Eight years ago I went through a violent and traumatic break-up. I had been living with a beautiful musician for five years and we had vowed to love each other for life on a beach in Mexico one December night under a full moon. Life stopped short one day when I found out he was cheating on me with the next door neighbor who happened to be my close friend. We sold the house, separated the goods, and I moved into a noisy apartment with nothing but tears as my new companion. When the money came from the sale of our house, I hurriedly stashed it away in my bank account and left it there for several months while I tried to piece my life back together again.
One night as I was staring at another movie playing on TV, a brilliant idea hit me. Why not take a trip to Paris alone for Christmas rather than endure the holidays with such a heavy heart? Why not take off and leave everything behind to spend some quality time with myself? Two weeks later, I reserved a plane ticket to Paris for three weeks. “But nobody goes to the most romantic city in the world alone, Nora!” my friends exclaimed, shocked that I would undertake such an adventure. “You’ll be miserable for Christmas in a strange city at the other end of the world all by yourself. This is madness!” Politely I told them to mind their own business while I got my things together.
The day I got on the plane that December 15th 2007, I will always remember the joy that filled my heart as I stared out the oval window. I hadn’t felt joy in months and suddenly there it was, reflected back in the window as we took off from the runway. This is the best therapy in the world! I thought to myself, a big grin on my face as I watched Montreal vanish below. When I arrived in the city of lights, I couldn’t get enough of the museums, the cafés, the delicious restaurants, the walks along the Seine. The most incredible thing happened during those three weeks: I was able to smile again and feel alive despite everything I had recently endured, suffered, and lost. That is when I realized that traveling alone is a high form of self-love that must be practiced by everyone who needs healing and loving!
Traveling alone develops many new aspects of ourselves. For one, it makes us more sharp to what is happening around us. When we travel with others, we often let them lead us around or fall into a travel routine. Traveling solo forces our brains to take in everything more acutely and our surroundings are more alive than ever. If someone looks at us, we pay attention. If someone ignores us, we notice that too. We listen more and become more observant of our environments.
Also traveling solo has a lot of silent moments. During these silences, it is the perfect time to do some introspection and analyse what has gone wrong in the past. Walking through a strange city alone makes us reflect on our life choices and why certain things happened the way they did. As I was walking through Paris, I was reviewing my entire last five years with the musician and realized many things about myself that needed adjustment. I carried a diary with me everywhere I went to take notes on my emotions and realizations. This diary later turned into my second novel New Dimensions of Being in which I share part of the story of the musician with more wisdom and detachment.
Lastly, traveling alone allows us to meet interesting new people that normally we wouldn’t stop to talk with. One day during my solo vacation I was in a small Indie bookstore near Notre Dame cathedral and I started to talk with the owner. It turns out he was also a writer and fascinated with Shakespeare just like me. We ended up drinking coffees and talking for seven straight hours about life, love, and death. He later influenced one of my characters in my New Dimensions trilogy. These meetings with strangers are priceless and so rewarding on many levels.
Traveling solo might sound scary but it’s the greatest adventure for anyone who wants to evolve and know themselves better. It makes us more observant, more independent, more strong, and more solid. You will come out a changed person by the end of your solo vacation and who knows what will happen next?
(As published in the March 2015 issue of Happiness & Wellbeing)