As a housekeeping note, I’ve extended the giveaway on my last post until 9PM 11/17.
I survived my first solo vacation.
It was everything I expected.
It was nothing I expected.
I found power not in getting on a plane alone to fly 3000 miles away to a country where I knew nobody; I found that strength in driving on the other side of the road. Alone. At night.
I found power switching hotels when the AirBnB I’d booked sort of on a whim didn’t work out for my goals (…of being able to walk to a pub.)
I found power not having a plan and allowing the days to take me where they may (no easy feat for a crazy New Yorker.)
When that meant returning to the Cliffs of Moher on a sunny day (even though I’d already been there two days earlier), I honored that.
When that same visit brought me to my knees in tears from beauty and grief, I honored that.
I spent a good amount of time enjoying my own company and curiosity, and I spent time frustrated with my own company, spiraling and reflecting on what I didn’t have in my life.
But I let that spiral pass, as they may. And it did.
(Also, in a totally last minute decision, I realized I should probably bring some sort of raincoat with me…and, like, probably not a Burberry trench kinda raincoat, so I grabbed my 15-year-old ski jacket and took out the liner. Smartest thing I did all trip.)
The keys, I found, to a successful solo trip:
- a journal. I’m a pretty introspective person to begin with, but good lord, a lot of feelings come up on a solo trip, and it’s nice to be able to get them down on paper and out of your head sometimes. I was hoping to reach some level of clarity on professional goals while I was there…but I actually found it on the 7-hour-flight home. WHY are flights so good for getting stuff done?! BRB looking for next flight.
- a good book. Sometimes I talked to other people when I was eating, but when I didn’t, it was nice to have a book to keep me company. There’s only so much time you can spend attempting to memorize the labels on bottles in the bar…
- sitting at the bar, rather than a table — that way I could talk to others at the bar, the bartender, etc
- having someone at home to check in with when I was feeling lonely. Because, yeah. I was alone, so I did feel lonely sometimes. My dad called a few times, because I think he was pretty worried about me traveling alone after so much had happened this year, and I think he’s developing that same sixth sense my mom had — he called to check in just as I was starting to feel really sad and lonely walking down from the Cliffs of Moher, and I had a few friends who I think were equally concerned, and I checked in with them a few times, too.
But I’m proud of myself for doing this first solo trip, and I know I might not have had the guts to do this a year ago. This year has sucked, but it’s given me so much strength — and perspective. Traveling alone to another country (with no language barrier) is hard? Nope. Watching your mom die is hard.
Have you ever taken a totally solo trip like this? I’ve traveled alone on business or to a wedding or something, but that’s not the same.
I can’t remember if I’ve linked the piece I wrote on grief travel, but here it is if not. One of my favorite things Claire Bidwell Smith, my expert for the piece, told me in our interview: travel feels good during grief because everything in your life feels new anyway, so it can be comforting to experience those feelings in a place that’s new too, rather than a new reality in your same surroundings.