I recently returned from my third completely solo vacation. Nothing too adventurous mind you, the first two times I went to Cozumel in Mexico, and this third time I went to Varadero in Cuba. As you can tell, I’m a total beach bum, but a beach destination is not necessary to reap the benefits of travelling alone.
The first, and probably the most obvious benefit, is that you get to do whatever you want. That may not sound like much, especially to those of you who are single and live alone. I am also single and have lived alone most of my adult life but this is a different sense of being able to do whatever you want. Being removed from your home and home-town eliminates an endless array of “shoulds” from your week – well I have so much free time, maybe I should do spring cleaning, maybe I should go visit relatives who live out of town, I probably should be exercising everyday, ecetera… You have a sense of total freedom from all of your responsibilities that are everywhere you look when you’re at home.
On the other side of this coin, you are free to do things you probably wouldn’t do at home. You certainly could, but you most likely wouldn’t because these aren’t things that most of us do at home. Things like getting drunk every day, living off french fries for a week, dancing with your iPod as you as the warm waves lap at your feet as you gaze at a beautiful sunset…
For those of you who enjoy sightseeing, you can stare at what you want to for as long as you like. For those of you who like to sample new cuisine, you can eat as much of everything as you like. For those of you who prefer to meet people, talk to as many locals and/or fellow tourists as you like. This kind of freedom is very relaxing.
You also get to do a good deal of people watching if that interests you at all. I find this offers a benefit in terms of self-acceptance because you see the same types on people of vacation that you see at home. Those that need to control the “group”. Those that can’t relax. Those that are incredibly fun-loving. Those who have trouble setting limits. Those that cannot tolerate the heat, crowds, walking, fill-in-the-blank… Those who must compare the details of this vacation to ten others… What you see clearly after a little time spent watching, is that everyone has their own way of being, everyone is on their own journey. This brings a sense of compassion for the others and the self that we don’t always have time to cultivate and maintain in our busy day-to-day lives. And this sense of compassion brings a wonderful sense of peace.
Another plus is that you really get to take a good look at what is present for you now that you’re removed from all the things that occur in your life on a daily or weekly basis. Without any of your usual influences around, placing blame on anything outside yourself becomes impossible. This is the real gem of solo travel. Now that you can see what is still present, you have the chance to focus on it and get to the root of the problem within you. You can come to some much needed insights, see your role in things much more clearly, and devise a much more effective strategy to address what you would like to eliminate. Admitting to a problem is the best first step you can take.
I know this doesn’t sound like something fun to do on vacation. But it’s not something that you need to ponder all day every day, or even ponder at all. Just simply paying attention and tuning in to what’s present for you once or twice a day will reveal it to you. And if vacation really is about getting relaxed, what better way to reap the benefits of vacation long-term than to discover a problem that has been eluding you, and then come home and find a way to put an end to it.
Susan Rotella BA RPC