I should have known that participating in the Vagina Monologues back in college would introduce me some of the of strongest, most inspiring, resilient and independent women I'll ever know. One of those women - who has never ceased to amaze me with her bubbly and bright, yet incredibly sincere personality - recently took a trip to the Bahamas to celebrate her own 25th birthday in the most badass and powerful way - alone. I'm excited to share her story, because I've found so many similar moments and experiences in my solo travels, and I can only hope that through stories like these other women will feel empowered to do the same.
Without further adieu, this beautiful piece (and imagery) from Jessica Webb:
I think everyone should do things alone.
I write this as I sit at a little wooden table in the dining room of an Airbnb. To my right there is a couple having breakfast on the patio, overlooking the ocean, speaking Italian to each other. The girl has blonde hair just long enough to brush her shoulders and she has a beautiful china-doll face. She smiled when I walked downstairs and said good morning while glancing at the ground. Her shyness made me want to offer something and I told her that her skin looked of porcelain. Only then did she meet my gaze with a thank you and a you-are-not-a-terrifying-stranger laugh. The man rose from his chair with a French press full of coffee and sat it in front of me. He had shaggy blonde hair and no reservations with eye contact, “Good morning, Bella.” At this point I’m leaning toward the strong suggestion that you travel and await the moment that a kind Italian stranger greets you with coffee and a beautifully accented, “Bella.” I love the Bahamas.
Yes, I am in Nassau, Bahamas. An island I know nothing about - and decided to travel to 3 days earlier. This is a very normal timeline for my decision of traveling. My mom has been a flight attendant for over 10 years and I fly non-rev. This means I can book myself on empty seats - last minute (sometimes literally - in the airport - at the gate - at the last minute). I spent that Thursday evening with a bottle of red and google maps up on my laptop. The goal was to find an island in the Caribbean with a decently priced Airbnb right on the water. I had 5 days to spare before I was supposed to meet friends, my boyfriend and my mother in NYC to celebrate my 25th birthday.
Yes, I have a boyfriend. And this is a topic I was asked about 3 times on one very early Saturday morning.
- TSA security officer: Wait, you’re traveling alone? To the Bahamas? Were you left at the altar
- Random stranger sitting at my gate from Dallas to Nassau: Would you mind filling out a survey of mine? Could you have your husband fill one out too, it would be a big help.
- Customs agent in NSA airport: What is the reason for your travel? Pleasure? Are you alone? That doesn’t sound like pleasure travel?
That last part I found interesting (when I was finished being really, really pissed off).
There are so many people in the world who cannot find pleasure in being alone. Plenty of my friends have admitted to never going out to eat alone, never going on a walk alone, and never going to an event alone. I have been traveling alone since I was a teenager. A few of my favorite moments in life,have been alone. I am not saying I look back on that day I spent alone at the beach the same way I look at spring break with my college friends - but I believe both have been fundamental in my growth (and my God, has there been a lot of growing to do).
The fact that there are people in the world who are shocked that I would travel without my significant other - make me really happy that I am not one of those people. Traveling alone can be uncomfortable. I have never learned a single interesting thing about myself in a comfort zone. I intend to spend my entire life learning about myself and if I’m lucky - helping people I love do the same.
As I walk out of the airport I use Airbnb to message the host. She told me her assistant, Sophie, would be at the airport to pick me up. (If you can find a place with included transportation to and from the airport - it will save you so much money). I wore a bright pink coat specifically for the purpose of texting Sophie, “You can’t miss me, I’m in a bright pint coat.” She spotted me within 10 seconds of pulling up and immediately jumped out of her little blue jeep to grab my bags.
Sophie was a beautiful brunette French woman whose kindness radiated from her face like she was hugging you - with every word. I was immediately happy with my decision to book this place, regardless of what it looked like. Sophie told me she was born in France, and her husband is Bahamian. She told me about the resorts and the beaches and the bus route nearby and I stopped her. I let her know I wasn’t really interested in exploring for the next few days. I wanted to be alone, spend time on the beach, and relax. She threw her head back, laughed, and looked me directly in the eye. “Ahh, a woman who wants to spend some time alone. Sometimes, I go to parties with my friends and I find myself in the corner of the room… wishing I had stayed home with a good book and a bottle of wine. Do you like to read?”
I have never been happier.
When we arrived at the B&B, Sophie showed me to my room. I opened the door, and at that point I think I could have cried actual tears of happiness. I was immediately hit with the salty air coming through the open patio doors to my right. The room was glowing. There was a jacuzzi tub with 5 jets and a beautiful marble shower. There was a desk and a queen-sized bed. The patio. The patio overlooked the bluest water I have ever seen in my entire life and it was so, so easy to breathe.
I spent 3 days in this room and at the beach downstairs. I had human interaction only during breakfast with the beautiful couple and Sophie. The first morning I woke up to a big bowl of strawberries and bananas, scrambled eggs, bacon, thick pieces of toast with apple jam and the strongest coffee I have ever tasted. Sophie called me “Jessy” in her beautiful French accent (a name known to the few and the brave - and my parents). She hummed along to her French music as she cooked. She asked if the music bothered my reading and I asked her to turn it up.
I finished two books on the beach and I found a shell that was shaped like a mermaid. I spent countless hours in the ocean, watching the ocean, and listening to the ocean. The one thing all of my solo trips have in common is the water. I was diagnosed with a mild bipolar disorder when I was 19 years old, and I found familiarity in the way an ocean could knock an entire city to the ground - and peacefully awaken me in the morning with the sound of its gentle waves.
I spent the days in the sand, exfoliating my skin. I spent my nights in that beautiful room with the doors open. You could see the ocean from the tub. Sophie brought me a bottle of wine and a glass with hand painted butterflies. I replied to texts from my dad, letting him know I was fine, and I took naps on the patio lounge chair.
I wrote in my notebook, snippets of what I had just read and I tried to close my eyes a lot. I listened to French music every morning and the ocean every night. My hair got big, curly and salty. I did not put on makeup. I did not pretend to be nice. I did not apologize for anything. I gave myself orgasms. I thought about my flaws. I thought about ways to fix those flaws. I slept when I was tired and I woke up when I was not. I did not look at a clock.
Sophie made me a big breakfast and drove me to the airport the day I was leaving. She asked if I would ever return and I answered honestly, “I will bring my mom.” At the airport she wrapped her arms around me and told me to have a safe flight.
As I walked toward the entrance at the airport she yelled, “Jessy, happy birthday.”
And I was ready to be 25.