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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The perfect southern solo getaway

Before I travel, I usually do pretty extensive research on sites to see and places to eat so I can hit the ground running when I arrive. I creep on Google Maps (satellite and street view!) to the point where I often have a city’s general layout memorized before I even get there. Given all that, I usually have a good idea of what my trip will be like going into it.

Last week, however, Charleston, SC, took me by surprise. I was truly blown away by how beautiful and relaxing it was. I present into evidence Exhibit A: My Instagram account, which I unashamedly BLEW UP for three days solid.

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Charleston was exactly what I needed after getting through our biggest work event of the year the weekend prior. I love to travel and have never been one of those “It’ll be good to get home” people but this trip was particularly tough to see come to an end. I spent my last night under the moonlight, toes in the sand, just listening to the waves hit the rocks. It was perfection (Exhibit B).

To be fair, it would have been hard for Charleston to fail as a destination, what with warm weather, water, southern cooking and historic homes. It did end up being an expensive town but I was in full on treatyoself mode and had budgeted appropriately. I didn’t do as much as I typically fit into my trips (event planner hangover, perhaps) but I did get a taste of everything Charleston has to offer and loved it.

I stayed at the Charleston Harbor Resort which overlooked downtown from across the bay. The hotel had a free trolley to/from downtown and there was also a water taxi that was a cheap way to get out on the water (and see dolphins!). I took advantage of the free hotel bikes one day and also got in a five-mile run to the bridge and back. It was a convenient location to both take advantage of all the excitement of downtown and escape from it to relax by the pool or on the marina dock.

So, the highlights:

  • Magnolia’s: The fried chicken meal I had was the epitome of southern cooking and I was in carb heaven. Since I traveled alone, I sat at the bar right away but I would recommend reservations.
  • The rooftop at The Vendue: Pretty popular on a Saturday night and for good reason. I enjoyed a beautiful view of the sun setting over downtown.
  • 82 Queen: I wish I had been hungrier when I was here! I stopped in for lunch and the menu looked amazing but I kept it light with a super tasty local Kolsch and a crab cake. They have an adorable patio but I sat at the bar since the wait was so long.
  • Kaminsky’s: Did the cliché dessert of a warm slice of apple pie a la mode while killing time before taking the hotel trolley back. So good!
  • 39 Rue de Jean: Hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Ever. I ate every bite of the steak frites and can still taste the deliciousness thinking about it now. So glad one of my friends recommended it!
  • Tavern and Table: I biked over for lunch and saw yet another gorgeous side of Charleston. I sat outside overlooking Shem Creek with a delicious charcuterie and cheese board.
  • The Griffon: For my last dinner, I took the water taxi over and asked the captain to recommend somewhere chill and unique with a tasty burger and local brews. His suggestion was so on point!
  • Nathaniel Russell House and Aiken Rhett House: With no car, I was limited in getting out to the larger plantations. However, Charleston has preserved several urban plantations and house museums right in the middle of the downtown neighborhoods. I visited the Nathaniel Russell House first and it had a cool staircase. But the Aiken Rhett House was far more impressive and the audio tour was really well done.

I realize it looks like all I did is eat but I’m okay with that. I enjoyed every single thing I ate, except for the crab cake which I tolerated in an effort to eat seafood. If I had a car, I could have ventured to Folly or Sullivan Beach, too. But I enjoyed keeping it low key and spending a lot of time just walking around and taking in the views of the water, the architecture and the flowers.

And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you how perfect this trip was, here’s a gallery of pics:

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Have you been to Charleston? What did I miss out on? Did you also eat all the food while there? Add your recommendations in the comments below!

Vacation Destination: South Haven

Last week, I ventured up to South Haven, Mich., to get away for a couple days by myself. I’ve written before about why I think everyone should take a solo vacation at least once. South Haven proved to be a great place to do just that. Here are some highlights from my trip, to be read in the voice of Tim Allen a la the Pure Michigan radio spots.

For the beach bum
The adorable B&B I stayed at, The Last Resort Inn, was only two blocks from the beach. It was never too crowded, outside of my last day when everyone camped out early to grab spots for the fireworks that were later that night. You could see the lighthouse and watch the sailboats come in and out of the marina. It was incredibly relaxing and just what I needed. And the best part? It was less than four hours from Indy.

Sunset Lighthouse Relaxation

Note: Click each image for a larger view.

For the foodie
My first night in town, I wandered around downtown hoping I might stumble upon something good for dinner. As luck would have it, I found Taste, a small plates and martini bar. I had a ridiculously delicious crab dish that was so good I didn’t order anything else just so the taste would linger a little longer.

I also discovered one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had at the Phoenix Street Café: turkey cranberry crunch. It’s one of their most popular menu items for good reason. Another unique place is Olive Cart. They have a huge variety of flavored oils you can sample. I loved the roasted garlic and black truffle olive oils and bought a bottle of each.

I also have to give a shout out to Mangia Mangia and Central City Tap House. I visited a friend in Kalamazoo one night and we had great dinner, drinks and conversation at both.

Crab napoleon at Taste  Olive Cart

For the booze hound
The nightlife options are limited in South Haven. As the only restaurants actually on the water, Captain Lou’s and The Idler are popular spots to grab a drink. Another decent spot is the Black River Tavern.

About an hour away in Kalamazoo, you can take a free tour of Bell’s Brewery and enjoy a tasting flight at their Eccentric Cafe. Their Two Hearted Ale is really popular here in Indy but I am not a big fan so I was excited to sample some of their other stuff. Not surprisingly, my favorite was a Kölsch-style beer called Baron Von Nordwestlich. (Full disclosure: I’m on a Kölsch kick that has no end in sight. Obsessed.)

Conveniently located along the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, there are 19 wineries and tasting rooms within 50 miles of South Haven. I visited Karma Vista and Contessa. For $5, you can sample several wines and relax on their decks overlooking the hills of southern Michigan. I also recommend making a pit stop at The Chocolate Garden nearby for a tasty palate cleanser between wineries.

Bell's tasting room Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail

For the athletic traveler
I was really excited to take my bike up and ride on the Kal-Haven Trail. As the name implies, the trail stretches 33 miles from Kalamazoo to South Haven. The countryside scenery was beautiful and very serene, especially during the first hour of my ride when I was completely alone on the trail.

I had a distance in mind but cut it down when I saw the trail wasn’t paved. My hybrid bike was fine but the compacted dirt/gravel/mud trail took some getting used to. I also didn’t want to ride too far alone since the trail is basically in the middle of nowhere. I ended up riding 25 miles, which is the farthest I’ve gone to date!

Kal-Haven Trail Kal-Haven Trail Kal-Haven Trail

All in all, it was a great trip. You can check out more pictures here. I would definitely recommend South Haven for solo travelers, families or groups of friends looking for a low key, relaxing getaway.

Have you been to South Haven? Did I miss any of your favorite spots? Share them in the comments below!