traveling solo…

Posted by on May 8, 2016

I love to travel.  Always have.  I like the smell of airplane fuel.  Driving anywhere near an airport, I get a whiff and a sense of excitement around stepping out of my “normal” life begins to take over.

I just returned from a trip to Isla Mujeres Mexico for my 42nd birthday and posted some pictures on social media. A girlfriend commented that it was brave for me to travel out of the country alone.  That comment reminded me that what I now enjoy and think of as normal wasn’t always so.  10 years ago, when I took that first solo trip outside of the US, I had to step through layers of fear…

One thing I’ve come to realize about growing up when I did in the West is that it wasn’t widely encouraged for us to travel alone, or even do things alone like go to dinner or an event.  Our media shouts out fears that tug at the underlying fears already present.  Beliefs & thought forms are vibrations just like you & I are.  They permeate the air we breathe, the food we eat, the atmosphere we live in.  Collective beliefs pull us in if we aren’t aware of them & shape the way we view ourselves and our world. Since my father was a pilot for Delta, thankfully I sidestepped the fear of traveling to other countries. However, I did grow up with the elephant in the room around being a woman and not being able to do certain things without a man. I am grateful to all of the women who came before me and paved the way. Had they not done what they did, I wouldn’t be so free today.

That first solo trip…  I was in the middle of a painful divorce, determined to understand why I was getting divorced for the 2nd time, living in the house with my soon to be ex and needing a break. I looked at a map and thought, I could use a trip to a tropical spa-type destination.  Pampering, beach, relaxation… yes! I spent a day researching and settled on the Sivananda Retreat Center in the Bahamas.  I had been practicing yoga for a couple of years at that time and thought what a nice addition taking some leisurely classes would be.

I told a few friends, whose comments were: “is it safe for you to travel alone?”, “isn’t there someone you can go with?”, “are you sure you want to do this?”.  To which I replied, “I need this!”.  And I thought it was only because I needed to get away from the situation I was in – ha. The humor of the divine is all pervading, a fact I see in retrospect and after 42 years of this life’s experience.  SO, off I go to the airport with my passport in hand, a smile on my face and a fear in my stomach… you know that feeling where you don’t know if you’re going to throw up or laugh hysterically. I took several deep breaths throughout and kept repeating – “you’ve got this!”.

As soon as the flight took off, I settled back in my seat ready for adventure and maybe for angels to start singing or something.  Once landed, I found my way awkwardly to the dock for the boat ride.  I was a bit nervous as the taxi stand was around the corner, not marked & one disheveled guy was standing there next to a run down car that had illegible markings on it.  He said he was the person to take me to the dock.  I gave him my bag with only a slight tremble in my hand as I thought about the fact I hadn’t even told my family where I was going or that I was traveling at all.

The boat brought me to the dock of Sivananda… I walk up to the front and the guests had just finished their lunch and were clearing their own plates (hmmm, that’s a bit strange for a spa).  I am shown to my room (the size of a shoebox, no air conditioning & common bathrooms).  I am given the retreat schedule… 5a wake up bell, 530a chanting on the beach, 6a 2 hour yoga on the dock, 8a breakfast (cleanup duty), free time, lecture, lunch (cleanup duty), lecture, free time, meditation, evening yoga, dinner, chanting, lights out 930p… I worry that I am at the wrong place.

Or, am I exactly where I’m supposed to be?  Needless to say, the Ashram I had booked was not a spa and the 3 days there were hard and transformative and not what I envisioned or expected.  I had plenty of time to journal and sit with my expectations around the trip… which of course led me into seeing some unrealistic expectations I had been holding myself, my marriage & my life to.  It ended up being the trip that touched into deep wells of strength & power I never knew I had. It was the first breakthrough to a self-confidence that has since blossomed in me. A confidence around taking care of myself, trusting myself and my inner guidance and in knowing that it is ok for me to stand powerfully in this world as a woman.

Since that first trip, I have traveled solo to many other places in and out of the US.  I’ve found that it doesn’t have to be far away for me to reap benefits.  Many times it’s a trip a few hours away & into the wilderness.  No matter where I go, it’s never what I envision or expect and I always come up against myself & my beliefs.  I am able to see the ways I get caught in illusion.  Stepping outside my “normal” day to day life, the world reflects back to me exactly where I am stuck but too close to see it.  I always come back changed.  I always come back with a new perspective for that “normal” life that doesn’t ever seem quite so normal anymore.  I am better able to see the extraordinary magic that is in EVERY moment and I step forward with a graceful confidence that is born from being in other cultures, taking a break from the thought forms & beliefs I’ve inhaled and realizing that we are all beautiful and all human and all doing the best we can.

So on this recent birthday trip, I’m riding a rusty bike with no gears around the island in sweltering heat, seeing nothing but run down buildings & wondering if the local I spoke to hours ago was laughing. She had told me I could ride the island on a bike in less than an hour for a $5 rental & that a beautiful beach and sights awaited at the other end. I had passed 1 other person on a bike, the rest of the many people on scooters or in cars, peering at me with quizzical looks. I crested another steep climb and my breath caught. Wow! Bright turquoise blue water, mayan ruins, a strong breeze and cliffs below. Thinking of the great quote by John Muir, “…for going out, I found I was really going in”, I put a hand on my heart and say “You’ve got this!”