On being alone

EXT. VALTER’S OSTERIA. EVENING.

A WOMAN in her early 30s sits alone at a table on the patio. She’s waiting for her bill and slipping into the early stages of a carb coma, having just enjoyed a delicious meal at one of the top rated restaurants in Salt Lake City. A group of men walk by, led by UNNAMED ASSHOLE.

UNNAMED ASSHOLE
“Why are you alone?”

The woman looks over, confused.

WOMAN
“What? What’s wrong with being alone?”

Unnamed Asshole looks at his friends, laughs, and shakes his head in disbelief.

UNNAMED ASSHOLE
“Are you serious?”

His friends join in the laughter and keep walking. The woman sits in silence, her rage boiling below the surface. The waiter places her bill on the table.

THE END.

 

On my recent trip to Salt Lake City, I arrived a couple days before my friends who I was meeting in town. I’m a big advocate for solo vacations and even wrote about tips for traveling alone after my first time doing it. (Note to self: Write a part two. That trip was 6 years ago and I’ve come a long way since then… literally!) So, it wasn’t unusual for me to explore a destination on my own.

When the scene above played out on my first night in SLC, I was so pissed off at Unnamed Asshole, and then later pissed off at myself for giving him any reaction at all.

I’ve reached a point where I’m pretty comfortable doing anything alone: Eating at a restaurant, going to a movie, hiking, etc. If I waited around for someone to do all those things with me, I might never leave my apartment. That’s not to say I don’t have any friends. Just that people aren’t always available, or they don’t want to do the same thing as me, or sometimes I just want a break from people. Basically, I never let being alone hold me back from experiencing life.

When people tell me they could never imagine doing these things alone, I often wonder if it’s because they’re uncomfortable being alone with themselves. I don’t want to put myself in the position of judging them the way they judge me, but it reeks of insecurity. I imagine they’re worried about people thinking they’re a loser, worried about being bored, worried about being alone with their thoughts (oh wait, that last one applies to me, too). I picture them face down in their cell phone safety net should they ever end up in public alone.

But a funny thing happens when you decide to embrace doing things on your own: You can have a ton of fun! It’s freeing to be able to do whatever you want with no one to answer to. You pick the restaurant. You pick the movie. You pick the travel destination. Doesn’t that sound great? Doing whatever you want?

And sometimes, because you’re forced to pay attention to your surroundings more, rather than stay in the comforting bubble of your friend group, you can have some really unique experiences. I’ll never forget one night in South Haven when I ended up bar hopping with two travelers I met while eating dinner. At every stop, we picked up more people and ended the night dancing on a boat. Sure, that could have happened with a group of friends or a boyfriend (assuming they have the same mindset), but I was more open to that experience because I was alone.

I’ve had some super fun trips with friends (no boyfriends, yet), including the rest of my time in Salt Lake City. I don’t want to take away from those experiences by any means, but I really cherish the trips I’ve taken alone. And I’m already thinking about where I’ll go next. I’m getting the international itch again so it might be time for my first solo experience overseas.

As I replay my conversation with Unnamed Asshole, I wonder about his motivation for saying anything at all to a total stranger. I can guarantee this scenario would not have happened if I were male. And sure, maybe he thought I was too attractive to be eating alone (for the record, I don’t think that). But that implies I can’t exist without someone else. And clearly he wasn’t considering the many factors that may have led to me sitting there alone. But none of those would have mattered either. He doesn’t deserve an explanation. It doesn’t fucking matter why I’m alone.

And I will never get an explanation as to why he’s an asshole, though I have a few guesses. In the meantime, cheers to you, Unnamed Asshole. May you feel better about yourself having confronted the woman sitting alone.

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Salt Lake City

When my friends Brooke and Ryan mentioned they were road tripping from Portland to Colorado, staying at national parks and forests along the way, I jumped at the chance to meet them in Salt Lake City and see Utah for the first time.

After the obligatory listen to Sal Tlay Ka Siti, I dove into researching SLC. This trip had a lot of moving parts, so I ended up creating more of a structured itinerary than I typically do. It worked out great though and I got to experience the best of SLC proper and the beautiful surrounding area.

Day 1: Olympic Park and Park City
I’ll admit to not watching much of the Winter Olympics outside of ice skating, but it was cool to visit Olympic Park. There’s a lot to do in the summer if you want to pay for it. I went the free route and hiked up the Iron Bill trail, around the Legacy Ridge/Loop trails, then back down via the extreme tubing trail.

Next, I headed over to Park City and refueled at Wasatch Brewery before taking the town lift up the mountain. It was my first time on a true ski lift and I have to admit I was more nervous than I thought I would be. The views were absolutely beautiful though so I tried to relax and take it all in.

On my hike back down, I intended to follow Jenni’s Trail. The trail markings were a little confusing though, so I’m not quite sure what route I actually took. I came out near the Legacy Lodge and had a short walk back to the main street area where I posted up at High West Distillery for a flight. Because of Utah laws, they can’t actually pour you the whole flight at once. I enjoyed mine two-by-two and bought a bottle of Campfire before heading back to SLC where I enjoyed a delicious meal with phenomenal service at Valter’s Osteria.

Day 2: SLC
I started my day with a three-mile run, making Utah the 20th state I’ve ran in. Staying in sweat mode, I drove over to the Greater Avenues area to access the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. If I thought the trail markers were confusing in Park City, they were nonexistent here. Luckily I had done some research and knew general landmarks to look for in order to climb toward a truly spectacular view of Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains. I also hiked part of the trail near the Natural History Museum, though I turned around before ever finding the Living Room.

After another full day in the sun, I was ready for Red Rock Brewing and BTG Wine Bar. The Golden Halo at Red Rock was one of my favorite beers of the trip.

Day 3: Wasatch National Forest
Brooke, Ryan and their dog Charlie arrived in town and we headed out to Wasatch National Forest. We drove around checking out different sites and overlooks before settling in at Duchense Tunnel campground. The forest was full of stunning views, including the creek that our campsite backed up to.

Day 4: SLC
I would have loved to camp another night but everyone on my flight home was probably grateful my last night was spent in a hotel with a shower. We hopped around to The Green Pig (loved the rooftop), Twist (good cocktails and fun staff), and Squatter’s (more of that Utah 3.2% beer).

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As much as I loved the beautiful views, I didn’t care for the vibe of Salt Lake City itself. I would recommend that as your point to fly in/out of, but suggest spending most of your time in Park City and surrounding areas.

 

First time cruiser

Last week I went on my first cruise. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I ended up having a ton of fun! Three friends and I sailed with Royal Caribbean from Tampa to Key West and Cozumel. It happened to be Spring Break and we quickly showed the 21-year-olds that life doesn’t end in your 30s.

   

 

 

 

 

Brilliance of the Seas
Some notes about the ship:

  • It was definitely big but it’s amazing how quickly it became small. There are only so many places to go, of course. We made a routine of bar hopping but ended in the dance club most nights, where we made fast friends with the bartenders.
  • I never knew what time it was. That was partly because of our pitch black interior rooms. But also because we had to deal with the Daylight Savings Time switch and a time zone difference in Cozumel.
  • I can see how easy it would be to overeat. Most days we ate a slighter bigger breakfast, skipped lunch, then enjoyed dinner in the main dining hall. The food was on par with what I expected given how much food they are churning out around the clock.
  • Our dinner table was a little awkward the first night but we got over that. Our two servers were outstanding and we genuinely looked forward to seeing them each night. By the end of the week, we were giving them big hugs and didn’t want to say goodbye.
  • I ran three miles the second morning to add Gulf of Mexico to the list of places I’ve ran. The rest of my calories were burned on the dance floor.

Key West
As many times as I’ve been to Florida, this was my first trip to Key West. We only had about five hours but we made the most of it. We beelined it to the buoy to get the obligatory Southernmost Point photo but there was a long line. So instead, we got some quick #sidebuoy action, walked past the Hemingway House, and bar crawled our way back to port.

We stopped at Green Parrot, Sloppy Joe’s (my favorite beer of the day – Sloppy Joe’s Island Ale by Funky Buddha Brewery), Hog’s Breath, Garden of Eden (nude rooftop bar!) and Two Friends.

Cozumel
We didn’t actually spend any time in Cozumel since our excursion took us immediately on the ferry to the mainland. There were several Mayan ruin excursions but we chose one that included climbing 126 feet up a very steep/slick Mayan pyramid in Coba then climbing down 80 feet underground to swim in a cenote. It was such a cool experience and after hearing how the other ruins excursion was from our tablemates, I was so happy with our choice.

So, would I cruise again?
Yes, but here are some thoughts if I do:

  • I think it’s great for a group trip. I’ve been on some trips where groups try to do everything together but that’s not super realistic and usually means someone isn’t doing what they want to do. On the boat, everyone can easily do their own thing but still come together for the main dinners, excursions, etc.
  • Five nights was a good length. I don’t think I could have done another night unless I made a point to sleep more.
  • We had two days at sea where we were on the boat the whole time. I don’t think I would want to do a trip that had more than that based on my preferred vacation style. I can only lay out by the pool so much.
  • The all inclusive booze package was 100% worth it but there were some limitations. It only included drinks that were $12 or less, which unfortunately didn’t include prosecco. We powered through, but the last night I splurged for two bottles for our dinner table because it’s not a real vacation without bubbly.
  • I should have boarded the ship wearing my swim suit and cover up. I knew they would take my suitcase so I packed a tote bag and changed when we got on board. But I could have started enjoying the sun and pool deck that much quicker.
  • I would stick with the cruise line for booking excursions. We debated this a lot for Cozumel but once we got off the boat I was so glad we went through Royal Caribbean. They took care of the ferry ride and getting us everywhere on time.
  • I would pack more layers. Our last day at sea was relatively cold, almost too cold to lay out. I wasn’t really prepared for that.
  • I never ended up taking Dramamine but I was glad I had it just in case.
  • I would bring more cash. We had a base level of gratuity included in our package but there was a chance at the end of the week to tip individual staff members who went above and beyond. I had to get some more cash out on the boat to properly thank our two dinner servers and our favorite bartenders.

Have you been on a cruise? What do you love about it? Share in the comments below!

 

What I read in 2016

This is my third year aiming to read 26 books. Happy to report I hit my goal again this year, with three weeks to spare! There’s still time for me to slip in another book or two, but here’s the list as it stands today.

  1. We Were Liars
  2. The Girl With No Past
  3. What Alice Forgot
  4. Big Little Lies
  5. A Reunion of Ghosts
  6. My name is Lucy Barton
  7. How to be Single
  8. Euphoria
  9. The Widow
  10. The Nest
  11. One Plus One
  12. Black Eyed Susans
  13. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
  14. The Girls
  15. Reconstructing Amelia
  16. Find Her
  17. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  18. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
  19. The Hopefuls
  20. Good as Gone
  21. With Malice
  22. The Wonder
  23. Everything We Keep
  24. Wintergirls
  25. Bad Feminist
  26. The Royal We

Check out my lists from 2014 and 2015 and let me know in the comments what I should line up for 2017!

NOLA

New Orleans has been near the top of my travel wish list for a long time and I was so excited to check it out with two of my favorite people for a college roomie reunion. Leading up to the trip, we were a little overwhelmed by the long list of recommendations from friends who had gone and loved it. In the end, our trip was a combination of some of those tips and some things we stumbled upon. At the risk of adding to said long list, here are some of the highlights.

French Quarter
We stayed a block off Bourbon Street in a great apartment. I had some people tell me to avoid this area completely, which I think is a bullshit recommendation. It’s the thing to do in the place to do it. We drank hurricanes. We did a tarot reading. We had absinthe. We danced in the street to Beyonce. We had no regrets.

Beyond the booze, we had some delicious noms. I don’t eat seafood but I kind of get into crab in certain formats. I really enjoyed the crab cake alfredo at Oceana and the super unique crab meat cheesecake at the Palace Cafe. And of course we had to get beignets, though we opted for Cafe Beignet over du Monde since it was close by. It had the most adorable courtyard where I could have sat forever.  

Garden District
Our second night, we ventured over to the Garden District and had one of the best fried chicken meals of my life. No, it wasn’t at Willie Mae’s, where pretty much everyone told us to go. We got a tip from a local to eat at Joey K’s and it was in the area where we wanted to bar hop so that’s where we went. I’ll never be able to compare it to Willie Mae’s but I kind of don’t care. It was my death row meal come to life, it was unreal, and once again, I had no regrets.

Our server there was awesome and wrote out a list of places for us to go, which we followed almost to a tee and it made for a great night. Balcony Bar gave us call backs to house parties at UD. The Bulldog had a great courtyard with a cool tap fountain. I had trouble finding anything local on tap up to that point so it was nice to order a flight of local brews. And we wrapped things up at The Delachaise wine bar before heading back for some more Bourbon Street debauchery.

Frenchmen Street
For our last night, we checked out Frenchmen Street. It was very crowded but a different vibe than Bourbon Street. There was live music at each bar we went to: A super fun band at Bamboula’s; a band I don’t really remember because we were so focused on the absolutely stunning bartender at Maison; and the Jason Neville band at Vaso who had us dancing and loving life and never wanting to leave NOLA. It was seriously the best night.

The daytime stuff
We did two tours: Mardi Gras World and Save Our Cemeteries. It was super interesting to learn about the history of Mardi Gras and everything that goes into it. I had no idea there were so many parades, for example. Seeing the elaborate artwork of the floats up close was really cool, too. And our guided walk through St. Louis Cemetary #1 provided some history on the city and fun facts – like seeing Nicolas Cage’s future burial tomb. Oh and I added Louisiana to the list of states I’ve ran in (number 19) with a nice route down to the riverwalk.

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Normally this is the part in my trip recaps where I would ask what I missed out on and what you think others should check out. But we’re at maximum information overload as it is. To summarize: NOLA was everything I hoped it would be. The people were so nice. The food was ridiculous. The music was so good. And I was so happy to be with my two college roomies!

Indy Half race recap

Since I started running five years ago, my big fall race has always been the Monumental, which is my favorite race. This year I will be out of town though so I took the chance to check out the Indy Half.

My training season, if you can even call it that, was the shittiest I’ve ever had. My schedule has been insane. I didn’t run nearly as much as I should have. And when I did, it definitely wasn’t fast. This is also the heaviest I’ve been in a long time so that’s literally been weighing me down. Oh and did I mention this course is super hilly (relative to Indiana) and everywhere I normally run is super flat?!

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Heading into race day, I was mentally preparing for the worst but also trying to relax and enjoy it. The weather was perfect and the course was beautiful, winding through Fort Ben on a mix of roads and trails. I started out a little faster than planned with my first mile at 10:18. I decided to go with it but faced my first challenge in mile three. Some people walked up the giant hill but I knew I had to keep moving, even if it was super slow. There’s something mentally for me about walking in those situations. It feels like it would be too easy to never start running again.

I was so glad when the road started evening out. I made it! Now I just had to calm my breathing and pick up my pace. I was really happy with how quickly I recovered and got back in a groove. I panicked a little after mile 6 when my watch told me I was under a 10:00 pace. There was no way I could maintain that until the end, I thought. But I felt really good and my competitive drive wanted to see how long I could hold on to it.

There were some smaller hills sprinkled throughout the course but I grew more confident with each one. I kept my pace under 10:00 and knew I was going to finish strong. Then mile 11 almost crushed my soul. That damn mile was entirely uphill (or at least felt like it) but I kept fighting and only slowed down to a 10:18 split.

In the final push, I felt like I was moving so slow but posted a 9:31 split on the last mile and crossed the finish line almost in disbelief. I conquered the toughest course I’ve ever raced and finished in 2:12:09, my third fastest half (of seven).

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I expected the worst and instead left with a complete runner’s high and huge sense of pride. I worked hard for my 2:09:15 PR in April, but this race was a different accomplishment and yet another reminder that I need to believe in myself more.

My unofficial guide to the Pacers Bikeshare

I’ve had a Pacers Bikeshare membership for just over a year. I love how convenient it is, so much so that I use it instead of my own bike to get to and from work every day. I’m a big fan of the program and have become an unofficial advocate for it, so I thought it would be helpful to share some of my tips.

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  1. Invest in the annual pass. Day passes are $8 for 24 hours’ worth of unlimited 30-minute rides. Annual passes are $80. So riding just 10 times a year makes it worthwhile. And with the annual pass, you get a card that lets you bypass the kiosk and go straight to the bike you want to check it out.
  2. Know before you go. Download the app and check to see if there are bikes at the station near you. When you get close to a station, a “Get a bike” option will appear and you can enter the dock number to check out a bike. Don’t forget to check near your destination to make sure there are open docks. If a station you’re picking up from is empty, most locations have another station within walking distance. If you’re returning a bike and there are no open docks, go to the kiosk and click “more options.” There, you’ll be able to see what nearby docks are open and it will credit your account with 15 minutes to get there without being fined.
  3. Stay on the cultural trail and in bike lanes, not the sidewalk. For the most part, all of the stations are on or near the Cultural Trail, which is designed for cyclists. Biking on the sidewalk is illegal (I think) and also not safe for pedestrians. As much as possible, respect the rules and stay on the trail or in designated bike lanes in the road. There are a few stations that are just off the trail and require you to be on the sidewalk in order to dock. In those situations, I recommend getting off the bike and walking it to the station.
  4. Use the bell. The Cultural Trail can get crowded and there are times when the sidewalk and trail are one in the same (i.e. in front of the Conrad on Washington Street). Give pedestrians around you a heads up by ringing the bell. Don’t be afraid to call out “biker on your left.” And remember, cyclists always yield to pedestrians.
  5. Bike defensively. Some cars don’t care about cyclists. In fact, some cars get super annoyed by cyclists. Don’t assume that because they have a red turn arrow that they will stay stopped and you can fly through with the right of way. Always, always be on the defensive.
  6. BYOH. Bring your own helmet. I’m guilty of not wearing mine… which I justify since my route is entirely on the Cultural Trail. But realistically everyone should be using a helmet every time.
  7. If you see something, say something. It’s true with Homeland Security and with the Pacers Bikeshare. If you notice a flat tire, loose chain, broken seat or anything else, call the number listed on the bike. They will want to know what station and dock number you are at, and may ask for the bike number as well (located on the frame). After you’ve called, turn the seat around backward as a sign to approaching bikeshare users that the bike is out of service.
  8. Don’t hog the bikes. The system works best, and the stations stay balanced better, when people dock their bikes once they get to their destination and pick up a new bike when they are ready to leave. It’s not designed for you to keep the bike out and lock it up somewhere away from the stations. If you want to spend the day joy riding, that’s cool. Just dock and pick up a new bike often.
  9. Explore the city. The location of the stations being on the Cultural Trail makes it so easy to explore parts of the city you might not normally get to. Head to Fountain Square. Check out the north end of Mass Ave. Get over to the canal. I already loved Indy but being out on the bike every day has made me appreciate everything our downtown has to offer even more.
  10. Explore other cities. The Pacers Bikeshare is part of the larger BCycle system, which has locations in several cities across the country. You can use your membership card in any of these locations!

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Are you a bikeshare user? What tips did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!