Traveling for Work
I’ve traveled countless times alone for work, but for traveling for pleasure… it’s not quite the same.
You see, I used to work in Corporate America. It was lavish. They flew me everywhere– New York, Chicago, even Bermuda! I stayed in 5 star hotels, wined and dined clients at the fanciest restaurants, and swiped my company card for everything, and I mean e v e r y t h i n g… including yoga classes. They took good care of me. They had to.
With a flight out nearly every Monday morning and a return flight late Friday night, I found myself “living” in foreign cities for weeks at a time. While I was traveling by myself, I was far from alone. My clients expected me to show up. My email pinged constantly. My boss called hourly. I wasn’t alone. I’d be lucky if I could sneak off to the bathroom without someone following me with a question. The only moment I ever felt alone was late at night when I was lying in my king-size, pillow-top, 400-count-thread hotel room bed and I heard a noise. Then I felt alone. Very alone. And very scared.
So while I’ve traveled alone for work countless times, I can guarantee you it’s not the same.
My First Solo Adventure
To be honest, my first solo adventure was a few weeks into my recently single life and it was simply to the beach 30 minutes away from my house. I needed to test the waters (no pun intended) before I could dive right in. If I couldn’t handle an afternoon at the beach, then how was I going to handle an entire trip?
After watching “How To Be Single“, I knew I needed to get out of my comfort zone and start accepting reality for what it was. I was single and it was time to embrace it. (Side note: fantastic movie, perfect timing, highly recommend it)
After overcoming the petrifying hurdle of being alone (even if it was just to the beach), I felt invincible. What else could I accomplish? How much could I handle?
I threw myself into the challenge.
March 31 – Solo beach adventure
April 4 – Solo skydiving
Signed up that morning and took the first opening
April 6 – Solo baby barre class
I do not have a baby
April 26 – MY FIRST SOLO TRIP
KEEP READING, DETAILS BELOW
May 21 – First solo wedding
Too soon for jokes?
At least I have great friends!
May 23 – MY SECOND SOLO TRIP
June 4 – Second solo wedding
Surrounded by so much love
June 10 – Solo movie date to see Me Before You
(cried my eyes out, it was glorious)
Even a Snapchat filter couldn’t save this
You get the point… Uncomfortable? Yes. Scary? Not really. Lonely? Only if I chose to be.
My First Solo Adventure
In the midst of all this adventuring, I decided to take my first solo trip. Okay okay, I cheated a bit with where I went but it was still something.
Welcome back to Gainesville, FL. ← My best friend lives here and this is where I went to university. Comfortable? Yes. Solo? Somewhat.
My best friend’s husband was out of town so she had the house to herself. Husband. House. My wounds were still fresh.
She still needed to work while I was there so I was on my own all day, every day to adventure and explore. Lucky for me, there’s TONS to do around Gainesville and I did NONE of it while in school. Why? Who knows, but now was my time.
I came with a detailed list. Let’s do this!
First Stop, Devil’s Den
WTF is Devil’s Den? Only the coolest (and it is cold) place in Gainesville, FL. (I can’t stop the puns)
Devil’s Den is an underground spring inside a dry cave (kinda like a cenote) where you can rent gear to go snorkeling and scuba diving. Its insanely beautiful.
I arrived at Devil’s Den on accident. I was aiming for Devil’s Millhopper Sinkhole but messed up the GPS directions and ended up here first, oops! The only problem was, it was early in the morning, the water was freezing cold (72F/22C is cold to me), and I’d be wet the rest of the day. I contemplated turning around to “stick with the original plan” but nope, I stayed and believed there had to be a reason for this. Everything happens for a reason, right? There was going to be a single, hot graduate student there, right?
- You can’t blame anyone but yourself.
- Go with the flow.
- Hot graduate students don’t go to class.
I parked my car, walked nervously into the trailer which was where I assumed I was supposed to go, took a deep breath, and welcomed the adventure.
I rented snorkeling equipment and headed to the entrance of the den adorned with a small sign and staircase leading into a dark hole. Nearby were several picnic tables covered in belongings.
Hmmm, now what? Where do I put my stuff? Should I go in the shade? Eh, its chilly, maybe I’ll go in the sun? Nah, the shade is better so my stuff doesn’t get hot, plus all the tables in the sun are taken. Are these community tables? Maybe they’re community tables. What if someone steals my stuff? I’ll just go back to the shade. Do I just get undressed here? Should I go get my towel? Yes, I’ll go get my towel from the car. Should I get undressed now? Nah, I’ll check out the bathroom. Gross place. Now what? Do I just get undressed and go in? Why am I stalling? What am I scared of? I’m here, I need to go in. Ugh, I hate swimming. Ugh, I hate being cold. Why did I think this was a good idea? Let me walk around a bit. Oh, there’s a bench and a weird cutout of a devil-man, I’ll look at that. Oh shit, there’s a giant hole! I can see into the ground! There are people underground! There are people in the water! This is amazing! This is so cool! Okay, this is awesome! WTF! This is really cool! Ah, someone is approaching. He’s talking to me. I laugh. I smile. I got this.
That’s how I met Derek.
Jesse emerged from the water moments later and they invited me to put my stuff on their table in the sun. Next to us were two girls– one finishing her freshmen year and the other entering her senior year. Jesse and Derek were UF MBA students who had just wrapped up their semester.
As the morning progressed, I learned all about them. We talked about their hopes and dreams and career aspirations. We talked about their school year and their plans for the summer. We talked about prior work experience (since the MBA students had that) and if they would be returning to the same field post-MBA. We talked about everything. We talked and talked and talked. The conversations were deep. They were honest. They were real. No sugar-coating, no glamour, no trying to look like they’ve got their shit figured out, none of it.
It was refreshing.
There was no judgement.
For the first time in a long time, I saw people open up. And to me– a stranger– that’s crazy! Why did they tell me things my best friends wouldn’t even admit? Their falsified resumes, genuine lack of work experience, job they hated but pretended to love in order to look good in front of their peers, all of it. Why share this info? Why with me?
The Hardest Part
I skipped over this in the story above, but the hardest part was right at the beginning. It was the fear and anxiety leading up to the question, “Who are you here with?”
Oh that question! It sent shivers down my spine. Now was the moment of truth. What do I say? Do I say I am alone? I have to say that. But what if they ask why (because they will ask why), what do I say? Do I tell them the truth? The real story? Do they need to know the real story? Will I start crying? I will start crying. Just lie. Say anything. OMG ANSWER THE POOR KID ALREADY.
“I’m here alone.”
As expected, the questions flooded in. And do you know what I did? I went with the flow. I revealed information as I deemed appropriate. And shockingly, they were impressed. I was okay. I was more than okay. I was proud. Go me!
As the morning went on, the 5 of us became fast friends. We swam together, took photos for each other, and encouraged each other to jump in every time one would dry off. The first jump was always the hardest– it was so cold! We pointed out fish, challenged each other to swim deeper, and eventually went on a great nature walk around the park. Today was a great day.
Want to visit?
Get all the details on Devil’s Den here.
Next Stop, Devil’s Millhopper Sinkhole
Devil’s Millhopper Sinkhole is completely different than Devil’s Den. I know this now.
Few people were here. It was quiet. Eerily quiet. I could hear people far in the distance, but this time, I was clearly alone.
I spent about an hour walking around, soaking up nature, and just being present. I challenged myself to keep my phone in my pocket. It was tough. No Facebook scrolling, no Instagram, no distractions to kill the time. After an hour, my limited attention span was ready to move on and I knew I had one stop left to go.
Like the video? Want to visit?
Read my post on Devil’s Millhopper Sinkhole here.
Final Stop, Paynes Prairie
Paynes Prairie is a beautiful Florida State Park spanning 21,000 acres and filled with awesome walking trails. As soon as I arrived, I knew I was in for a treat!
A friend recommended I hike La Chua trail so that’s exactly what I did. Parked the car and got started.
Again I was alone but that didn’t bother me. I couldn’t tell if I was happier with strangers or alone, but either way, I was adapting. I can’t remember exactly how long I stayed at Paynes Prairie, but I know just long enough for the afternoon sun to burn my uncovered shoulders. And then I was done.
3 places. 3 experiences. 3 victories.
Want to visit?
Paynes Prarie is gorgeous! Get all the details here.
The trip also included tons of girlfriend time:
Stadiums at the UF Stadium
This is one of my favorite things to do!
The Bat House at Sunset
A UF must-see but surprisingly something I never saw during my four years there.
Wednesday Farmer’s Market in Downtown Gainesville
Again, another thing I never did!
And finally, biking through Hale Plantation
Did I enjoy being alone?
Yes. Never in a million years (well actually 4 years) would I have done all of those things. I LIVED in Gainesville and never visited any of these amazing places. I never got out of my comfort zone, never got out of my bubble, and never pushed myself. I was happy where I was. I was content. Who doesn’t enjoy a lazy Sunday cuddled up next to a warm body watching Netflix?
But being alone? That’s a different kind of fun. The adventure kind. The thrilling kind. The semi scary kind. The I’m-not-sure-if-I’m-supposed-to-love-this-or-hate-this-kind. The kind where you decide in a moment’s notice that you’re done. That you’re leaving. Now. Right now. No waiting, no asking, now. The kind where you eat a cupcake for lunch because you don’t really know if you’re supposed to eat alone and well, you want a cupcake. It’s the kind of fun that I had been missing. It’s the kind of fun that challenged me to me be.
Now the real question is, who do I want to be?