It seemed like a good idea at the time I made the arrangements. Now, with my (solo) trip to Florida drawing near, I’m not so sure.
Every winter, I swear that I’m going to get away from it all, at least for a weekend. The snow, the cold, the concrete-grey skies that show up day after day, for months at a time, inevitably give me the winter blues.
This year winter is definitely milder than usual, but it’s still a far cry from the gloriously warm, sun-drenched days of summer that I miss so much. That’s what I want. A weekend’s worth of sun-drenched days during which I’ll drink Mai Tais on the beach while my friends and neighbors shovel snow, or at least, dress in layers.
But I have no one to go with. No friend for whom it would be convenient or affordable, in late January, to get on a plane for a quick getaway to Florida.
What are you avoiding?
One of the questions I always ask the women I’m interviewing for my book, The New Old Maid: How Happily Unmarried Women are Defying Spinster Stereotypes, is: “Is there anything you’re NOT doing because you’re single? Some activity that you’re avoiding or putting off because you don’t have someone to do it with?”
For me, that has always been traveling.
I did take a trip by myself several years ago, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I enjoyed a ride on a glass-bottomed boat, viewing the remains of centuries’ old shipwrecks that lay far below, on the sandy bottom of Lake Superior. I hiked to the breathtakingly beautiful Tahquamenon Falls. I walked along beaches and took in majestic scenery. And at night, I went back to whatever motel or hotel I was staying at and ate carryout in my room, because I don’t like to eat in a restaurant by myself.
I tried to enjoy myself, and I did – on some level. But there was also a distinct discomfort involved in being alone amid so many families and couples.
Synchronicity strikes again
As has happened so many times during the course of writing this book, one of the women I’ve interviewed has given me the exact type of inspiration I needed – and at the exact time I needed it.
Last night I spoke with Leanne, who loves to travel alone. “It’s mostly because if I want to travel, I need to go by myself,” she said. “People have to work around husbands or children or whatever, and it’s like, I don’t have time to mess with that. I’m leaving. Bye!”
A theatre buff, Leanne goes regularly to Stratford, Ontario for that city’s annual Shakespeare Festival. She stays in her favorite bed-and-breakfast, goes to the shows she wants to see and dines at fine restaurants.
“I have the best time eavesdropping”
On one occasion, she said, “I was sitting at one of these five-star restaurants, all by myself, and there was a double-date couple, like in their 40s, at the adjacent table. I don’t know if you do this, but when I dine out alone, I have the best time eavesdropping on what’s going on around me. There are fascinating conversations that you hear. And I started laughing at something they were saying at their table and they noticed. I was mortified!
“One of the women said, ‘I’m sorry, are we bothering you?’ They were nice about it. I said, ‘No, I’m sorry. I overheard what you were saying and it was very amusing. The woman said, ‘Oh, are you here all by yourself?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ She said, ‘At the restaurant, or are you traveling alone?’ I said, ‘I’m here alone. I bought tickets to the show and I’m staying at a bed and breakfast. I’m here by myself.’
“And both women, in perfect unison, went, ‘Oh, that’s so cool.’ They were like, you get to order what you want for dinner and pick out your shows. They were just so amazed that here I am, sitting there, ordering half a bottle of champagne and filet mignon. I’m having a high old time all by myself. I was ready for the whole, ‘Oh, you poor thing, can’t you find anybody?’ And it was nothing but envy from that table.
“So I think it is changing. And even women who are in apparently happy marriages are like, ‘Oh, that’s so great.’”
Leanne has inspired me. I’m going to thoroughly enjoy my trip to Florida (unless, of course, there’s a cold snap during my time there!). I am going to do whatever I want to do, when I want to do it, all by myself. I am going to dine out, alone (and hopefully have some opportunities for entertaining eavesdropping).
What about you? Do you travel alone? Will you share some experiences? Or, do you avoid traveling by yourself? (Is it something you’re ready to try?)