The edge of the cove

by Rebecca Bricker on April 18, 2012

When I talk to women about traveling solo, the issue of safety always comes up.

In my solo travels over the years, I’ve made a few wrong turns – literally and otherwise. Nothing horrendous. But I’ve had moments where I’ve said to myself, “Take a lesson here.”

Whether I’m halfway around the world or a block from home, I rely on an inner alert system – triggered by a feeling I experienced once while swimming at the edge of a cove.

On a solo visit to Maui several years ago, I found a cove inhabited by sea turtles, near where I was staying. Every morning, I donned my snorkel gear and swam out into the cove to observe these lovely creatures.

At first, I kept a safe distance. But sea turtles are curious and engaging, and I soon had a 400-pound playmate. The first time he swam up to me, I nearly freaked out. We were almost nose to nose. I frantically back-pedaled away from him, but he kept coming closer, no doubt wondering who this odd creature was with the face mask and breathing tube. And then I realized he wanted to play. I popped my head above the water and he did the same. This went on for about ten minutes before he grew tired of the game.

As he began to swim away, he looked back at me as if to say “C’mon!” So I followed, but could barely keep up with him. His flippers were like wings, flapping gracefully, but powerfully.

We swam together all the way to where the cove met the sea. And suddenly, I sensed a change. The water was colder, the current stronger. He swam out into the ocean, but I pulled up. As I wistfully watched him bob in the surf, I knew I must turn back.

When I travel alone, I sometimes find myself at the edge of the cove – at that thin line between safety and risk. It’s a line you can easily cross, especially if you’re caught up in the adventure of the moment. Suddenly you turn a corner (literally or otherwise) and realize you might be out of your depth.

I got lost one night on my way back from dinner in a Provence village. The B&B where I was staying was only a mile from town. But I had turned down the wrong road – and, as I later learned, there are 12 roads leading from the village that look pretty much alike in the dark. Fortunately, I had the cell number of the B&B owner, who was out to dinner with friends. He stayed on the phone with me, directing me remotely through a labyrinth of country lanes, until I was safely back at the B&B. The next morning at breakfast, I heard that one family had spent an hour trying to find their way back from the village. At least they’d had each other for comfort.

An obvious lesson from that experience is that it’s good to travel with a GPS device (which I didn’t have) and a phone, assuming you can reach someone who can help you in an emergency. But I also learned a lesson about traveling smarter.

After that experience, I decided to enjoy my evenings at the B&B so that I didn’t have to drive on unfamiliar roads at night. Each evening, I’d make a picnic supper of goodies I had picked up at the market that day –   a baguette, tapenade, pâté, goat cheese, lavender-flavored honey, a juicy melon. I’d uncork a bottle of wine and watch the sun set. I always kept a few glasses at the ready. My little garden patio (pictured here >) became a popular gathering place for fellow guests at day’s end.

Staying in the cove doesn’t mean you miss out on all the fun. The day after my turtle friend swam out to sea, I returned to the cove for my morning swim. And who do you think was waiting for me? In fact, he was there every morning, ready to play.


Sea turtle photo credits: (top/bottom) Inaki Relanzon, (middle)



Kathleen Pooler April 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Thank you or this delightful trip through the streets of Italy and the coves of Maui to bring your points across about having fun with safety in mind. You sure have had some great travel adventures to share. They are a pleasure to read!

Rebecca Bricker April 18, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Thanks, Kathy! I’m happy to share my travel experiences – and lessons learned.

Nora April 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm

You swam with a sea turtle?!? I am so jealous. Thanks for another lovely glimpse of the world beyond the backyard.

Rebecca Bricker April 18, 2012 at 5:24 pm

That turtle out swam me, but I enjoyed playing peek-a-boo with him. 😀

Peg April 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Lovely advice. I’m going to see where it takes me this coming week in Beirut!

Rebecca Bricker April 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Peg, I’m sure you have lots of good advice to share, world traveler that you are!

Thom Parrott-Sheffer April 18, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Another great one. I can see it, smell it, and desire it. What a wonderful adventure (and a wonderful spirit in your heart). Keep swimming the edge, and sharing the adventure.

Rebecca Bricker April 18, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Thom, thank you for cheering me on – as always. 😉 Glad you enjoyed the swim in the cove.

Pat April 19, 2012 at 4:23 am

I love water and I love travel, so I really enjoyed this story about swimming with your turtle friend. I also admire your courage traveling abroad solo! Look forward to reading about your next adventure.

Gaya April 20, 2012 at 4:00 am

Lovely reading… yes, the B&B s in Italy are not always easy to find and a GPS is awfully useful but love the menu for the picnic 😉 Keep swimming ….

Caroline April 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Another great blog entry. The descriptions are so vivid I feel like I’m there swimming with the cute (and big) turtle. Also very good advice about having an extra antenna up when you’re traveling. There are people who take advantage of tourists’ confusion (navigating new places) and distraction (when we’re admiring awesome sights). Look forward to more of your stories soon.

Ellen Ryba April 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I LOVE this story….and the fabulous photos of the sea turtle. In a literal sense, I totally relate:
I was caught in a minor riptide while snokelling in Kuai (sp)…I sensed real danger, probably for the first time in my life. It taught me a lesson, for sure!

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