07Jun

A (Rare) Solo Traveler

beach read

No, this isn’t a book review. I just felt like the image above sums up how I feel about where I am right now. I’m actually on a press trip in the Bahamas at the Grand Lucayan. I decided not to bring any members of my family on this trip largely for financial reasons. I yearned for a trip where I could not only focus on my writing but also seeing things through a different lens.

I first became aware of the beauty of solo travel many moons ago while backpacking through Europe after college, when, as Journalism major, I carried a notebook and pen and wrote about my many experiences. Traveling alone, I met people, had intimate conversations with strangers, wandered down alleyways, discovered places off the beaten track and became something of an intrepid traveler. I could change my plans on the fly and hop on a train to Berlin instead of Munich.

Fast forward twenty years later, and I now have both work and family obligations and rarely have time to think, yet alone travel on my own. I admit I’m one of those moms who needs “me time” – time to stop and think about what I’m doing, time to breathe, time to be myself. Life gets so frenzied with the day to day chaos and sometimes I just want to step out of my oyster for just a brief moment.

I’ve been called selfish right here on this blog, and I’m sorry if people feel that way. For me, a step out of my everyday existence brings be back to my core. I think about my family a lot when I go away on my own, which seems more often than it actually is, and most likely, I’ll return to the destination with them in tow in the near future. It’s happened many times.

The Beauty of Solo Travel

When I travel alone, I don’t stick to a schedule. This morning, I woke up at my leisure. After breakfast, I was planning to take an exercise class but instead I opted for a bike ride. Then I waded in the ocean for an hour, had lunch and got a facial. Then I spent time by the pool. In all honesty, would that plan have happened exactly like that with my kids in tow? No, it would have been different, and probably fantastic. But the point is that I got to spend an afternoon of my choosing on my own. After I am done writing this, I will head to the beach for a cocktail. Why not? When I travel with my husband and kids, I can’t leave the room at night.┬áSo, I will tonight.

When I travel alone, I meet the most interesting people both natives and non-natives. Last night I sat at the bar on the beach with a single mom who talked about her challenges. I’ve been talking to shop keepers (there’s an open-air market across the street). I’ve met some interesting folks by the pool. I’ve made lifelong friends while traveling and it’s also given me a glance into other lives and how people live.

When I travel alone, I can plan activities that aren’t necessarily cut out for my family or are too expensive for all of us to do. Tomorrow I’m going swimming with the dolphins, something I’ve been itching to do for years. I do feel a tinge of guilt that my kids aren’t here to go with me or watch for that matter, but I see this trip as an opportunity to fulfill a few items on my own bucket list.

While I’m here, I’m taking inspiration from Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild. It’s my main read on this trip and it’s one of strength, courage and reflection. She spent several months hiking on her own in the Pacific Northwest. On her travels, she looked back on her past to come to terms with what had happened to her in her life. I have a bit of that going on this weekend, and reading about how she handled it and persevered is encouraging (although I’m not about to jump on the trails). She and I actually have similar backgrounds, but I’ll review the book in a future post.

I do think of my family often when I travel alone. They’re at the forefront of my mind, but I know that upon my return, I’ll be rested and possibly a better mom for it. And on the journalistic side, I’ll also have generated content for new stories, and my mind will be buzzing with creative energy.

Do I feel funny traveling alone? Not at all. When I got picked up at the airport, the driver had an incorrect reservation for two. Restaurants constantly ask me if anyone is joining me. They don’t seem used to solo travelers.

They need to get over it. How about you? Do you like to travel alone?

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Comments

  1. You are definitely not selfish or, if you are, it’s a good, necessary selfish. I would say it definitely makes people better parents, better partners and better workers to reserve time for themselves, to take care of themselves, to nourish their spirits and recapture some of themselves. It allows you to return to all those other people refreshed, calmer and ready to interact. And td important for kids to learn by example the importance of taking care of oneself.

  2. Holly: This post is so timely for me! Recently I took a last minute solo trip back to NJ for a family occasion — no, not like The Bahamas, but still solo, sans little kids and husband. While I loved being in my mother’s house and being a little pampered, I have to say I was surprised by my reaction to the one day solo trip I took to NYC. I lived in DC for 5 years and Manhattan for 2 years, and worked there for much longer. And yet … returning to downtown, an area I used to be able to walk around blindfolded, I felt uncomfortable and out of sorts. I found I couldn’t enjoy myself at all! I wonder if my last three years in the boonies have somehow made me oversensitive to the bustle of city. Or if age has… It was really depressing! I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then and decided I need to do something about it! I don’t want to be a scared old middle aged lady.

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