Here’s the thing: I live in, and create for, one brand 7 days a week. I have never experienced this before. As an entrepreneur you juggle lots of brands and storyworlds at any given time and you don’t ‘live’ in any single brand. But I jumped all in last July and moved onto the property of the company I was working for so my world became, in every sense, the brand world I was writing and creating for. But you begin to feel like Boy in the Bubble, only I guess in my case it would be Girl in the Brand. I thought it was a good thing–and it has helped my storytelling to be sure–but it becomes a little like the Matrix after a while. Maybe people who live in compounds like the Kennedy’s feel this: a burning desire to get out.
It became clear I desperately needed to go on a vacation.
Now, as some of you may know who are longtime readers of this blog (thank you stalwart friends) I have been single for nearly 26 months. I mention this because during this time I’ve become a fan of Solo Travel. Why the capitals you ask? Well, for two reasons: it’s a legitimate, growing travel market and secondly, it’s my blog so I can capitalize things when I want to Emphasize something.
A few years ago now (hard to believe), I went on a solo adventure to Paris and it was so fabulous I officially joined the tribe, online and off, of solo travelers. I am addicted to planning trips even if I can’t afford to go on them. It’s like window shopping only it’s on Expedia and TripAdvisor instead of Saks or Bergdorf’s. I have noticed though, when I talk about traveling alone, I get a lot of friends who say, aren’t you scared? Lonely? I couldn’t imagine traveling alone like that!
Let’s unpack this for a moment, shall we?
First of all, I’m not traveling to places like Uganda. I’m going to go where it’s low-key and I fit in for the most part. I don’t wander drunkenly around at night and I’m not dressing like I’m for rent.
As for lonely? Well I’ve felt far more lonely with boyfriends on holidays than I have ever felt on my own. Also, when you travel solo you can completely and utterly give into your own eccentricities without giving a fig about what it might look like because no one is looking! And frankly, my days of saying “oh it’s okay I only had 7 minutes sleep” (because of your snoring) are over. My solo travel days are brimming over with conversations I genuinely choose to have–and while some of my days end at 9:30 pm, they never end in tears, regret or wishing I were somewhere else.
You meet people throughout your day when you travel alone. At the hotel, at breakfast, on tours, at the pool, and of course during Happy Hour. I need a lot of space–as in hectares–and I denied myself this for a long time because I felt obligated to make someone else happy. Now I am free and I can design a near-perfect–no, wait–a perfect vacation for myself.
But I still come against archaic attitudes towards female solo travel. For example, when I phoned my credit card company to tell them I was leaving town, here is the conversation that ensued (quoted here verbatim):
“I’ll be staying in Palm Springs.”
“With your husband?”
“Uh, no, by myself.”
“Just by yourself?”
“Yes sir I’m braving a southern Californian resort-hipster-haven all on my own.”
I desperately wanted to add ‘in my big girl shoes‘ but didn’t want to mock the large credit company that would be funding my trip.
Similarly, at the airport when I showed my passport to the US official, he said, and I quote verbatim again here:
“You’re traveling alone”
“No boyfriend or? You’re just on your own?”
“Yes sir, just a vacation with myself, sir.”
I had to really control my sarcasm so I could get into the country but I did want to say that I was afraid and felt in need of protection in First Class.
As I buckled up and looked out over the wing I realized I had really been a complete sourpuss for months. All work and no play was my permanent headline and I was deeply relieved to be getting out of the brand bubble and into a solo adventure in the desert where I could find my self and my humour again.