I was afraid to travel alone. Here’s how I embraced solo travel.
Life is too short not to seize the moment.
I wish I had a boyfriend to travel with.
I wish I had the courage to travel alone.
These are the thoughts that crossed my mind when I read emails touting the hottest new weekend destinations. A bed and breakfast in Vermont at a reduced price? Retreat by the lake in a luxury hotel? Package for two with all meals included? Oh, how I wanted to go.
And, as a divorced mom whose kids are with their dad every other weekend, I have the perfect setup for getaways like these. So what was the problem?
I had no more one. The idea of traveling alone seemed absurd to me. Dinner alone? Sightseeing for one? Who me ? Oh, no – never. The thoughts alone gave me so much anxiety: I just wasn’t the type to travel solo.
But I found myself daydreaming almost every day, as visions of a long weekend just far enough away from work, laundry, and, yes, even my kids, danced through my head. I couldn’t shake it. I wanted to go – my psyche seemed to know that I necessary go – and finally my courage caught up with me and said: “Damn, yeah, I do all of this on my own.”
Was I afraid? Yes. I knew it would be uncomfortable and difficult, but I did everything I could to embrace it because the world is full of beauty, back roads, incredible views, pretty towns and shops. antiques that make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. I wanted to participate. I was tired of missing out and I was ready to live.
Who needs a plus one? Not me, I decided, and drove five hours to Saranac Waterfront Lodge, Saranac Lake, NY. I knew very little where I was going, but I knew there was a beautiful lake, a hot tub and a bathrobe are waiting for me.
What happened, you ask? I have seen the world. I dined alone. I rented a bike. And, I watched a few episodes (or more) of Seinfeld. OK, so maybe I didn’t see the the whole world, but I saw a beautiful slice of the Adirondack Mountains that I never would have experienced had I been waiting for my perfect travel partner. Even before arriving at the hotel, I was in awe of the beauty that surrounded me and I knew I had made the right decision. I took it all in with a very grateful, albeit nervous, heart.
I’m not going to say my trip wasn’t difficult, but if you’re considering it, I highly recommend a solo weekend getaway. If you decide to book one, here are some tips I’ve discovered for dealing with the anxiety, loneliness, and unwanted thoughts that can come with it.
Call an old friend
Sometimes loneliness hits hard. It wasn’t constant, but when it hit it was overwhelming. So I called my children, my sister and my own mother – often – and told them that I was alone. It helped me feel less scared, alone and uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a loved one and express your anxieties. Hearing yourself saying the words out loud is extremely soothing, and hearing someone else say, “Go enjoy this luxury you have planned and know that we are with you in spirit,” is comforting.
The key is not to sit with those feelings of submergence in the dangerous place of a lonely mind: notice the loneliness, discomfort, and fear you feel, acknowledge them, and release them. And remember these two things: it’s normal and it’s temporary.
Focus on your senses
With no one to talk to during meals, I had no problem eating spicy shrimp, savory salmon, and decadent chocolate cake. However, I felt anxious and concerned about what other people thought of me. (At 44, I don’t really understand why I care.)
It felt like all eyes were on me, wondering why I was having dinner alone in a hotel, so I turned my awareness to the world entering through my senses rather than my thoughts. I ate slowly and mindfully and enjoyed dinner on my plate, watched the water ripples on the lake, listened to the birds outside and, of course, I observed many people – all from the comfort of my solo seat at the table.
Thoughts are not facts, so try to redirect them to one or all of your five senses.
Dive into the stories
Eating alone couldn’t be easier. In fact, with each meal, my fear of judgment from others increased. But I survived. I made friends with my servers and learned about the beautiful city I was visiting from the locals.
I learned the stories of other hotel guests and wondered how the newlyweds who were getting married there met. I even imagined what their future might hold. There are stories all around us all the time and being alone forced me to investigate, enjoy and be part of the action.
move a muscle
My sense of security was threatened on this trip. The unknown of it all and being so far from home made me feel uneasy. When I noticed my thoughts going in that direction, I moved my body.
Move a muscle and change a thought. I made delicious s’mores on my own, and although I really didn’t want to, with that first bite, I was glad I did. I made two more. I rented a bike and rode three miles around town. I jumped into the pool, then into the hot tub. And the anxiety went away because I did something different and stopped him dead.
I consider myself a fearful person. I don’t like roller coasters, I often jump in worst-case scenarios and I’m not one to take risks. But I’m desperately trying to change that. I made a conscious decision this year to fear less and live more, because one thing fear is really good at is keeping us from experiencing the finer times in life.
My little solo vacation required courage. I had to feel the fear and do it anyway. This should perhaps be the first tip on the list, because without it the rest can’t happen. Be brave.
I felt courage rising within me throughout the journey, and on my way home I felt like a total rock star.
I can’t believe I did.
It’s like I’ve opened up a whole new world of opportunities.
I’m so proud of myself for taking that risk and owning it.
I can’t wait to do it again.
These were the thoughts that raced through my head as I returned home, relaxed, renewed, and so excited to see my kids — and even do the laundry.
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