On Being That Girl Again (and Why Moms Should Take Solo Trips)

If you read my blog, you know that I recently left my family for nearly two weeks to head to China and Vietnam.

While I was traveling, I posted on Facebook on occasion, and very often on Instagram.  I truly thought of my time in Asia as time to regroup and decided I would benefit from a break from real life and that included social media. I also didn’t carry my computer nor did I have Wifi access everywhere I went.

I have never been in such a visually stunning place in my life, so photography became my best friend and I filled my Instagram stream with dozens of images daily. I wasn’t showing off that I was there while everyone was back home working. taking care of kids or just experiencing the daily grind.  I wasn’t trying to say, LOOK AT ME.  I was letting everyone know that not only was I okay, but I was doing something good for myself.  Plus, I was in a part of the world that not every American visits AND THEY SHOULD.

instagram

Some people, like Jen Maidenberg, author of one of my favorite blogs, I Made Aliyah, really got it.  About my trip, she wrote:

I am struck by the pictures my friend Holly is sending back to us from Hong Kong and Vietnam.

She’s feeding her wanderlust with banana pancakes, dim sum, and gorgeous panoramas, while feeding our desire for travel photography “porn.”

I love instagram.

Almost in the same moment that the drool drips down my chin,  while mesmerized by the lush green mountain ranges and Buddha statues, I long for the eyes through which I saw Israel in the first months I lived here.

Jen and I have to meet one day.  There are some people that I’ve met via social media who are like my soul sisters.  She is one.  If you don’t know how pro-Israel I am and how much I am dying to move to Israel, well, now you know.  And I admire Jen for making the plunge and I love reading about her daily life. I devour every word and image that goes into her posts. (Jen, I will live there one day.  I may be walking with a cane, with my hair completely white, but you and I will take long walks together and talk until sunset.)

I was feeding my wanderlust.  But it was more than that. It was about reconnecting with myself on a very visceral level that needed to be experienced without children in tow.  While I was traveling throughout Asia, my backpack attached to my back, I was Holly Rosen again.  That adventurous traveler that existed before I had kids.  The girl that tried and tasted everything, and jumped to travel every chance I could.  I was that girl again.

My friend and I were so ecstatic about our travels.  Every day we would turn to each other and tell each other how surreal the experience was and we felt compelled to post photos every chance we had.  The comments on Facebook in response were hilarious.  Here are some verbatim:

“Holly your pics are gorgeous!!! What r u doing in Asia?”

“Beautiful photos. Why North Vietnam? How did you get your husband to agree? Mine would want to come along!”

“I’ve never met Brian, but he’s obviously an awesome husband!”

“You’ll have to tell me how you managed to get away!”

As I read each comment, I laughed.  And I sighed. And my friend and I agreed that every mom should get away and reconnect with their inner beings every once in a while. I know that some people thought that I was going through a mid-life crisis or that I had some great desire to get away on my own, but that could not be as far from the truth as possible. I just wanted an adventure.  I had been dying to go to Asia for the last nine years since I had kids and my husband and I agreed that our kids were not quite ready for the kind of traveling that I wanted to do.  I wanted to take night-time trains.  I wanted to sit and eat street food all day. I wanted to jump on boats and rush off for seafood on remote islands at night.  I wanted to hike, kayak and ride motorbikes.

And I did.  All that and more. My husband has been to Asia, and he wanted me to have the experience.  He was very happy and supportive of my traveling solo and stayed home and followed my adventures along with everyone else.

While I was away, my mom stayed with my family and I felt confident that everything was running smoothly.  The few times I did Skype or Facetime home, my son would say, “Mom, I can’t talk now. Grandma and I are watching a movie.” or my daughter would say “I’m busy, talk to Daddy.” They hardly noticed I was gone.

When I heard that my daughter and husband fell ill several days after my departure, I felt sorry for them but I didn’t feel bad.  Whether I was home or not, everyone would survive. And they did more than that – they coped without me. The only time I felt slightly guilty was when my daughter emailed me that her ear was bleeding.  She had pierced her ears a month before I left and one was infected. Her email read: Mom, please help me. You’re a girl!  But by the time I phoned to find out how she was, she was 100% fine and it had all been forgotten.

When I returned home, I guess a part of me was still in Vietnam.  I was tired.  I felt a wave of exhaustion like none other I had ever experienced. It lasted a week.  I would fall asleep at odd times and wake up at even odder times.  I wasn’t quite ready to make meals for everyone and clean the house so I kind of let things go, which is very unlike me.

But now after a week of being back, I am getting up and making things happen. I have a new perspective on life.  After what I have seen – there was beauty but also extreme poverty – I feel changed.  I can not get the scenery out of mind.  The food is stuck in my brain.  But the people left a long-lasting impact on me.  Not only the people we met who were traveling but also the people who live in Vietnam.  The ethnic minorities left a long-lasting impression on me and I will not sit idle in America without helping them in some way.

I have also noticed a big difference in my parenting the last few days.  I am more attentive.  I am putting my work aside when I’m with the kids.  I am shutting down the computer.  I am focusing my energies far more than I used to on them.  My break in Asia did far more than I could have ever asked for and reconnecting with the side of me that pays more attention to the little people in my life was something I needed.  My son came home from school yesterday, ecstatic over a magic trick that he learned in his after-school club and he proceeded to spend the next four hours doing the trick over and over again for just me.  And I let him.  And I enjoyed it.

Three amazing women we met in Halong Bay called our trip “pediatrician prescribed”. They were doctors, of course.  And it was.  I recommend a break for all moms in the world.  Whether it be for one day, two days or two weeks if you can afford it or have childcare (believe me, scraping the childcare together was HARD – we have no family support where we live but my mom was able to come, which was a blessing). I’m not saying it’s easy to leave your kids, and maybe you think it’s wrong to do anything without them, but for me, it was valuable to the way I parent, the way I live and the way I will make decisions moving forward.

Have you ever traveled without the kids and husband? How were you perceived and would you do it again?

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Jen maidenberg says:

    You are an inspiration. (And a top notch photographer.) As much as I would love to tour an exotic far away country with a girlfriend (and frankly, would not hesitate to leave my kids for two weeks), I feel as if I have gotten to an age and a stage where I’m not as brave as I used to be. Following your journey made me think about that a lot. Am i still brave enough to taste strange foods, walk strange streets, far away from home? I never want to be too scared to travel and your trip reminded me that in order to stay brave and continue to experience the joy of discovery, I need to keep taking risks, and pushing myself.

  2. I felt as if I was travelling along with you! I’m inspired!

  3. I love finding your work and photography, and Jen’s above through you. Thanks. And I have to say Jen, that I am getting braver as I age, and you can too! We took our 4 boys to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore in November – and none of the 6 of us will ever forget it. It would have been pretty awesome to go without them too, though!

  4. I cannot even imagine taking that journey solo- but imagine it would be transformative in so many ways–I admire your convictions and ability to make your wants and needs a reality oh and I LOVED following along on your adventures- your pictures were LUCIOUS.

  5. I travel alone every single year – I have for the last five years or so. I go somewhere all by myself, which is not what I initially intended, but it kinda happened, I kinda liked it, and now it’s a yearly imperative. Not too long, not too far, but definitely mandatory.

    Good for you, Holly. Good for your family, and good for us. :)

    xoxo

  6. I loved your photos on IG. I would wake up and your feed was the first thing I would spot. SO IMPORTANT to reconnect with ourselves.

    Last summer I went to a dude ranch in Wyoming by by myself. I have 2 year old twins and a 4 year old- so basically the ‘me’ has been lost for around 5 years. The ability to go- ride horses again in gorgeous country atop mountains and participate in a real cattle drive were incredible things that I needed to see myself do. I hadn’t ridden in 20 years- so it was a love affair very much in need of watering.

    Now living in Europe (at least for the next 2 years) my hope is that I can escape for a week next summer as well. I am a human being- and I deserve to spend time with myself too.

    Good for you. I didn’t realize your trip was solo!

  7. What an incredible journey (and essay here, too). I think it’s so important to have time away and stay connected to YOU. Thanks for sharing the experience with us!

  8. Holly, so beautifully put (even without all the pictures–which WERE gorgeous and I loved seeing them). I must say I feel jealous and motivated. I am thrilled when my husband and son go away overnight for a camping trip, or when I go to a blogging conference, but to see the world, on my own, for myself. now THAT is something I need to do. You’ve inspired me.

  9. First let me say I also love Instagram and your pictures from this trip. I’ve been traveling alone a lot lately as well, and while the first couple of times I felt a little guilty and missed my family, I now feel like it’s a way to explore and expand my interests. BTW, I’m going to Israel on my own in a few days.

  10. I’m thrilled to find this post from your journey last year! I’m a relatively new mommy travel blogger, and one of my missions is to encourage moms to travel solo. I just wrote about it this weekend here: http://aweekatthebeach.com/2014/03/23/solo-travel-for-moms/

    It always brings up very interesting conversations, ranging from “I’d love to do that and will make it happen!” to “I could never leave my family to take a selfish trip like that.”

    Where are you off to this year??