My life has taken a few random detours lately and instead of worrying about what’s next, I went on vacation. A solo vacation. Just me, myself and I.
With a little thought, a lot of planning (because it’s what I do), and following my inner travel nerd, I took off on my first solo vacation with a *little* trepidation and loads of excitement.
I visited the lovely, elusive and captivating Bois Blanc Island in the Straits of Mackinac for the first time and seriously…it was divine.
While all the details on this untouched and stunning island oasis are forthcoming in future posts, here are 4 things I learned on my adventure north. Alone.
#1. It’s okay (and necessary) to let my guard down
Even though I was only traveling a few hours north, I was nervous about going to a new place alone. After a few uncomfortable (and scary) situations recently, I fought some incredible nerves before I left. I tend to keep a large, cynical, and cautious guard up when I’m in unfamiliar places. While it’s a defense mechanism and necessary at times, it can also be a people and experience deterrent.
However, not long after arriving at the ferry dock for the island, I quickly learned that this place is safe. It’s a good place, a great place. A place where kind, gracious and genuine people live. I soon realized that in order to fully experience this place and its people, my guard had to go. And soon enough, it began to fall as I experienced the full brunt of Bois Blanc hospitality.
From the Plaunt family who runs the ferry, to Shelby and Christa, my B&B hosts, to Austin and Sue who run the island restaurant/real estate office/grocery store/gas station, I discovered that these were the kind of people I could trust.
Their warmth, kindness, and openness was surprising at first. However, when met with equal kindness and openness, it fostered an instant connection centered around an immediate love of this island in the middle of Lake Huron. A friendship of sorts quickly developed and a relaxed familiarity settled in that gripped my soul and beckoned me to rest in the knowledge that I could trust these people, relax, and let my guard down.
#2. I was viewed with wide-eyed fascination and wonder
When various individuals discovered that I was vacationing solo, their responses at first were that of pity and sadness for me. They’d tilt their heads, say “awww” and ask if it was because I didn’t have anyone to go with me (cue eye-rolling). Further pity would follow when I happily declared it was intentional and I wanted to go alone.
While it was slightly aggravating to receive these reactions, let’s be honest: traveling solo carries with it a certain stigma. It’s like wild and untamed territory that’s not for the faint of heart because merciful heavens…what will people think of you? Surely they’ll assume you’re either a loner in life or a hater of all human beings, right?
Wrong. As quickly as people looked at me with pity, their expressions changed to that of intrigue and awe. Their eyes lit up and they looked at me with wide-eyed fascination and wonder like I was the most brilliant woman to ever grace their presence.
Vacation? Alone? Yes, please!
When I arrived on the island, I was told by several people that no one comes to Bois Blanc alone. Everyone arrives with someone.
So myself, traveling alone and relishing the experience with glee, was apparently refreshing. When Christa discovered I was alone, her face lit up and in her thick German accent said:
“Well you wild girl, come inside and let me get you an island map to start exploring!”
Boring, lonely and pitiful my solo vacation was not. In fact, it was quite the party.
#3. When I stopped to listen, people shared their hearts and lives
While I have no explanation as to why, people seemed to trust me more as a solo traveler than had I been with someone. Maybe it’s because they sensed I was trusting them that they felt they could do the same with me. Whatever the case, when I stopped to listen, people shared their hearts and lives with me. We connected. And it was a gift greater than gold.
The first night I was on the island, I stopped at the restaurant/real estate office/grocery store/gas station to pick up take-out for an evening picnic on the beach to watch the sunset. Upon arrival, I was warmly greeted by the owner Austin and one of his staff, Sue. After talking with Austin, I struck up a conversation with Sue.
Instantly, it was like I was part of the island community. After a few conversations and interactions with different islanders over the next couple days, I learned the incredible stories of several of them.
Christa and Shelby have an insanely romantic love story that unfolded around the film-making industry after experiencing World War II first-hand from the U.S. and German perspectives. Sue, a retired small business owner, lives on the island with her husband of 30+ years and has endured incredible hardships with a continuously positive outlook. Another couple met over their shared love of the island and visit frequently over the course of the year.
Solo travel forces you to slow down, interact, and connect with the strangers you encounter. Good, bad or otherwise, you must do it in order to survive and navigate around wherever you’re visiting. More likely than not, conversation inevitably follows about your life and the lives of the strangers you meet. Participate. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
#4. I (still) like me
If there’s one thing solo travel forces you to do, it’s spend time with yourself. Even if you’re almost constantly around people, you are your sole entertainment and companion for the duration of your trip. If you don’t like yourself, you’ll hate the vacation.
After many hours alone on this trip, I discovered that I still like me. In fact, I think I like me even more now than ever before. While this may sound arrogant to some, the sad fact is that not many people can say they like themselves. While I may or may not talk to myself sometimes (ahem), I am at rest in my soul with the person I am. I am at rest with being Katie and all that entails.
And that is quite possibly the greatest thing I learned on my first solo vacation.
Have you ever traveled solo? I’d love to hear your stories! Share them with me below!