I was afraid to travel alone.  Here’s how I embraced solo travel.

I was afraid to travel alone. Here’s how I embraced solo travel.

I'm not going to say it wasn't provocative, but if you think about it, I highly recommend a solo getaway over the weekend.  Here is how I overcame my anxiety and was able to travel alone.  (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

I’m not going to say it wasn’t provocative, but if you think about it, I highly recommend a solo getaway over the weekend. Here is how I overcame my anxiety and was able to travel alone. (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

Life is too short not to seize the moment.

I wish I had a boy to travel with.

I wish I was brave enough to travel alone.

I could?

These are the thoughts that went through my mind as I read through emails that advertise the hottest new destinations of the weekend. Bed and breakfast in Vermont at a reduced price? Seaside shelter in a luxury hotel? Offer package for two with all meals? Oh how I wanted to go.

And, as a divorced mom whose kids are with their dad every other weekend, I have the perfect setting to make escapes like these. So what was the problem?

I did not have a plus one. The thought of traveling solo seemed absurd. Eating alone? Sights for one? Who me; Oh no – never. The thoughts alone gave me so much stress: I just was not the type to travel alone.

But I would find myself dreaming almost every day, as the visions of a big weekend far enough away from work, the laundry and, yes, even my kids danced in my head. I could not move it. I wanted to go – my soul seemed to know me required to go – and finally my courage overtook him and he said:“Yes, I do all this on my own.”

Very enticed by the possibility of the wonderful view in a relaxing atmosphere, I finally decided to make my first trip alone.  (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

Very enticed by the possibility of the wonderful view in a relaxing atmosphere, I finally decided to make my first trip alone. (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

Was I scared? Yes. I knew it would be uncomfortable and difficult, but I did my best to embrace it because the world is full of beauty, side streets, stunning views, cute cities and antique shops that make you feel like you have traveled back in time. I wanted to go in. I was tired of losing and I was ready to live.

Who needs a plus one? Not me, I decided, and left, driving for five hours to the Saranac Waterfront Lodge on Lake Saranac, New York, I knew very little about where I was going, but I knew there was a beautiful lake, a hot tub and a bathrobe. He is waiting for me.

What happened, you ask? I saw the world. I ate alone. I rented a bicycle. And, I watched a few episodes (or more) of it Seinfeld. Okay, maybe I did not see it the whole world, but I saw a beautiful part of the Adirondack Mountains that I would never have experienced if I had continued to wait for my ideal travel partner. Before I even got to the hotel, I was in awe of the beauty that surrounded me and I knew I had made the right decision. I soaked them all with a very grateful, albeit nervous, heart.

I’m not going to say my trip was not challenging, but if you think about it, I highly recommend a solo getaway for the weekend. If you decide to book, here are some tips I have found to deal with the stress, loneliness and unwanted thoughts that can accompany it.

He called an old friend

Sometimes loneliness hit hard. It was not stable, but when it hit, it was overwhelming. So I called my children and my sister and my mother — often — and told them I was alone. It helped me feel less scared, alone and uncomfortable. Do not be afraid to address a loved one and express your concerns. Listening to yourself say the words out loud is extremely soothing and hearing someone else say, “Go enjoy this luxury you have designed and know that we are with you in spirit” is comforting.

Traveling alone, as it turned out, was something I was proud of as soon as the trip was over.  (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

Traveling alone, as it turned out, was something I was proud of as soon as the trip was over. (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

The key is not to sit with these feelings of collapse in the dangerous position of a lonely mind: Notice the loneliness, suffering and fear you experience, recognize them and release them. And remember these two things: It’s normal and it’s temporary.

Focus on your senses

Without talking to anyone during the meals, I had no problem eating spicy shrimp, delicious salmon and decadent chocolate cake. However, I felt anxious and worried about what others thought of me. (At 44, I can not understand why the hell I even care.)

I felt that all eyes were on me, I was wondering why I was alone at dinner in a hotel, so I turned my awareness to the world that was entering through my senses and not in my thoughts. I ate slowly and carefully and enjoyed dinner on my plate, watching the water ripple in the lake, listening to the birds outside and, of course, making a lot of people – watching – all from the comfort of my solo seat at the table.

Thoughts are not facts, so try to redirect them by focusing on one or all of your five senses.

Immerse yourself in the stories

Eating alone has not become easier. In fact, with each meal, my fear of other people’s crises grew. But I survived. I made friends with my servers and learned about the beautiful city I was visiting from the locals.

I learned the stories of the other guests at the hotel and wondered how they met the bride and groom who were getting married on the spot. I even imagined what the future might hold for them. There are stories all around us all the time and being alone forced me to explore, enjoy and be part of the action.

Move a muscle

My sense of security was threatened on this trip. The unknown to everyone and the fact that I was so far from home left me feeling uncomfortable. When I noticed my thoughts moving in that direction, I moved my body.

Getting up by the fire or riding a bicycle helped me to distract myself from the feelings of loneliness.  (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

Getting up by the fire or riding a bicycle helped me to distract myself from the feelings of loneliness. (Photo: Suzanne Hayes)

Move a muscle and change a thought. I made delicious s’mores myself, and while I really did not want to do it, with that first bite, I was glad I did. I made two more. I rented a bike and took a three-mile walk through the city. I jumped into the pool and then into the hot tub. And the anxiety dissipated because I did something different and stopped it dead.

Be brave

I consider myself a scared person. I do not like trains, I often jump in the worst scenarios and I do not take much risk. But I’m desperately trying to change that. I made a conscious decision this year to be less afraid and to live longer, because one thing that fear is very good at is that it keeps us behind the happiest moments of life.

My little solo vacay required courage. It required me to feel the fear and do it anyway. This should probably be the first tip on the list, because without it, the rest can not happen. Be brave.

I felt courage built into me throughout the trip, and when I got home, I felt like a complete rock star.

I can not believe I did it.

It is as if I have opened up a whole new world of opportunities.

I’m so proud of myself that I took that risk and take it.

I look forward to doing it again.

These are the thoughts that went through my mind as I drove home, relaxed, refreshed and so excited to see my children – even to wash my clothes.

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