UW-Washington County alumna and former instructor, Jennifer Buchholz, has authored a book titled, “Go Solo! – a savvy woman’s guide to transformation and self-discovery through travel.” Saavy is a good word to describe Buchholz herself, who at age 18 had no driver’s license or car and was told by her parents that if she wanted to attend college, she would have to figure out a way to pay for it! This meant she needed to get her license, buy a car and find a job. Jennifer did just that, landing a job as a supervisor at Mehring’s Dairy Queen in West Bend, while she also attended classes at UW-WC. Despite her busy schedule, Jennifer “loved my experience at UW-WC. I loved that I knew the Dean and the staff and they knew me.” Active on campus as a student senator and in United Council, she later went on to become student government president at UW-Parkside, where she completed a BA in Communications in 1996. Three years later, she earned a MA degree in Human Resource Development from Northeastern Illinois University. When Buchholz returned to UW-WC to teach Microsoft Office classes, she compared it to “coming home to a family” and that “many of the staff still knew me after 20 years.” Jennifer continues her busy pace today as owner of Transform via Travel, LLC and working as a senior lecturer at UW-Oshkosh.
More Q & A with Jennifer Buchholz:
What inspired you to write Go Solo!? The book was inspired by my own personal journey. At age 40, I had just helped care for my father before he passed due to cancer. A long-term relationship had ended and I was truly at a crossroads. I needed to get away to figure my stuff out. I was schedule to go on a trip to New Zealand to lead a study abroad. I scheduled additional time at the beginning of that trip to see the sights and do some personal work. I worked through grief and other life questions.
How long have you been a life coach? I have been in coaching roles as a teacher and in business for over 15 years. I have formally been a life coach for 2 years.
Can you describe the TvT program? Are you aware of any similar programs that help women plan and pursue travel? TvT provides private coaching for those who already have trips planned as well as group retreats (coming in 2016). Each trip has a specific purpose and intention for the travel and the travelers. The group retreats allow for community-building; the women come on these trips solo but to make friends. Traveling solo involves leaving baggage at home – including family and friends. Travelers are wholly immersed in self-care and discovery while seeing sights and having experiences that broaden their perspective and alter their world view. They are also immersed in a new community of women and the locals where they travel. This is a groundbreaking program. There are a lot of coaches who run retreats and there is just one other program I've found that helps men and women on solo travel, however that program is very individualized.
You recommend that women pursue solo travel experiences. What are the benefits of traveling on one’s own? Do you think solo travel is especially transformational for women? Women are caretakers by nature. They are often focused on ensuring the needs of all around them are met, and put their needs last. Traveling solo means she only has to care about herself: what she wants and needs. She gets to decide what she wants for dinner and what sights she wants to see without caring about what everyone else wants. Traveling alone allows someone to make friends as they go, but there's a peer relationship in that instance rather than one of a caretaker. I think every woman should go on a solo travel experience in midlife. It's a chance to step out of their routine and get some perspective. There are varying degrees of solo travel – they don't all have to be an "Eat, Pray, Love" or "Wild" experience. Instead, they can go all alone or join a group of women who have a similar personal mission. There's value in both approaches.
For a solo traveler, what are the benefits of working with a coach through a plan like TvT’s?
A solo traveler who is hoping to process through personal and emotional baggage can benefit from a coach in several ways. First, a coach helps clarify the purpose and intention of going away. Without that clarity, someone might be more apt to run away or escape which does not have the same transformational effects. Second, the coach can help suggest personalized experiences and exercises to stretch the travelers' comfort zone. Third, the coach provides ongoing support to ensure growth and progress. Finally, the coach helps develop a re-entry plan that allows for sustainable change. Without that plan, it's too easy to go back to old habits and roles.
Transformation through travel—especially for women—is part of the cultural zeitgeist (thanks to books/movies like “Eat. Pray. Love” and “Wild”). How have women’s views of solo travel changed in recent years, and what is your book contributing to this shift?
The average age of the American female solo traveler is 54 and there are as many married solo travelers as there are single. However, when women tell others they're going solo, they often get a look of pity that they can't find someone to travel with, or if they say they like to travel solo and enjoy it, then they're considered weird. My secondary mission is to normalize the look of midlife solo women. I am launching a Blab channel in July called Go Solo Live! This is an effort to tell the stories of midlife solo women travelers and to show other women that they're not weird.
You enjoy travel and helping others as a life coach and mentor – what else do you foresee in the near future?
When possible, I bring together my various interests. For example, this summer I will be a visiting scholar teaching Conflict Resolution in Bogota, Colombia. I'm also planning other study abroad experiences that bridge Collaborative Leadership with scuba diving in the Dominican Republic and Fiji. Passion in our work comes when things we love and believe in come together. I keep finding ways to innovate and create that synergy.
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