On my recent trip to Anguilla, multiple well-meaning staff members, upon learning that I was traveling solo, asked incredulously, “Aren’t you bored?”
My response was thoughtful and measured:
But okay, I’ll entertain the question. In fairness, a week in Anguilla is an aggressive choice for a solo vacation. When I first traveled alone, I started small: a weekend in a city. Plenty to do and a limited amount of time. On a quiet island for a week, though, you have to be able to self-entertain. Here are the three biggest reasons why that’s not a problem for me:
1. I think.
This isn’t as facetious as it sounds, I promise. Solo trips give me the time and space I need to reflect on my life and re-center. On this trip, I thought about how busy January had been and confronted the reality that I needed to scale back my activities. I evaluated my priorities and set new goals for the coming months.
It’s hard to take a time out to think about the big picture when you’re in the midst of the day-to-day. And when you travel with a group, or even just one other person, there’s far more activity–which is fun and has its own value, but it can be distracting if what you need is to consider your life and your choices.
2. I observe.
Sometimes my observation looks like a photo in a brochure for something: a young woman sits in the sand, contemplating the ocean… And truthfully, I did spend nearly forty-five minutes one day watching a crab industriously dig a tunnel. (I live in New York; animals that aren’t pigeons, squirrels, or rats are fascinating.) I also feel like I get a better sense for the place I’m visiting when I’m alone–I pay more attention to the scenery and the locals when I’m not having a conversation with a companion.
But also, let’s be honest, I people watch. And eavesdrop. It’s hilarious. On this trip, in beach chairs nearby, a young couple was talking to an older woman. The woman asked if they were on their honeymoon. *cue awkward laughter* “Uh, no, we’re just on vacation,” the young man said. “But…um…someday…maybe.” Things were uncomfortable between the couple for the rest of the morning, and I enjoyed every minute of it, because schadenfreude, amirite?
3. I read.
This is the game changer. I’m not such a mindfulness master that I can sit silently for a week in full awareness of my surroundings. I love to read, and since I work in publishing, I don’t get nearly enough time for non-work books. My Goodreads goal could not be as ambitious as it is without my solo travel time; I blazed through ten books on the island.
And truly, when I read, I don’t feel like I’m alone. As I read a sociological nonfiction work, I felt like I was in conversation with a large swathe of critical discourse. As I read women’s fiction, I felt like I was hanging out with new friends.
Rory Gilmore put it best: “I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way.” While my reading list for the week was less literary than Rory’s, the characters felt no less real.
So no, I’m not bored. Just mildly irritated that you interrupted me mid-paragraph to ask.