea Schaffer.