“Goin’ places that I’ve never been,
Seein’ things that I may never see again…
I can’t wait to get on the road again.”
I travelled solo for the first time in my life this year. And it was glorious.
I love to travel, yet I seldom do. I’d been on a few trips with family or boyfriends before, and several with friends, but mostly when I was a bit younger and the vacation was to somewhere Spring-breaky and centered around being drunk half the time and lying out slathered in tanning lotion the other half. At that age, that was a-okay with me, but I’m a bit older now. Not old, but a little older. I’ve taken a few trips once I became a “grown-up” but while my friends are amazing people and awesome company, they don’t have the same interests I do. If there was a museum I wanted to see or a scenic walk I wanted to take, I generally broke off and did it myself. I knew this was the case ahead of time so I wasn’t surprised or disappointed, and everyone was okay with it…they went to the pool while I went to the monkey sanctuary or the local historic ruin, and we met up at the bar later. On each and every trip, though, I was making a list in the back of my brain, of all the things I would do when I came back to this place with a suitable travelling partner, with a kindred spirit if I ever found one, if one existed.
I always thought a vacation was something you did with somebody else. There were places I wanted to go, but the process of planning a trip around the work schedules and budgets of two or more people can put a serious damper on one’s motivation to get the ball rolling. That’s if you even have someone interested in going with you, which I sometimes did not.
The last non-solo vacation I took was the one that caused me to question why I felt the need to travel with another person instead of just going by myself. I went to California for the first time last year, with someone I was dating. We’d been dating casually for a couple weeks. It wasn’t as though I had met him at the Wal-Mart the previous Friday or anything, I knew the guy well enough to feel comfortable going out of town with him. The thing is, we had never spent an extended period of time alone together. What I knew about his interests weren’t based on observation, just on what he had told me. And wow, he seemed to like everything that I liked. I’m sure you can see where this is going….I liked animals, he liked animals! I liked hiking, surfing, the ocean. Well, so did he! I liked art and photography…well golly, he did too! So when he asked me to go on vacation I thought okay, this is a little soon but it sounds like we’d have fun engaging in our mutual interests. Besides, it was domestic travel, I could always come back early if things didn’t work out. We weren’t going to some foreign country where he could push me off a cliff and take advantage of their non-extradition laws, or steal my passport and sell me to a brothel. I said yes, I was excited. I bought some pretty sundresses and a new bikini and packed my little suitcase. I was dumb.
To to make a long story short, it became evident after our arrival that he didn’t actually enjoy any of my preferred activities at all. He had merely been parroting back everything I had expressed interest in. To woo me I guess, I don’t know. He had an entire itinerary planned that included one thing I would enjoy for every 9 things he wanted to do. I honestly thought we were going to go hiking, visit a museum or two, and spend time walking around on the beach enjoying the beautiful weather and change of scenery. My idea of a beautiful night would have been a picnic on the beach with a bottle of cheap wine and the moon, the reflection of the stars off the ocean. The sound of nothing. My perfect night basically costs 20$ and the company of somebody I like. He wanted to go shopping on Rodeo Drive, eat in expensive restaurants and sit by the hotel pool drinking 20$ beers.
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that if that’s how you enjoy spending your vacation, but that’s not me. I didn’t want to do any of that. I did do it, with a smile on my face, trying to make the best of things and waiting for the time slots he had scheduled for my activities. Eventually we did go hiking and to the beach, but with his constant looking at his watch, talking on the phone, and complaining about how hot it was the whole time. He was behaving like a gloomy, fart-scented cloud. Here I was, in this beautiful place, not enjoying myself. I didn’t have the balls to say anything, so I just endured it and counted the days until it was time to go home.
It made me sad. I would have had so much more fun had I been there alone. And then I realized I didn’t need a travelling companion. Why did I wait for someone to ask me to visit a destination that interested me instead of just going by myself? I’m a grownup, I have airplane miles. I have an okay job and a couple bucks in the bank and a credit card. I can’t go to Wales or Monaco and live in a castle but I can get a cheap coach flight to Cali if I watch my money for a few months. So this year, I took my first solo vacation. I went to California for the first time…again. Alone.
I went hiking alone.
I woke up and watched the sun rise alone. Ate breakfast alone. Except for my koi buddies at the hotel.
I went to the beach every day. Alone.
I went to the Getty Museum and their amazing gardens. Alone.
I got fancypantsed up and went to a beach bar. Alone. And then took weird pictures of myself in the hotel elevator.
I went to Catalina, Hollywood, Santa Monica. Took photos, walked aimlessly about, ate a Korean taco off of a food truck, stared at the birds. Alone.
And I had the best vacation of my life.