“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts. It even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you.” – Anthony Bourdain
As I finished reading this quote that was plastered on the back cover of a new suitcase catalog, the truth resonated more than ever. These words were the first thing I read minutes after walking back into our small two-bedroom house from a weekend away on a solo getaway. That weekend wasn’t all luxury and comfort, and parts of it did break my heart for how distant and confused I had felt about myself recently. But more than anything, I now felt changed; rejuvenated even.
Before I tell you more about my solo traveling story and why you should consider embarking on your own, let me start with the disclaimer for the readers who are expert solo travelers, those of you who might already know and act on the benefits of exploring alone. While I love you being here, please know that these words aren’t for you.
I’m talking to the busy mother who hasn’t washed her hair in three days, much less had time to think about doing something just for herself. I’m talking to the young woman who is waiting to cross things off her bucket list until she has someone to explore with. I’m talking to the wife who spends so much time in her role as a partner, that she’s forgotten the core of her identity as an individual. I’m talking to the woman in between, who is intimidated at the thought of eating alone, staying in a hotel room without someone to keep her company, or going to a movie and requesting just one ticket. Do you see any parts of yourself in these women? Keep reading, friend.
My Solo Travel Story
The reason why I chose to take off on an unplanned, unexpected solo getaway had a little bit to do with all the scenarios above. But what pushed me over the edge was a movie experience with a friend. Four days before departing on my first-ever excursion as a party of one, I left a movie theater full of amped of women who just heard Rachel Hollis incessantly use the phrase “Nobody is going to care about your dream as much as you do” in her documentary Made for More. I found myself really questioning “what are my dreams?” and “what unique features of my identity do I need to improve or cultivate?” I didn’t have the answers to my questions, so I decided to dig into them.
I needed to get back to the basics of self-awareness and kickstart the process of rediscovering who I am. I needed to remember the qualities I naturally bring to the table, not just the attributes I take on to meet others’ expectations at work or in relationships with my husband, friends, or family.
In the midst of all the excitement and fear that comes with being motivated to work on yourself, I woke up on a Friday, jumped on HotelTonight, looked at a general vicinity of small beach towns near the coast, and let the app and life do the rest. I ended up booking a well-reviewed room at the Cambria Landing Inn in the coastal town of Cambria (about 30 minutes from San Luis Obispo) and mapped out a drive that included mountains and wine valleys and ended with a coastal highway that made me feel like I was in a dream.
From the second I started driving to my destination I threw off what I “should” do and just embraced the present. I sang a mixture of Beyoncé and worship music at the top of my lungs in traffic. I prayed out loud and ugly cried at the beauty of God’s creation. I drank wine with other guests at my hotel and learned about their stories. I went to dinner as a party of one at a highly sought after four-person table with an ocean view. I talked to locals about what to do during my short stay. I booked a tour of Hearst Castle, but also made an intention that the reservation would be my only obligation of the weekend. I woke up and took my coffee down to a rock in the water, watching the surfers and sea life in their natural state, and typing page after page of thoughts and creative ideas as fast as my fingers should type in my notes app. I grabbed my Bible and journal and sat on my patio listening to the waves and wind and remembered that they were made by, and still in awe of their Maker.
While I entered that weekend with fear and hesitance to really embrace being in solitude, I came away from that weekend feeling reawakened and assured. Because while those experiences were bucket list items in themselves, what I took away from that weekend was a renewed focus that self-love is still love. We have to take the time to work on ourselves so we can give the world our best. Friends, we can’t expect to keep drawing from ourselves to give to others if our well is empty.
More than anything, I remembered that even when I am disconnected from the world, I am still connected to the God of the Universe because He is always with me. Even when I don’t understand or can’t see the direction He’s leading, I’m still safe following a fog-heavy path because He’s holding my hand. That point was the most important takeaway I could’ve gained.
Why You Need a Solo Getaway
If you know me, you know I couldn’t tell you my story without giving you tips or takeaways for creating your own version. Solo getaways are a needed and precious commodity in a world full of notifications and business to-dos that never sleep. These trips aren’t selfish, they’re self-preserving. And you deserve to know and love yourself, if only for the reason to love your people better.
If you’re ready to embark on your time-alone trip, here are some tips for getting away and digging into growth:
Go Before You Talk Yourself Out of It: One of the reasons why I could easily jump in the car and take off on my solo excursion is because I didn’t give myself an option. I didn’t pour over Pinterest pins of ideas looking for the perfect city or location, I just went in with a ‘good is good enough’ mentality (which totally paid off.) Determine how far you want to travel, look at a map of places within your limit, and pack a bag. Before you leave tell your husband, parents, sister or close friend that you’re going, send them the address, and go!
Be Strategic with Your Stay: While I’m all about being spontaneous, if you’re already feeling skittish or scared about traveling alone, make sure to find a town or hotel that’s small, quaint, and safe. While I lucked out with Cambria (it was a slow town filled with regulars of retirees and surfers) I was strategic with the hotel I chose. There were fewer than 50 rooms, opportunities to socialize with guests during a nightly happy hour, and hospitable staff who made me feel welcome. Use the same rules with Airbnb when looking at places. Read the reviews and choose accordingly!
Get Comfortable with the Quiet: The more attune we are to the noise, the more uncomfortable we become with silence and reflection. Make time during your solo adventure to break the addiction to noise. Turn your phone on airplane mode, go on walks, drink your coffee and journal, or just grab a glass of wine and a table at a local restaurant and take a book to enjoy. This may feel awkward or out of character at first, but in order to get the most out of your experience, you have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. And if one of your goals for a solo trip is to be near God and hear Him speak clearly, make sure you’re taking the time to listen in stillness.
Remember What You (Just You) Like: Wherever you decide to venture off to, make sure you find places to eat and things to do outside your hotel room. Take this opportunity to find out or remember what you like in terms of activities and cuisine, and don’t let the intimidation of going alone stop you. And if you’re at a restaurant, make a point to NOT revert back to looking at your phone if you’re feeling uncomfortable. Savor the flavor in your food. Swirl and smell your wine like the connoisseur you want to be. Remember, this is your time to break your noise and phone addiction! Put the phone in your purse or pocket and just be.
I want to hear from you! Are you interested in taking a solo vacation? If you’re hesitant, what’s holding you back? Share your thoughts on solo travel or your personal experiences if you’ve ever set time aside to go on one!
Joyful Takeaway: The more attune we are to the noise, the more uncomfortable we become with silence and reflection. Get Comfortable with the Quiet