Ever since I learned how to drive, I’ve been looking to travel alone. I have wanted to be with myself, my thoughts, and my dreams. I have wanted to sit with scary questions. I have wanted to be brave.
Growing up, I traveled with my family every year, yet I struggled to enjoy the trips. Dad often slept late; Mom constantly worried about running late. We were always going from one exotic place to the next. No matter how magical they were, we never came back. I was told that the visit was over and was ushered to move on with life.
Five years ago, I left home and began to travel on my own. I loved planning my own trips and lingering at beautiful places. I remembered going to Maine and feeling content after a five-hour Greyhound ride. City after city, I wound up at Mountain View for a three-month internship. Date after date, I fell in love with Chris three thousand miles apart.
Ever since I fell in love, I decided to never travel alone. There were many benefits to traveling as a couple. For example, you can enjoy a free dessert or champagne for your “anniversary” dinner, take beautiful pictures together, and feel safe walking on unfamiliar streets. On the other hand, solo travel—the act of moving from one city to another—is the opposite of settling down. Solo travel is for those who can't find love, I told myself.
After sixteen months of living together, I realized that I wanted to get back on the road alone. Ever since I drove myself to the park, I’ve wanted to bring more movement into life. I wanted the space to do my own thing. I was tired of following the rules defined by others and expected of me. I wanted to create my own rules for my trip:
Start the day with the ocean.
Journal until my heart feels complete.
Take my younger self to lunch dates.
Follow my intuition to do the next thing.
Call a friend every day.
Enjoy how good life can be.
Then I began to write a script to share this decision with Chris. After a day of mental rehearsals, I told Chris about my travel time.
Me: I want to experiment with my freedom, so I am going to carve out some time just for myself. I am going to be away for a week. I want to face the ocean and lean against the mountain. The ocean’s vastness inspires me to ask for anything I want, and the mountain’s sturdiness gives me support. I realized that Half Moon Bay is just like that. I want to find my favorite place in Half Moon Bay. Would you support my experiment?
Chris: Can I go with you?
Wait, that was it? No fight, no negotiation, no discussion. Was it supposed to be that easy?
Me: No, not this time. I’d like to enjoy myself first.
Breathe, Charlene, breathe.
Chris: Okay, can you take me to your place next time?
Oh… my… gosh… I’m going on a trip now.
Me: I will.
I found my favorite place on my morning beach walk. It is a quiet corner next to the Miramar Beach Restaurant. I spent most of my mornings on the beach, watching the waves coming in and going out. Before long, I began to experience the scene in all its sensory fullness: the salty morning mist, the calming well-fed seagulls, the soothing sandy beach. I stared at the sky until my eyes got sore. Then I journaled for a bit, went back to my woodside Airbnb, and eased into the rest of the day.
I loved to start my days this way, but I began to feel bored after four days. I’d had enough of Half Moon Bay and began to wonder when my travel time would end. I wanted to go home, but I also felt guilty about “quitting” my trip.
To keep me honest, I consulted my higher self:
Higher self: Why do you want to go home?
Ego: Home is more comfortable. I want to go home and share my trip with Chris.
Higher Self: Let’s get comfortable right now. Bury yourself in the soft and comfy queen bed. Now tell me why you want to go home.
Ego: I don’t know if there’s anything else for me to explore in Half Moon Bay. I’m done.
Higher Self: Sure, you have seen a lot. Are you tired of taking care of yourself?
Ego: My stomach is tired of eating salad and instant noodles every day. I want to go home and enjoy my easy life. I'm tired of taking care of everything here.
Higher Self: What makes you love and hate taking care of yourself?
Ego: When I am here, I cannot complain. Life is good because of me. Life is bad because of me. I am responsible for my happiness, which is freeing. But independence is hard. It is tiring.
Higher Self: Good. How do you feel about going home now?
Before my ego responded, I cleaned up my Airbnb, packed my luggage, and selected my favorite podcast for the ride. I drove down the hill and through the narrow Highway 1. Before I untangled all my thoughts, I trusted my body, and my body took me home.
I was hoping that this trip would reveal something deeply wrong about myself. I was hoping that Chris would shut down my solo travel idea. I was hoping that I would be suffocated by loneliness. I was hoping that I would give up halfway through (well, I kind of did). I was hoping that this trip would prove my self-discovery saga indulgent and useless and absurd. I was secretly hoping to see my world crash and burn.
But the fiercer I pursued my truths, the more I appreciated home. When I wanted to drive, Chris gave me the keys and added me to the car insurance. When I wanted to relax, Chris supported me to take as much time as I needed to stay at the park. When I wanted to go on a trip with myself, Chris simply wished me joy and luck. No matter what I asked, Chris’s loving presence was always there to support me in becoming a stronger woman. Perhaps, he is hoping that these experiments would make me love the woman in his eyes.
It was time for me to love that woman back.
For now, I’m going to enjoy myself, my love, and my home.