When You Choose To Go It Alone
Lessons from three solo trips in one year.
When my ex-husband and I first went to Napa Valley, the woman in the cottage next to us was alone. His first assumption was that she booked the trip with her significant other and they broke up but, to avoid wasting money on a non-refundable room, she went alone and spent all day crying in the cottage.
My guess was far less depressing: She was a writer and had retreated to Napa Valley to work on her novel. I was sure it was a murder mystery.
Ten years later, I was a solo woman writing in a cottage in Napa Valley.
Last year, I took three vacations by myself. That is three more than I have ever taken by myself in my entire life. I flew to Savannah, GA for a music festival. I camped in a vineyard in Southern Arizona (yes, that’s a thing) during crush, and savored the best that Napa Valley had to offer.
It was never scary, even when I opened my tent and found a tarantula. I felt bold. I felt empowered. I also felt horribly alone at times. I plan on taking many more solo vacations. I’m just a bit wiser about it. I’ve learned a few things.
Vacation destinations should be chosen wisely.
It doesn’t matter how strong and confident you are or how used to being alone you are. Odds are, at some point, you’re going to have a moment that sucks.
Planning a vacation by myself to Napa Valley, shortly before Christmas, was the stupidest idea I may have ever had and I have a lot of stupid ideas.
Napa is super couple-y. It is mostly filled with tourists who have no interest in engaging with the random person next to them. This is how I found myself sitting at the bar at a tiny brewery on a Monday night in Napa, singing Pink Floyd to myself probably louder than was reasonable. NOTE: Carry a book at all times. When traveling solo, I spent a lot of time eating at the bar rather than a table. There are only so many things you can stare at in the room.
Locals were my best friends.
If there is one truth that is certain, it’s that locals are amazing people. It’s never not been the case. They are amazing and a treasure trove of comfort, sanity, and information.
When I was in Savannah, I started each evening with a glass of wine on the patio of the hotel. It was a usual spot for attorneys who worked down the street to stop on the way home. They were so welcoming and I ended up spending a couple hours with them each night talking. I got lots of good local gossip, too. Bonus.
They recommended great places to go I never would have found. Like the bar in Savannah where I found myself sitting across from a Rottweiler wearing sunglasses. It was definitely bizarre, most notably because it was nighttime…
People are accommodating to one person.
When you’re one person traveling, it’s easy for people to do nice things for you. A man sitting at a bar having a drink before dinner offered me his seat. A waiter brought me a side of guacamole at no charge. Just because I asked. And let’s face it, free guacamole is the sign of a solid vacation.
In Willcox, the winemakers at the vineyard where I was camping let me check out their whole operation. In Napa, I got invited to tour my favorite vineyard in the whole valley with the owner of the vineyard. It’s hard to offer that to a group.
I found that, as a solo female traveler, I intimidated no one. It allows room for kindness. Oddly, some people were strangely fascinated with me. This was mostly older women who could not even wrap their brain around what I was doing. They worried for me. It was sweet.
It took me 44 years to go on my first vacation by myself. It tests your mettle. The reaction I got from people when I told them I was heading out by myself was sometimes worry, sometimes admiration. It made me feel kind of bad ass.
Not having a traveling partner is my current status. It won’t always be that way. But, as I saw it, I had two options: suck up all my fears and nervousness and just go or wait for God knows how long for the day I have a traveling partner. I’m not waiting on a damn thing. I’m hopping on the flight.