Recently I took off on a little trip. I’d found myself in a rut, in every possible way, and I was exhausted in that deep way that transcends sleep. Things in my life are good – really good even – but between promoting my book, writing another, meeting my periodicals deadlines and regular life obligations, I had been running on fumes for too long already, and needed a stretch of solitude.
As my loyal readers know, I’ve written before about the value of “alone”… a state I truly and deeply value and one I hadn’t experienced in quite some time when I set off on my intentionally unplanned journey west to the beaches of Oregon.
It was a powerful trip in so many ways, full of insights and lessons and wonders, and one that I’m excited to share with you… soon. But not today. Today is reserved for something else, something that occurred to me somewhere in Washington when I stopped at a coffee shop in clothes that were two days old, wearing a hat to cover hair that hadn’t been washed in a week, covered in that funny version of dirty that happens when you spend the whole day in a hot car. I realized that solitary travel gives you a beautiful kind of freedom; the kind of freedom that makes it OK to walk into a perfectly lovely little coffee shop and order an Americana with coconut milk, certain you stink, aware that these things may seem a bit like a contradiction, and not giving a @#$. It’s the kind of freedom that makes it OK to sleep in your car, eat at nice restaurants in otherwise-unacceptably-casual clothes, and take pictures of EVERYTHING.
When you travel alone you get the gift of true anonymity – the ability to be whomever you want to be and in doing so, define who it is that you’d really LIKE to be. You get to leave behind every expectation of your boss or your spouse or your friends and see yourself as though from the outside, uncaring what anyone thinks and making your decisions based solely on your heart’s desire. There are no expectations except your own, no definitions except the ones you want to create.
Even the most independent, free-spirited, and confident of us sometimes must consider others in our choices. Even the most self-assured of us have moments of doubt, when we find ourselves self-conscious of our chosen definitions. It’s easy to let these doubts and considerations influence our beliefs and understanding of who we really are. But solitary travel reminds you that you get to choose who you want to be, every day, with every decision. And, if you will be brave enough to allow it, with the knowledge that you are perfect exactly the way you are and outside opinions of you don’t matter. It reminds you that it’s OK to follow your heart – in fact, that you should – and be the gift that you are in the world. Dirty hair and all.