One of the best vacations I ever took was by myself. I was 26, single and I had four weeks before I had to start a new job in a new town. I had zero money but I had a credit card with a decent limit. I went to France, by myself, for 22 days.
I didn’t speak French and I knew no one in the country.
Thinking about it now, I can’t believe my mother was so completely supportive. I mean, this is well before the days of smartphones and the only way I kept in touch with her was very short, expensive calls from the hotels when I got to a new city.
I was going into credit card debt so I tried to keep my costs down. In Paris, I stayed in questionable hotels and survived off baguettes and blocks of cheese I bought from markets. I would spend some days hitting all the tourist highlights and some days I spend 8 hours in a park laying in the grass. I wandered museums, I ate more cheese, I took myself out to dinners. I took the train to Nice and wandered to Monte Carlo. I had no idea where I was going but I was confident in my adventure.
It was heaven.
(By the way, I have about one and a half pictures of myself from that trip. Traveling solo with a disposable camera was hard.)
CEO of ME
As soon as I got back from the trip, I moved to Orlando, met Penn in a bar and the rest, well you know the rest. I paid off my massive credit card debt from the trip and then every vacation thereafter I had company. Don’t get me wrong, the most fun I’ve ever had has been traveling with Penn. But there was something about being alone, making decisions for myself, and being the chief decider of my day.
I know I just posted about my need to make friends, but last week I had the chance to spend 24 hours .. all alone. My introverted-self could squeal. We were going to take our family to the beach for the weekend and we found out the house was available a whole day early and the scheduling gods aligned so I could go, solo, for an entire 24 hours.
Here’s how it went:
Thursday 2pm: I want to leave by noon but work calls and life kept me longer. I got into the car at 2:00 and I was super annoyed with myself and traffic and all the things. So far, this solo mission is a mess.
Thursday 5pm: I am still in mom mode and after seeing the bare fridge at the house, I go to the grocery store. I’m tempted to put the bag of watermelon sour candies in my cart but I realize nothing would stop me from eating the whole dang thing. In an act of extreme self-control I put them back. I would later regret this decision.
Thursday 6pm: I haul a chair and my book to the beach. This time of year the beach is rather empty except for a line of fisherman casting off the shore. I don’t feel threatened, but I don’t exactly feel comfortable watching the sunset as the only woman on the beach. I pack up and leave.
Thursday 7pm: It’s become incredibly clear I no longer know how to make decisions for myself. I have no idea what I want for dinner. I drive in the direction of a restaurant I am familiar with, then turn around when I was about a minute away. I’m not intimidated by dining alone, but I can’t decide what I’m craving. I have no cravings. I am so accustomed to making decisions as a group, I can’t figure out what I, me, all alone, want for dinner. Note to self: Must learn how to make decisions for oneself.
Thursday 7:05: I decide on a restaurant. I thought I could sit at the bar and eat solo without taking up an entire table. Once inside, I see 8 men fresh off a boozy golf day spread across the bar. I don’t feel threatened, but I don’t exactly feel safe in the exact same space. One compliments my top. Weird. I opt for a table. Screw it. I’m going to take up some space.
Thursday 8:15: Back at the house, I regret not buying the sour candies. Before I had zero cravings, now I NEED CANDY. I am mad at myself for having a moment of self control in the grocery store. My need for sweets is overpowered by fatigue.
Thursday 9pm: Early bedtimes are the very best. I scroll TikTok while my book is on the nightside table judging me.
Friday 2am: It sounds like someone is knocking on the door. It’s a very loud AC unit.
Friday 7:30am: After a fitful night’s sleep, I wake to a call from the kids. Penn was treating them to Starbucks before school which is way more fun than the whole wheat waffles I usually offer. Why is it that I’m annoyed he has it all together? Aren’t their lives a mess without me? It turns out, nope. They are getting along just fine.
Friday 8:30am: I have a series of meetings and work to do today, but I have quiet. It’s bizarre. I love my family but it’s amazing how much you can accomplish with complete silence.
Friday 4pm: I’m done with my workday and I have three hours before my family arrives. I stand at the door to the house not knowing what to do. A long beach walk sounds calming. Or should I go for a run? Or should I visit the cute nearby shops? I have some friends I’ve been meaning to call. I brought a book I haven’t cracked. I still haven’t showered but that just seems extreme at this point. When I traveled alone 20 years ago I had such strange confidence in how I filled my time, now I can’t even decide to walk or run.
I opt for a long walk on the beach. I went long enough that I missed my beach access and had to double back. In moments like that I have to remind myself that one of our greatest strengths on The Amazing Race was navigation. On this day, I got lost walking in a straight line.
Friday 7pm: I showered and greeted my loud, wonderful family as they burst through the door.
I know there are people who are alone not by their own choice. I know it can be so hard to feel lonely day after day.
I was alone only long enough to realize I’m completely out of practice. Without a list, an appointment or a small person with needs, I struggle to make a decision on how to fill my time.
I’m so bad at it, that I want more practice. Yes, I just posted about needing more social connection, but life’s a balance, eh?
Have you vacationed solo? I want to hear all about it!