When I was fifty years-old, I arrived at a point in my life I never had anticipated. My fourth child was about to head off to college, leaving me with only one child living at home. You see, I had been widowed since age thirty-five. This reality left me very little time to contemplate anything, less what I might be doing when I finally hit middle age.

But that day did come and so did my decision to celebrate my birthday that year by taking my first solo excursion — to Amsterdam, mind you, home of the tulips. I figured that sitting next to a canal and taking in the sites would be the perfect local for figuring out the next steps of my life. How could it hurt? It was during that trip that I met two young women who would change my life and help me discover the woman I am today.

They were seated at the bar in a pub, discussing dating, when I came upon them. The chance meeting resulted in a very lengthy discussion, ultimately leading to a great deal of advice shared and the suggestion that I write a dating book. I did not take their coaxing seriously until I returned back to the United States and found myself unable to shake the idea.

Broaching a publisher, I was signed on the spot. Six months later the book became a full-fledged reality and opened up my world in ways I could never have anticipated. This includes bringing me together with a wonderful lover, inspiring a TEDx talk, and establishing me as a multifaceted author through a children’s book series that would follow called “Jasper’s Giant Imagination” (soon to be transformed into its television version and doing a whole lot of good for all children, including foster kids and children with disabilities).

Since that trip, I have become an avid traveler, both solo and not, my most recent vacation being to Puerto Rico with my youngest child. I can’t urge women enough to embrace travel as a means to help discover themselves, given my experiences. Within every trip there are actually two — the first, the actual excursion, itself, and the second, the one that inspires and motivates you towards your best life yet.

I am a firm believer that “Every new travel experience is a stretch in the right direction.” My current reality is a testament to that fact and the power of travel.