Sunday, August 29, 2010

Travel: Going Solo

sunset view hyatt key westThe sunset is there for everyone to enjoy ... the view from Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa, off the beaten path from Mallory Square.

What with the movie Eat Pray Love coming out around the same time as my first press trip in years, I got to thinking about the value of traveling solo. Ladies, while it helps to get out of your comfort zone, you don't need to go to Italy, India or Bali to feel at peace with yourself. What you do need is an opportunity to get away from all the things that keep you from searching within, which is really one of Elizabeth Gilbert's core messages in the book. She was, of course, literally traveling, but she was also going to those scary places inside where we are forced to look at a mirror and be real.

I see it around me all the time -- women who are anxious for some hole to be filled by a penis, by companionship, by distraction -- heck, I know one woman who doesn't even like to go to the bathroom by herself when she's at a restaurant or a club. But why? If you're not comfortable in your skin anywhere, you sure as hell aren't going to be fully and completely at peace even with another person to keep you from the dreaded space of solitude.

I had debated about bringing a friend along for my Keys trip, but the truth is, the best traveling companion I could have on this particular journey was me. And I don't mean this in a narcissistic way; traveling solo isn't about selfish navel gazing. Think about it: how much of your relationship is just anxiety about how the other is not fulfilling your needs? Why are you depending, co-depending, on someone else to make you whole? Heck, how many relationships do we know that are just two people having a navel-gazing contest? The bottom line is this: if you are not comfortable with you, why should anyone else be?

An old friend of mine, a gay guy in his 40s, told me not long ago that he had been postponing a trip to Buenos Aires because he was waiting for that special someone to join him. You know what? He went on that trip by himself finally! Good for him! Why, why wait? Why postpone that world oyster when you can have it, enjoy it? That pleasure is here and now. Don't wait for love to travel. Love yourself first.

Which brings me to my point: traveling solo is an opportunity to step aside, enjoy solitude and make yourself a better person for those you love and love you in return. If you can turn that sense of lack (that voice in your head that says "Oh my god, I can't do this by myself") to the incredibly liberating sense of freedom that comes with traveling solo, what then couldn't you accomplish with the right relationships in your life?

By giving yourself the gift of solitude, even the gift of silence, you prepare your spirit for sharing. Solitude isn't the same as loneliness. Loneliness is a crowded space full of negativity. Loneliness is driven by ego. (How many times have you felt lonely right after making love to the person you thought you loved the most?) No, no, none of that. Solitude isn't a bad thing. It's an empty space filled with boundless possibility. It's where you can recharge, reboot and become a better version of you. It's a playground -- a laboratory for fulfillment.

For me, traveling in that Chevy down to Key West, turning off the radio (and that was hard, because I really loved the comedy channels on Sirius XM), seeing the vast expanse of ocean and gulf before me -- none of that was lonely at all. A feeling of plenitude invaded my heart every moment of this trip.

hawk's cay strawberries almaStrawberries and cream, prepared impromptu by a bartender at Hawk's Cay. Service is pretty friendly in the Florida Keys. All the more reason to travel solo to this destination.

It's in these moments where we can really rewrite our stories on a blank slate, recreate and reinvent what we really want for ourselves as women. Nobody else, no man, no friend, no institution, no new pair of shoes, no beauty treatment can give this to you ... only you.

Yes, there are financial limitations that keep us from traveling and of course we must consider going to places that are safe for women. But other than that, what do you do in your daily life to instantly "travel" to a place where you can really be you? Do you truly relish what you are eating or do you obsess about calories? Can you be present in the moment with a simple meal, as if you were on vacation? Can you find pleasure in all the little things? Do you pray, do you focus, do you stop for a moment and express gratitude? Do you love, wholly, fully and embrace everything, including the hurt, the betrayals, the credit card bills, the flab, everything?

This is living in plenitude. This is rich. This is abundance. Feeling love no matter where you are or who you are with, but above all, even when you are alone and then of course realizing that even without a soul in the room, you are never, really truly alone. You don't need a passport for this experience. You don't need to get on a plane. We all have the ability to go solo every day.

captain roger from FloridaysCaptain Roger from Floridays, during a sunset cruise. Rachel Ray is right -- really do talk to the locals. They give great tips!

It's not the great conversations I had with strangers while in Key West (by the way, some of the friendliest people in the world). It's not the food I thoroughly enjoyed, dining solo (by the way, if you are traveling solo, don't hesitate to ask restaurants for half portions!). It's not the walks down Duval Street. It's not the laughs at the drag queen show. It's not even my own insatiable wanderlust. No matter where I am, I'm always at home in my heart. And even when I'm not traveling, even in my own city, I'm finding that adventure of being alive on my own, balancing welcome solitary moments with the time I share with beloved souls.

I don't need to tell you that of course, it's wonderful to go places with a compatible travel companion -- maybe somebody you don't mind sharing a bathroom with and who likes the same kinds of activities and attractions. But that's not really the issue here. Don't be afraid to go at it alone. Be brave. Be you. Enjoy what you got and make the most of it, even if it's a day trip ... bring leftovers and that sense of plenitude back home with you.


Me-Ami said...

I love wandering on my own sometimes, particularly when I travel to Paris. It feels like my own private city when I'm there alone. Even when I'm home, I need time to myself on occasion. I've never understood those couples that do absolutely everything together and never give each other room to breathe. Balance is always healthier.

A-K-A- Lola said...

Thanks for such an entertaining article. In 13 days I will 40 years old. And guess what...?? I'm traveling solo for the first time in my life! (Okay, I've been on business trips, but that's TOTALLY different). I did not read "Eat, Pray, Love," nor did I see the movie, but I am however looking forward to reconnecting with myself. For five solid days I will not be: Mommy-Wife-Employee-Counselor-Maid-Cook, or Friend!!! I will be... just... me. I can't say that I'm not a bit apprehensive, but I think that's all part of the excitement! Thanks for the tips. I won't be going as far as the Keys, but I'm hoping Miami can bring me some zen and at the least, a smile to my face when I get back to my "real" world!