After finishing my year as a CPE Resident, I was exhausted, but fortunately, had scheduled a week in between finishing one thing and starting the next. The issue was what to do with that week. I knew what I needed to do – get away, do some mental, spiritual, and emotional debriefing, and just relax. Maybe, if I felt up to it, start doing some brainstorming and planning for the church. I don’t know about you, but I am utterly incapable of doing those things at home. Instead of the space I needed, I would fill my time with errands, bumming around the house, and feeling guilty about how little I accomplished. No, I needed a vacation, really a retreat of sorts. But there was no way, no how the husband was going to be able to go anywhere with me. After hemming and hawing about it for a while, I made the decision. I would go on vacation by myself.
It felt like self-indulgence. Spending the money on airfare and a rental car just for me? Not to mention meals, gas, entertainment, etc. Fortunately, lodging was covered since I used my aunt’s condo in Florida. She did warn me that there was the potential for hurricanes and tropical storms in late August, but I scoffed. Then Tropical Storm Isaac decided to make himself known. I decided to keep my plans in place, particularly when the course of the storm started drifting further and further west. Besides, if I had to spend a day or two drinking wine and reading my Kindle in the dark, I could manage.
Tip #1: Go for the upgrade
Naturally, I had opted for the economy rental car when I got a (rather good) deal on Priceline, but when I got to the counter, the clerk offered me a red Camaro for an extra $10/day. I balked and he cut it down to $5/day. Doing the math in my head, I decided it was totally worth an extra $25 to drive along the beach in a red Camaro. And after spending the whole year trying to cultivate my rebellious feisty side, the red Camaro seemed particularly apt.
Tip #2: Bring lots of books
I love my little $79 Kindle. I toted a whole freaking library to Florida with me. I wasn’t entirely sure if I would have internet access in the condo (though I did!), and I planned to spend a lot of time reading fun, interesting-to-me books. I finished a collection of Margaret Atwood short pieces, the second Harry Potter book, and made a good dent on Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor.
Tip #3: Don’t let the bad weather get you down
All I really wanted to do was go to the beach, absorb the sun, and be lulled into a semi-catatonic state by the waves and the seagulls. Unfortunately, Isaac had other plans. So I went shopping (something I rarely do at home). I ate raw oysters and drank beer before hunkering down in the condo with Breaking Bad on my laptop. And the next day, even though it was windy as all get out and I couldn’t even walk on the Fort Myers pier, I went to the beach anyway. It was kind of miserable being pelted with tiny particles of sand at 20 mph, so I ended up doing what I wanted to anyway – driving up and down the beach in that red Camaro. Take that tropical storm!
Tip #4: Sit at the bar
The weirdest and most uncomfortable part of vacationing solo was eating out since it can be a little awkward. I had the most success with sitting at a two-top table inside the bar area. There I could order, watch whatever was on the television, pretend to read my book while really just eavesdropping on other tables’ conversations, or play with my iPhone. I even went out to a bar that specialized in beer and had no problem at all.
Tip #4: Be smart
I finally got my time on the beach even though the water was all churned up, and as much as I like walking up and down the beach, I never ventured far enough that I couldn’t see my things, though I locked my wallet in the trunk of the car. Most people probably wouldn’t even have done that. And before leaving, I made a point of not advertising that I was traveling on my own on my various social media networks, just to be safe. I kept in contact with my parents and husband back at home, letting them know when I was going out for a run, which beaches I was going to, etc. That way if I disappeared for whatever reason, they would at least have some idea of where I was. All the usual things apply as well – being aware of surroundings, locking doors, not displaying valuables, etc. The closest I got to being assaulted was when I was out on a run and surprised an older lady from behind while she was out on her walk. She was not very happy with me.
Even for an extrovert, having solo vacation time was very important for my well-being and pressing the “restart” button before starting a new ministry. I also had fun doing what I wanted to, when I wanted to. I went to bed early some nights and late others. I ate normal meals some days but not every day. I spent some quality time with myself and God and the seagulls. I cried about things I didn’t realize that I still needed to cry about, and I put the windows down and sang along loudly to the Pop2K XM station when I wanted. So I highly recommend the solo vacation. I came back recharged and ready to start a new call.