I just returned from a brief vacation—three days in the Virginia mountains. It was my first solo trip. Or rather, first solo vacation. I’ve travelled alone for business, but have always shied away from the idea of vacationing alone. On a business trip, I may be eating dinner alone at the bar but it should be quite obvious I’m not in Orangeburg, SC for a relaxing get-away, so there was never any awkwardness. But eating at a renowned local tavern in a quaint VA town where people are sporting “I ❤ VA” t-shirts and everyone is holding hands and taking selfies, red alert: Solo single female traveler in your midst.
Fortunately, I found myself good company. The only “plan” I had was to disconnect and people, mission accomplished. There was a cold, steady rain the first day and a half I was there, which suited me just fine. I more-or-less stayed in bed and read 285 pages of a riveting book on social justice and the 1971 Attica uprising. (Blood In The Water – highly recommend.) I did a quick run on the treadmill, browsed the over-priced gift shops in the resort, did some writing and had a white wine and charcuterie plate for dinner because, vacation. And I slept. And slept, slept. Probably nine hours each night.
More writing. And reading. But the sun was out so I browsed the shops on Main Street before signing up for a 2 ½ hour mountain bike ride down the VA Creeper Trail. I almost backed out at the last minute, wondering if it would be any fun alone, but I’m so glad I went as it was the best part of my trip. There was one couple in the van and we found we had books, politics, food and beer in common and talked non-stop for the one-hour drive to the entry point. Not wanting to intrude on their time together, I hopped on my bike ahead of them and took off.
Admittedly, it was a bit lonely at first on the trail. It would have been nice to point out the sights and take in the beauty with someone, but I quickly got over this. The ride was stunning, and I impressed myself when my bike kept slipping gears and the chain fell off and I’m at the top of this trail in the wilderness, alone, and I fixed that motherf***er. And I made friends. I stopped at scenic views and chatted with families and couples and hikers. One elderly gentleman barreled past me at one point, and a few minutes later his friend came along, pedaled up to me and said, “He’s faster than you, but you’re a lot more fun to look at,” and continued on his way. Cracked me up and kept me grinning the next few miles.
I had plans to get up early and go for a run on the Creeper Trail before heading back to Greensboro but as I got dressed, I found myself dragging. I’d journaled quite a bit the day before about controlling my exercise instead of my exercise controlling me, and I realized I just didn’t feel like running. So instead I ate waffles for breakfast before strolling the local farmers market and then heading home.
WHAT I LEARNED
It would be nice to record some life-altering insights but nothing that big occurred. My big takeaway is that I’m not only okay traveling alone, I enjoyed it. My schedule. My decisions. My waffles.
Okay, a few more things:
- You’re never really alone. It’s amazing how often I struck up brief but interesting conversations with people at breakfast, in the hotel lobby, in boutiques (I helped a local woman select a lovely necklace as a gift for her niece) and on the Creeper Trail. People are more likely to talk to you when you are alone, versus when you’re huddled off in a corner with your girlfriends or your mate. Who knew.
- Disconnecting is the bomb. I didn’t take one selfie or one picture of the food I ate and yet life goes on. I didn’t even take my phone with me most days when I left my room. I have only my memories of the beauty of the Creeper Trail and those are plentiful. Also, it’s empowering to not even look at, let alone answer, emails and texts.
- I need to travel and get away more to stoke the writing fires. It’s so easy to get pulled into the daily rut of life. I want more.
- I’ll need to build up to a long solo vacation—a week or more. Three days was the perfect introduction, but pretty sure I would have been on my own nerves by day four or five.
So, trip one, a success. Stay tuned for where trip two may take me. And if I ignored your texts or emails, my apologies.
I was getting my beauty sleep.