When I made the decision to take my first solo trip I was not in a good place. Outwardly, I kept things together at work each day and went through the motions acting like things were functional. But I was struggling. I had been dealing with a lot of stress at work and at home. My partner was really stressed and working a lot at his job, so keeping things together at home were my responsibility. Despite appearances, I was struggling to keep it together, but every day felt emotionally and physically impossible. I didn’t feel like relief was in sight, and I didn’t feel like I could ask for help or even know who to ask.
Luckily, as I mentioned in the first piece, I had been assigned a career coach at work, and she became my lifeline. It is not in my nature to be vulnerable, and the stresses at home and work had made me close up to everyone but my children and sister as this was the only way I knew how to cope. However, I knew I needed help and this might be my best chance, so I went into my work with her determined to be vulnerable and open. I was ready for coaching, which might be the most important part of working with a coach, and I was ready to listen, hear, and try whatever the coach suggested. My coach did not let me down; she was amazing and had two little kids, like me, so we had bonded immediately. In our coaching sessions, my coach validated my feelings, but she also challenged me with different tasks, thoughts, and decision-making processes to help me to see things from different perspectives.
In one particularly difficult session, my coach and I talked about how I process what is happening in my life and how I recharge mentally and emotionally. My coach helped me I realized that one of the things that is so hard for me to prioritize, as a mom, is having alone time. She helped me to set goals for how I could set goals for alone time daily/weekly without guilt. This also led to the idea and then planning for a solo trip.
One of the reasons I had been hesitant to take a trip and, then, hesitant to talk about it with others was the guilt I felt for even wanting to take a trip without my partner and children. I should not have doubted my friends: Many moms echoed the same feelings I had about needing alone time and were so supportive. A few people were a bit concerned about my safety (one dear friend even gave me a super loud alarm to hook on my keys, just in case, which was super helpful to have given the unsafe feeling that perpetuated one of my morning runs in Idaho Falls). But overwhelmingly, people were excited for me, and I appreciated their support so much.
As a part of truly maximizing the mental and emotional benefits of my alone time, during the trip, I consciously made a point to not be on my phone or watch tv. I wrote or just sat in silence either on my balcony at the hotel, and spent a lot of time just watching the water in the river in Yellowstone. While hiking I didn’t listen to music but didn’t force any thoughts, just more about stillness. Ending the trip at Lava Hot Springs was the real reset. I didn’t have any incredible moments of clarity during the trip, which is perhaps the biggest point. Having the freedom and space to think was what I needed, and that space recharged me and helped me to be able to understand what feeling of space and peace I needed to seek in my briefer moments of solace when I am in my regular life. I just enjoyed being me for a bit and not feeling like every moment was planned. Traveling solo helped me to realized that I can be focused and scheduled every day, but I need weekends or even afternoons where I can just let go every week. When I give myself that time, I can then come back better able to be focused and accomplished to take on every aspect of my life. Things are not going to get easier, but I can get better at preparing and responding.