In 2008 and after a vacation-less stretch at my old law firm, I made the executive decision to book a solo trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I booked a last minute vacation package and set zero expectations for myself. My parents thought I was nuts - they kept asking, "are you sure you want to do this?" and I of course unapologetically said, "hell yes."
I felt no hesitation about traveling on my own. In fact, I felt rejuvenated. Maybe it was because I was running from my life situation and just needed something drastic to shake things up. Maybe it was because I read this book. Regardless of the reason, I was going.
The minute I got to the airport, I retrieved money from the ATM machine. Ridiculously, I left my bank card in the machine and didn't realize it until I got to the hotel. Of course I panicked and for the first time regretted that I was on this trip alone. Eventually I put my big girl pants on and solved the problem and then patted myself on the back for doing so.
After that minor hiccup, I spent the next four days and three nights absolutely alone. On day one, the only things I said all day were "si" and "gracias". I literally uttered no other words. Have you ever gone one day without saying anything substantive? I can't lie - it felt weird, but it also felt amazing.
I spent my days dozing and reading and eating and dozing and reading. I explored the town on my own and made my way here and there, coming and going as I pleased. I was the master of my own itinerary and made the decisions I wanted to make. I took pleasure in saying, "mesa para uno" when arriving at restaurants and I took great pride in sitting there alone drinking wine and soaking it all in. I didn't even bring a book to dinner - I just sat there reveling in my alone time.
Here's what I learned: I'm actually better company than I originally thought I would be. I enjoyed thinking to myself or aloud and not having anyone else respond to my thoughts. I really figured out what I was made of. I'd traveled abroad numerous times while I was a student, but there is something different when there are other students to connect with. This was my first solo trip as an adult, and I had no common connection with anyone else around.
I also learned that there is a time and place to not be around others. I'm an extrovert by nature and tend to gain energy from groups. But I also gained energy from being alone which I didn't expect. I felt energized by the knowledge that yes, I could do this and not rely on anyone else.
But perhaps the biggest thing I learned is that I am enough. I worked out a lot of stuff in my head on that trip, but this was the biggest lesson. Each day I would wake up and realize that I was the only one there to fill up my space. Lo and behold, each evening when I retired to the bedroom, I would survey the day and feel full. Not because of the experience of everything else, but the experience of myself.
So what say you? Have you traveled solo? If not, would you ever?
Photo Credit: Mantas Hesthaven