Traveling alone can be so enlightening. Traveling alone after you have had a child, is a whole different slice of freedom.
A month ago, I decided rather last minute that I would buy a ticket to fly to California alone, for a best friend’s wedding reception. When I pressed the ‘purchase’ button, I knew that my time had come to take up the art of traveling again. The fine art of reading a book on a plane, strolling with ease from cafe to shop to cocktail hour, staying up to the wee hours and sleeping in, writing in my journal, forgetting time and duties, focusing on any old detail I please. The thought of being reunited with so many old friends, without the obligations of nap time, square-meal time, or diaper bags was exhilarating. And yet, for the two weeks leading up to my departure, there was that little tinge of guilt. What about Joaquin? I would bite my lip and I would shrug it off, knowing it was too late to turn back…but even more importantly, knowing that I didn’t want to turn back.
Since the day he was born, 20 months ago, I hadn’t spent more than 15 hours away from Joaquin before this trip. Can you imagine that? It’s my reality but it still seems amazing to me, how encompassed, physically and emotionally, I am by to my son. When confronted with this opportunity to travel, I realized that even if he is the light of my life, stepping aside for a tiny slice of time is good for us. This trip was my chance to re-focus on life “on my own” for a few days. Before I knew it, the day had arrived, big tears rolled down my cheeks when I said goodbye, Joaquin hugged me without a clue, Juan dropped me at the airport, and for the next 2 hours I kept having that flooding feeling that I’d forgotten something, or that I didn’t have everything with me. I wandered the airport a little unsure of what to do with all of my ‘free’ time. I think I called Juan somewhere between 2-6 times. Every baby cry, every little laugh, every cute kid was magnified. I boarded the plane, sat in my seemingly giant coach seat with plenty of leg and storage space, and ironically no one sitting in the middle seat. I sent a few overly dramatic goodbye messages to Juan and then shut off my phone. We had lift off, and my independent freedom journey had begun.
I’m back from my trip now, and I’ve got to say that if you’re a parent, getting away is highly recommended. It was only five nights and it got easier with each passing day until the long-awaited moment when I swooped that delicious baby back into my arms. He was all smiles, he remembered me, he wasn’t holding a grudge, and in a snap we were like two peas in a pod again. The only difference is that now I am more complete having had some time alone. I am refreshed having reconnected with my best friends, with California, and with my mom who I got to spend so much time with. I had endless conversations that didn’t include me saying “hold that thought” or “I’m totally listening” as I chased after a runaway toddler. I still woke up at the crack of dawn, but I could fall right back to sleep if I wanted to (and uh, yes, I did want to), I got to give my time helping to set up for the wedding reception, I danced all night, I drank my fair share of wine, I got to be the one who held other peoples children, and with the beauty of Skype, I could still see and talk to Juan and Joaquin whenever I wanted to. I received hilarious text messages, photos, and videos of whatever shenanigans (tattoos, art lessons, food fights) my husband and son were up to back in Panama, and whatever previous ‘guilt’ I had felt, dissolved into thin air. For me, that may have been the most liberating thing of all.
When you have children, everything changes. Most of those changes are incredibly good while some are not easy to accept. It’s true that I’ll never essentially be ‘traveling alone’ ever again but that is only because I will always have something wonderful to come home to, and I am so lucky for that.
It just makes the traveling feel that much sweeter.