“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” ~ Ernest Hemingway. Image from minimalstudent.com.
Sitting on a bench in historic Long Grove, Illinois, tossing pieces of sugar cookie to the sparrows and humming “Feed the Birds” on a breezy summer day the year before graduation, I vowed to make the most of my alone time. Now, two years after college, still job-hunting and full of free time, I have a more complicated relationship with solo outings.
Traveling with the people I love, especially on longer trips, is difficult. My mom, who raised me on Samantha Brown’s travel specials, is bedridden due to a plethora of health issues. Many of my friends are scattered cross-country and working full-time, struggling with payments for grad school and weddings (a whole ‘nother can of worms!). Through generous graduation gifts and pay from a few phenomenal temporary jobs, I have been able to amass a nice nest of savings. And, by virtue of my continued unemployment, a largely blank and flexible calendar.
In my naïveté, I spent the first six months of unemployment post-grad in a perpetual loop of anxious online applying and “Why me?” depression. Transitioning from the manufactured tracks of academia, where goals and checkpoints are as glaring as Vegas billboards, to the chaos and confusion of adulthood’s unlimited choices really brought on the existentialism. I might as well have been wearing a black beret and beating bongos while I questioned that whole “meaning of life” thing.
I think that many times when we travel the true “escape” isn’t from freezing Chicago winters to beaches and umbrella drinks but from brains filled with these types of questions. From thoughts that only make us feel emptier to minds expanded with the fertile, life-giving connections we make away from home.
When you’re traveling alone, it doesn’t take long to feel like you’re traveling with those you love. You’re chowing down on eggs and grits at the Clover Grill in New Orleans, laughing with the grill cook over the Kathy Griffin standup playing on the TV in the corner. Or you’re debating Lindsay Lohan as Liz Taylor with a true Southern gentleman (straw hat, polished wood cane, crisp white cotton shirt and all).
You’re imagining what it would be like to be loved here . . . late nights at this 24-hour local institution, arriving with a dog-eared paperback and sipping on coffee by the window. And when you travel well, just as when you read well, you can live those thousand different lives. Even when alone. Now that’s an escape.
Here at “One, Please!” we’ll be talking pros and cons of these solo travel escapes with this author’s inevitable feminist twist. To come: street harassment while traveling, female health and birth control abroad, and much more! I’m just wetting my feet as a Go Girl, so please join the discussion! Let me know what solo travel issues matter to you. Your wishes are my command, ladies!