Monday, November 5, 2012

I Didn't Get My Groove Back, But...

Villa Walkway, Grand Palladium Resort
Last year for my birthday, I wanted to go to Savannah.  I made plans with friends and they all fell through.  I didn't go because I didn't want to travel alone.  Instead, I spent the day at a day spa that I hope to never set foot in again, got a hair cut, had lunch with my dad and squealed with glee over gifts from the guy I was dating at the time.  Overall, it was a decent birthday, but it wasn't what I really wanted.

This year I decided that come hell or high water, I was going to Jamaica.  I mentioned it to friends, most of whom wanted to go.  I threw out dates, gave them deadlines, received assurances that they would indeed attend...and I got crickets.  Mentioned it to the guy I had been dating and he asked if I could wait until February to go.  Dude, you do understand that this is for my birthday, right? And my birthday is in October, right? So going in February kind of misses the point, right?  When it came down to deadlines, dates and what not, no one came through.  So what's a woman to do? She rolls solo.

I'll admit that I was hesitant to go by myself.  I've been to Jamaica several times, so I was already familiar with parts of the island, but I've never gone alone.  I wanted to stay some place that would allow me to do as much or as little as I wanted.  I didn't want to stay at a couples resort and stick out like a sore thumb, but I also didn't want to stay at a super family friendly place and be surrounded by kids.  I had to have a spa on site and I had to have a beach.  And I found those things and a little bit more.

Las Brisas Beach, Lucea, Jamaica
Most mornings after breakfast, I set up shop in a shady spot on the beach.  Though I tried to read, I found myself just staring at the water for hours.  Okay, I did pause to grab a drink (or two or three) from the bar.  I chitchatted with those around me.  But mostly I just sat in silence and let the stress in my shoulders slowly melt away.

I did venture off site a few times and was highly amused by first time visitors to the island.  At a local craft market, I watched naive newlyweds get suckered into buying items they'd have no need for later or "one of of kind" wood carvings that they'd surely see in another store at a lower price.  I waved off some vendors and talked with others, while answering the often asked question, "Sis, are you Jamaican?"  I still haven't figured out what triggered that question, but in my week there, I was asked that no less than three times a day.

Sunset at Rick's Cafe, Negril
I laughed at a German woman who kept staring at me at dinner one night trying to figure out where my dinner companion was, all while she looked terribly bored with whatever it was her husband was saying to her.  I gaped at a young couple arguing another night (seriously, who argues in paradise???), which resulted in him leaving the table abruptly and her chasing after him.  You know who wasn't bored and who wasn't arguing with anyone? Me.  I set my own scheduled, changed my mind without needing to run anything by anyone and had the best vacation ever.

On the shuttle back to the airport I met some twentysomethings from Wisconsin who were amazed that I'd traveled alone.  They asked for suggestions on how to do it successfully.  The following is what I shared with them.

  • Now what works for some may not work for others, but first and foremost, you have to be okay with spending time with yourself.  As an emptynester, I'm used to doing things by myself.  If you can't imagine going out to dinner or to the movies alone, a solo trip probably isn't for you.  

  • I'm an introvert by nature.  I can go a whole weekend without actually speaking to anyone.  Social media provides as much of an outlet as I need at times. Whether you're an introvert or extrovert, pick a resort that offers activities that fit your behavior.  

  • Do your research.  These ladies picked a resort based on its website.  A lot of places use stock pictures and that's exactly what their hotel did.  They were disappointed in the hotel and their area of the beach.  As a result, they'd been ready to go home long before their trip was over.  Check out sites like tripadvisor.com, where previous guests post honest reviews and pictures, before booking your hotel.  

  • And lastly, use common sense.  Don't go wandering off with someone you don't know.  You may be in paradise, but anything can happen.


I didn't miss traveling with a companion. The hours I spent on the beach, the time I spent at the spa, the peace of mind I found, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.  The freedom to set my own course was worth every dime I spent.  As far as getting my groove back, I'm no Stella.  It turns out I  never lost it


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