Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to get out of dodge, so to speak. I think it’s all part of this trying to “remember who I really am” thing. When I travel, I’m able to be a freer version of myself that I never allow myself to be at home. Not to say I go wild on vacation because that’s not who I am at all. I’m freer because I can stop the chatter in my brain that drives me crazy on a daily basis; My life becomes less about everyone else and more about what I need and want.
With that in mind, I learned about the wonders of traveling alone this past year which is even more liberating than I could ever describe. It’s definitely a feeling I want more of and soon. Though, it is a slight miracle that I even made the trip.
I mentioned before that my anxiety would kick into overdrive at the thought of traveling by myself, but not for reasons you may think. I’m perfectly ok with being alone. I even prefer it at times. Oh, the joys of being an introvert. Besides, I’m pretty good company.
The things that stopped me from traveling alone in the past are stupid things like driving in an unfamiliar city, using a train system that I could get lost on, and worrying if I’m safe on my own. Though, I must say, my biggest fear all the time is looking like an idiot. If I can’t figure out how to buy a train ticket right away, are people behind me judging me? What if I pronounce the name of a street wrong when asking for directions? I shudder thinking of these things. Do I know these are the most inconsequential things in the world to be worried about? Yup. Do I still worry myself to death over them? Yup, yup. When I say worry, I mean obsess, by the way. Those thoughts would enter my brain and completely take over. They’d eat away at any logical thought process until I’ve driven myself mad with doubt. These are the inner workings of my brain; it’s not always pretty in there, but we’re happy together.
My first trip by myself was to Santa Fe this past May. It. Was. Glorious. Glorious, I tell you. I must give myself credit for going on my own, but it wasn’t all me. My awesome husband and Lou Diamond Phillips (LDP, unknowingly though) gave me the courage to get my butt on that plane.
Jason, my husband, is a pro at this travel alone thing. He likes to go on hiking trips by himself to clear his head. I’ve always been envious of his ability to just get up and go. I’m even more envious when he returns from these trips; he’s much calmer, more focused and ready to take on the world. He has an inner peace about him that I’ve never experienced.
He and I have often talked about my fears of going away by myself and he’s always encouraged me, but I still never did it. To hear the person you love the most in this world tell you that he has more faith in you than you do yourself is deeply moving and highly motivating, but you do still need to dig deep within yourself to make things happen. The thing with Jason is that he’s persistent. He kept telling me I could do this and that I would love it. My husband always has my back even when I’m doubting myself; He truly believes I can do anything. His faith in me always takes me by surprise because he sees something in me that I have failed to recognize; my strength. I found a good one. I know.
In March of last year, with my 39th birthday fast approaching, Jason asked me if I was finally going to do a solo trip since I had always said I would do it before I turned 40. I immediately thought of Santa Fe because I’ve always been fascinated by it. However, before I booked it, I found several reasons to not go (the dates wouldn’t work, the flight times were crap, it was too expensive, etc). Jason got back to me with flight times that were reasonable, not too expensive and they also made sense with my work schedule (there he is, saving me from the battles that go on in my brain). Every excuse I came up with, Jason countered it with something positive. He talked me through each scenario I created in my head repeatedly until I was comfortable. He was excited for me when I found new things I wanted to explore in New Mexico and often brought them up to remind me how much I wanted this. Jason assured me, more times than I can count, that once I landed the “spirit of the desert” would find me; I would feel calm there.
The thing is, I had done this before. I’ve booked an entire trip only to, ultimately, cancel it because I’m in a panic about traveling alone. Most times I haven’t lost any money, but, I’m ashamed to admit, there have been 1 or 2 occurrences where my wallet has taken a big hit from this. My anxiety is that bad; I’m willing to lose a grand just to stay home and be comfortable.
Here’s where the stars aligned and forced me into taking the trip of a lifetime.
By stars, I don’t mean the ones in the sky, but actually one particular star, Lou D. For those who don’t know, LDP has been a favorite actor of mine since I was 9 when my mom took me to see “La Bamba” on the big screen. Back then, it was more about how absolutely, freaking cute he was (still is, by the way), but as I got older, it was a mix of his cuteness, talent and how wonderful he had always seemed off screen.
There seems to be an unwritten rule in our household that we always check out whatever film, TV show, etc., that Lou is involved in (and yes, I’m thankful everyday that I married someone who shares my taste actors. Though while Jason thinks Lou is a good-looking guy, I’m pretty sure he likes him for his talent alone). Not that it would matter, but my LDP crush is Jason approved. Jason accepts it, I accept it, and, at this point, I’m pretty sure Lou may have an inkling about it so we’re all on the same page.
About a month before I booked the trip, we had started watching “Longmire” because Lou is one of the cast members. The show is unbelievably good (I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it). The acting is spot on throughout the entire series and the beautiful scenery almost becomes another character within it. We started wondering about filming locations so Jason looked it up. He laughed while saying “did you know this was filmed in and around Santa Fe?”. I didn’t. But it made things interesting since filming for the final season had just begun and would be ongoing throughout the time of my trip.
Here’s the part of the story where I become something I’m not; fearless. Never in my lifetime would I have imagined I would message a man I have admired and fan-girl’ed over for 30 years to ask for a set tour, but that’s exactly what I did. I’m just going to say that I must have lost my mind in those moments, but I wasn’t alone in that bout with insanity, because Lou agreed to the idea and set the whole thing up.
In all honesty, that man is anything but insane. He’s got one of biggest hearts ever and is beyond kind. Because of his generosity, I was able to look beyond my anxiety to get myself to Santa Fe. I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to meet one of my favorite actors while visiting the set of a show I loved because I was afraid! He’ll never know how much that invitation meant to me. Knowing what was on the other end of that plane ride from Boston gave me the courage to get on the plane in the first place.
That trip changed my life, it changed me. It started me on this journey. A journey that was so long overdue, but one that I was never brave enough to take. I found my strength in New Mexico. To be a total cheeseball, I found parts of me again. I sobbed my first day there while sitting in a pew in the Cathedral Basilica. At the time, I had no idea why I was crying. Looking back, I now know it was because I felt whole again. I felt free from every title anyone had ever put onto me. I was just me.
By the way, the set tour was amazing and meeting Lou was even better. Words can not describe how utterly fantastic it is to meet one of your heroes only to realize they are so much more than you even imagined. I’ve heard of people who are disappointed when they meet someone famous, but the opposite can be said in this case; my admiration only grew.
On a side note, my only regret from that trip is not going to a party I was invited to by someone else on the show, but I think it’s for the best that I declined. I’m sure I would have had the time of my life, but I didn’t want to intrude. I managed a good few hours without embarrassing myself, it’s best that I didn’t push my luck with a party. For me, if not going to a party is my only regret then I’m in good standing since my usual regret would have been not going on the entire trip. I think I’ll have to forgive myself and be ok with this one.
So here I am, one solo trip under my belt thanks to the helpfulness of 2 wonderful people in my life (for this blog we’re pretending that LDP is a part of my life. Please, just go with it) and wondering when the next one will be…
I feel this overwhelming need to travel because it pushes my boundaries, but in a way that I enjoy. Traveling brings out the person I used to know and love, while allowing me to grow into something so much more.
A second solo trip seems like the next logical step. The world is calling to me, but where do I want to go?
Heads up – it’s in the works. I’ve had to scour the internet for something affordable and worthwhile, but I think I found it. Let’s see if I can make this happen and find the courage within myself to move forward with it.
You only get one chance to live, right? I’ve had 39 years of letting life happen around me; it’s time for me to take on a more active role in my own life. I want to feel every emotion straight through to my core. I want to travel the world and enjoy every single second of it and know that I did it while scared out of mind. Why? Because then I’ve proved to myself that I’m more than I thought I could be.