I just finished reading What I was Doing While You Were Breeding, and I absolutely loved it. The author, Kristen Newman (who wrote for That 70’s Show and How I Met Your Mother), put together an insightful and insanely entertaining memoir. Spoiler alert: While her friends were ‘breeding’ and settling down, she was traveling the world. Her anecdotes are inspiring and poignant, and at times, hysterically funny. I think her book speaks to what Sarah was talking about in her last post, perhaps we need to stop worrying about where we are and what we’ve achieved, and simply enjoy our lives… Try to separate societal expectations from your own, because society doesn’t give a shit about your happiness, but you should.
Seriously, who can’t relate to this?
“I wanted love, but I also wanted freedom and adventure, and those two desires fought like angry obese sumo wrestlers in the dojo of my soul.”
She gives you a lot to ruminate on, and what I found especially important is that she never casts a judgmental light on anyone’s choices (despite what the title of the book might suggest).
“Life is almost never about choosing between one thing you really want and another thing you don’t want at all. If you’re lucky, and healthy, and live in a country where you have enough to eat and no fear that you’re going to get shot when you walk out your door, life is an endless series of choosing between two things you want almost equally. And you have to evaluate and determine which awesome thing you want infinitesimally more, and then give up that other awesome thing you want almost exactly as much. You have to trade awesome for awesome. Everyone I knew, no matter what they chose, was at least a little in mourning for that other thing.”
Basically, reading this book reinvigorated my desire to travel, and to go on some solo adventures. I’ve done one large international trip by myself (and some smaller domestic/international trips), and it was amazing. I chose to go to Ireland, on a road-trip down the Wild Atlantic Way. In honor of Kristen’s memoir, I decided to share some things I learned from my solo adventure.
Buy the Damn Rental Car Insurance.
I am typically against spending money on the non-essentials when traveling (I’d rather save my money and blow it all on some amazing souvenir or experience), but paying the extra $60 dollars for my rental insurance was the smartest thing I could have done. It ended up sparing me a $2,000 repair bill for a scratch. Scratching a car in Ireland is easier than finding a pint of Guinness, and it costs a hell of a lot more to deal with.
Minimizing stress and protecting yourself from potential incidentals when traveling by yourself is a major step in enjoying yourself.
Befriend Bartenders. When you go out alone, especially as a woman, it is important to be safe. Ideally, this wouldn’t be something we would have to deal with, but that is not the world we live in. While on a night out in Galway, I made a point of sitting at the bar and chatting up the staff. They realized I was on my own and were invaluable in keeping drunken fools away from me. At one point, a guy had overindulged, and was getting a little too handsy with me, and the bartenders asked the guy to leave. Quick, clean, and easy.
You can also get free drinks…
Meet Locals- of all ages! My very first night in Ireland I met an elderly man that I ended up having dinner with. He was full of amazing stories and introduced me to a few of his friends. One of them played music in a local bar and invited me along. I went, and I was treated to complimentary Irish coffees. I ended up making friends with some people around my age, and we sang along to Irish folk songs and Beatles tunes until 3 am.
Treat Yo Self. Traveling is stressful. Taking a break and relaxing will only help you enjoy the craziness of touring a new place. Towards the middle of my trip, I decided to go to a spa and get a facial. Being pampered for an hour reinvigorated me, and made me beyond ready to hit the road. Obviously, not everyone is going to a spa, but taking the time to sleep in, or pass on a crazy night out to get some extra shut eye can turn a trip around completely.
Turn off your GPS and get rid of the map. Part of the charm of going somewhere new is wandering off the beaten track. I went for a walk in one of the towns I stayed in, and I had no set destination, but headed out towards the ocean. I stumbled on a completely deserted ruin of a castle (I might have hopped a fence or two). It was a surreal and out-of-body experience for me- it was like something I had dreamed up. Since it was my first day, and I was severely jet-lagged, I didn’t actually believe what I was seeing until I climbed into the castle in the picture above (even my imagination isn’t good enough to come up with a complete floor plan).
Bring Books. While I could wax poetic on the wonders of traveling along forever, it can also be lonely. I’m not going to lie and tell you that eating alone is a wonderful, magical experience all the time. It can be really awkward to be surrounded by couples and families giving you a pitying ‘you have no friends’ look or the more aggressive ‘are you a murderous lunatic?’ stare. Having book can turn a lonely dining experience around. You don’t need dining companions when you can disappear into a solid story.
Have you always wanted to bungee jump? Or learn a traditional jig? Or go surfing? Whatever it is- just go for it. There is no one to tell you it’s stupid, or silly, or not worth it. Don’t have regrets.
For me, it was horseback riding across the open fields of Ireland. I ended up on a one-on-one trek where they let me canter and jump over trees and fences. Riding over the green hills with (I kid you not) a rainbow over head, was enough to make me believe in the magic of Ireland.
No One Knows You… do what you will with that There is a 0% chance that your friends and family know anything you did unless you tell them (within reason- if you get arrested people will know). If you want to have a crazy one night stand with a random person you can! If you want to pretend to be someone else for a day, go for it! If you want to flirt with someone all night and then run away, you do you! (I’m not saying I did that, but I’m also not saying I didn’t). You can do and be whomever you want without worry that your friends or co-workers or family members will judge you. Go crazy- OR DON’T!
Seriously, you can do whatever you want. Well, within the confines of the law and normal human levels of decency. You have no schedule and no one to be beholden too besides yourself. If you’d rather sit in a pub than hike a mountain, go for it! If you want to spend an hour staring at a painting, you can! If you want to see every tourist attraction in a 20 mile radius, get in your car and get going! The freedom of traveling alone is amazing, and you have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t enjoy your trip. There are no excuses.
In summary, traveling alone is the best.
On my first trip, I tried to wade into it by going somewhere known for being friendly and English-speaking. I was absolutely terrified to go. The week before I left, I didn’t sleep well since I was so nervous.
I can honestly say it was on of the best experiences of my life. I learned I don’t need to rely on other people to have an amazing time. I can trust that I am enough for an incredible adventure. I am so much more confident after having had this experience. I feel like I know myself better, and (luckily) still really like myself.
Get out there. The world is yours.