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Posts Tagged ‘solo travel’

A few post-vacation epiphanies

In aging, animals, beauty, behavior, culture, life, nature, travel, women, world on June 3, 2013 at 3:30 am

By Caitlin Kelly

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My hotel room in Flagstaff at the Hotel Monte Vista, completed in 1927.

Here are a few of the things I realized while away for two weeks:

I need to spend time alone

I work alone all day every day. How could I possibly need more solitude? What am I — a hermit manquee? But I also live in an apartment building filled with neighbors I have known for decades, work with dozens of editors and fellow writers and spend a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy, every day, interacting with the world, often doing my best to find, woo, please and keep paying clients for my writing.

It wears me out!

Silence!

Few things are as nourishing as total, profound silence: no beeps, buzzes, cars, kids, pets. A silence so thick your ears feel blanketed. Step below the rim of the Grand Canyon onto one of the trails and just sit still for minutes, even an hour, surrounded by milennia, in silence.

Aaaaaah.

Being in nature/the outdoor world is deeply and profoundly healing

I can’t explain why this is so deeply affecting to me, but it is. On this trip I saw: rabbits, deer, elk, ravens, condors, road-runners, jays, robins, lizards of several sizes, squirrels, chipmunks. I did not (whew) see a rattlesnake or mountain lion, both common in parts of Arizona.

My favorite natural sound in the world — the wind sighing through pine trees. My favorite natural scent? Dried pine needles. The ponderosa pine forests bordering the Grand Canyon are, in this respect, heaven on earth.

The hell with “the news”

I read no newspapers, watched no TV, did not listen to the radio for five days. No access to the internet unless I paid for it. When, in fact, so much “news” is not new at all and is often telling me something stressful, distressing and/or something over which I have absolutely no control.

It is wearying to listen as much as I do, try to process it and make sense of it, whether the latest tornado devastating Oklahoma or the riots in Istanbul.

No technology

I spend much of my time processing/refining/producing, and most of my time is spent staring at a screen or tapping a keyboard. Ca suffit! I was thrilled when I “lost” the bit of my cellphone charge cord that plugs into the wall — giving me days of being truly out of touch. (Turned out it was buried in my duffel bag the whole time.)

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Vanity is a time-suck!

In my tiny hotel room in Flagstaff, I dropped my Sephora brush, shattering the mirror. So much for worrying about my looks! A week without makeup, perfume, even deodorant — bliss! (I may be an 1860s rural bachelor in disguise.)

In dismay, I watched young women at the Grand Canyon showers flat-ironing their hair, applying mascara and generally fussing way too much about their appearance. You’re camping!

Traveling alone is key

I really like being out on the road by myself. I like relating to strangers as me — not “the wife of” or “the writer for” — and just roaming about spontaneously. I read maps, on paper, old-school. I like having to figure shit out on the fly, alone. I just love to travel, and it’s a great luxury to do exactly what I want, when and where and how I choose.

My husband is a protective sort of guy, forever worrying about me. If he’d seen some of the paths I was walking on…oy.

The Grand Canyon is missing (!) 1.5 billion years of geological time — called The Great Unconformity – which does rather put one’s own life into perspective

My brain shuts down trying to fathom a thousand years. Now, try a million. Now, a billion.

To walk across rocks and touch fossils 270 million years old is a terrific/sobering reminder how utterly insignificant we are, and what a blink we each represent in time.

I like learning new stuff

I love to learn new things — how old a cotton-tail is when it abandons its babies (three months, I was told); or how to avoid a mountain lion or what to do when you see/hear a rattlesnake. Or how to pitch a tent (and re-fold it. Hah.) All too often, at home, everything I learn is work/income-related. I am very very bad at hobbies. Travel, de facto, forces you onto a learning curve, especially solo and somewhat rugged travel.

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It’s good to remember, and use, a bunch of stuff I already know

As a new friend said — competence! I bought 40 feet of cord at a hardware store and a small, sharp knife, with no plan but a sense I’d need both. And I did — to string up a tarp over my tent, to attach to my glasses frames so they could not fly off while horse-back riding through the desert. To attach all those ropes meant making figure-eight knots and clove hitches, stuff I learned as a kid and used as a sailor.

Horseback riding meant remembering (ouch!) how to trot, how to guide a horse, how to not fall off and how to mount and dismount.

It’s great to leave the husband behind once in a while

It’s great to miss him — and be missed!

Most people are rushing-around-in-an-insane-non-stop-noise-producing frenzy. WTF?!

Tell me, please, the point of going somewhere as mind-blowing as the Grand Canyon, then never, once, not for a second, shutting the hell up and appreciating its beauty and mystery – in silence. Not sketching or drawing (which takes time and contemplation), but quickquickquick snapping tons of pix. It was exhausting listening to them all shouting at their unruly children or barking instructions at one another in French/German/Japanese.

It made me want to put Xanax in the damn water supply. Good God, people. Can you just sit still for 10 minutes?

Doing less, more slowly, is not a sign of weakness or defeat

This was a first. Sigh.

This week — June 6 — I hit yet another birthday and, for the first time, feel (ugh) a little bit my age. The last trip I made to the Grand Canyon I was 39, had just fenced sabre at nationals in Salt Lake City and had thighs of steel with stamina to match. I hiked four hours down and eight back up to the rim.

This time? Not so much.

With my left foot injured, walking a lot seemed unappealing. The altitude — 7,071 feet at the spot where I watched one sunset — left me a little breathless when ascending a steep trail.

So I just said the hell with it, something that would have been impossible for me to admit a few years ago. I watched everyone biking and hiking and striding with great purpose and intensity — and yawned. I sketched and took photos and sat still. I walked the rim, and did only one 1.1 mile walk on flat ground, albeit at noon, which was way too hot.

Pretty fucking geriatric!

Whatever. I had a great time.


There are some amazing women out there!

I’ve so enjoyed some of the women I’ve met in Arizona, from the nurse and doctor who treated my foot injury to the 27-year-old esthetician/ barrel racer who drives 18 hours one way with her horses and dogs and young son from her home in Wyoming to her childhood home in Tucson.

Talk about a skill set…

Then there were the two lady park rangers, in Stetsons with badges, patrolling the desert on horseback. What a neat job!

I miss being around women whose highest priority is not being thin/rich/powerful (New York) but being strong/cool/competent and fun. I like a woman in spurs! Maybe, one day, I’ll be one as well.

A Woman On A Beach, Alone

In behavior, business, domestic life, family, life, Media, nature, travel, Uncategorized, women on May 20, 2011 at 11:37 am
Woman at the beach. Porto Covo, southwest coas...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s a new poster at Grand Central Station, the terminus for commuter trains into Manhattan, of a woman wrapped tightly in an orange towel.

It’s an ad for Hyatt, and it’s unusual for several reasons. It shows — counter-culturally — and to my delight:

– a woman alone

– a woman wrapped up in a towel

– a woman who is not a size 4

– a woman by herself on a deserted beach

– a woman who is not accompanied/validated by a husband, partner, gal pals or children

She is staring at the ocean. She’s lost in thought: no tech toys, no earbuds, no distractions. No fruity drinks with little paper umbrellas in them.

The photo shows us a woman comfortable in her own skin, in solitude.

It’s how I love to be, and many of us wish to try, but are perhaps too committed to others’ needs or too afraid of going somewhere all alone. What if it’s scary or dangerous or expensive?

For me, it’s a photo of a woman living her very own life.

Very cool.

Rough Day? Grab Your Bear

In behavior, travel on August 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm
Teddy bear - Rory
Image via Wikipedia

Had a rough day? Reach for Teddy! A survey of 6,000 Britons finds that many still do.

From The Telegraph:

The survey also found that 25 per cent of men said they even took their teddy away with them on business because it reminded them of home.

Travelodge said that in the past year staff have reunited more than 75,000 teddies and their owners.

Spokesman Shakila Ahmed said: “Interestingly the owners have not just been children, we have had a large number of frantic businessmen and women call us regarding their forgotten teddy bear.”

Corrine Sweet, a psychologist, said cuddling a teddy bear was an ‘important part of our national psyche’.

She said: “It evokes a sense of peace, security and comfort. It’s human nature to crave these feelings from childhood to adult life.

I get it.

Alone, ill, in Venice 30 years ago, my only comfort was a small, furry bear I’d packed in my duffel for my four-month solo journey. Neither of us spoke Italian, so I was lucky to have some company.

I still sometimes pack a bear, even when traveling with my sweetie. He’s cool with it.

My battered little white bear has been all over the world with me, amusing chambermaids from Ireland to Quebec. I’ve had him since I was maybe three or four — that sort of loyalty is rare and sweet. He tucks easily into the smallest corner of my smallest suitcase and doesn’t even protest when I jam him into the outside pockets. Wherever I go, he’s happy to follow.

We should all be so blessed with soft, portable comfort.

Do you travel with anything inanimate but cuddly?

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The Pleasure Of Solo Travel

In behavior, travel on July 23, 2010 at 1:06 am
Cover of "Come, Thou Tortoise"

One of my vacation reads. Loved it!!! Cover of Come, Thou Tortoise

There are couples who boast that they have never spent a night apart.  Cue violins!

I think: Shoot me. Just shoot me.

I think every long-term couple needs serious time apart. Granted, this is much more difficult if you have kids, especially  very small ones, when time without another person’s labor can feel like drudgery.

I am home now in NY after 14 days away from the sweetie. He couldn’t pick me up at the airport because he was working, but I came home to flowers and, while away, to a half-bottle of champagne sent to my hotel room.

My Vancouver room, at the Sylvia (go!), was barely 150 square feet, but bright, airy, quiet — perfect for one person. The beach was, literally, across the street. (And, of course, turned out my grandmother lived there when it was still an apartment building; built in 1911, it’s a Vancouver landmark.)

While away, I did a variety of things I love to do, some of which he hates. (And vice versa.)

He hates crowds so, last night, alone, I sat for 5.5 hours (yes, really) on the beach awaiting the U.S. entry in Vancouver’s annual fireworks festival. I wanted a good spot; by the time it began at 10:00 p.m., some 200,000 people had joined me. I read, slept, listened to music, read, slept, watched all the people around me.

I sat still. I don’t think I’ve ever just sat anywhere in New York, ever, for 5.5 hours without moving. Or, more to the point, feeling restless or bored or that I should be doing something. Vancouver is a city jammed with slim, blond, lithe folk. I saw no one one obese and few over 30. Everyone’s in spandex or on a bike or roller-blading. And, even mid-week, many people were on the beach.

Doing a lot of nothing productive, for once, meant I fit in right in. Whew. I can’t wait to go back and do a lot of nothing again, soon.

I spent six days with my Mom; as her only child, she likes my undivided attention. She whipped me at gin rummy; I beat her at Scrabble. Competitive, us?

Instead of reading three papers a day and listening to the radio and TV, I listened to music and scanned a few papers. I read three lovely novels: Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin, The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald (a Canadian writer) and Come, Thou Tortoise by Newfoundland writer Jessica Grant.

I liked “Brooklyn”, and loved the others. As a Canadian, I really enjoyed the many references that resonated for me, whether the name of a colored pencil set or landscapes I know well.

I went out for dinner with Colin Horgan, a fellow True/Slant writer whom I’d never met before, a brave move on both of our parts — what if we were bored? Or awful in person? We had a terrific Indian meal and a great time.  Solo vacations are all about adventure and meeting new people without the easy out and familiar comfort of your partner.

The sweetie played a lot of golf and watched the Golf channel uninterrupted and worked hard and caught up with his friends. We spoke  and emailed — and missed one another.

When you’re partnered, do you go away on your own? Do you enjoy it?

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