This might seem like a strange post for a blog that is all about mom life and family finds. I mean, when you think of solo travelers, you probably picture those single, 20-something backpackers bouncing around the globe without a care in the world.
Ah, to dream, am I right?
But I’m actually a mom myself. A homeschool mom. Of four kids. And oh, how I adore them. I love watching them discover new things and explore new places (this is one of the big reasons I homeschool). But I don’t think I’m unusual in sometimes needing a little break. Normally, that break consists of a couple hours on a weekend day, sipping a mocha at Barnes & Noble, browsing the books, and just breathing.
But a couple years ago, I came across an article that suggested moms should have annual leave. A vacation by themselves.
I tagged my husband, but it was kinda tongue-in-cheek. My friends and I had a “Wouldn’t it be nice?” kind of conversation, and I didn’t really think about it again.
But through an epic alignment of the stars (my husband wins all the husband awards), I made my way to Istanbul and Rome a couple months later for a solo mom vacation. I still remember where I was when I realized that this experience was going to change me. I was eating gelato and strolling aimlessly near the Pantheon in Rome (for real) and I recognized this long-forgotten feeling of being…a person. Like, an independent, alive human. That might sound crazy to some people, but probably not to full-time caregivers. Even when we are happily committed to caring for our little charges, this mom gig has high potential for obscuring our own identities as separate people, with dreams and goals and yearnings.
For awhile after I left Rome, I thought it was the Eternal City that had awoken something inside me that I didn’t even know had been sleeping. But then I realized that it had nothing to do with Rome. This awakening could have happened in any city in the world, even one a couple hours’ drive away.
It wasn’t Rome. It was the traveling solo. It was exploring a new place on my own terms.
When I told my friends about my trip, many thought I was crazy.
“Weren’t you scared?” (Sometimes more aware of my surroundings than others, but not scared.)
“I could never travel alone!” (Yes you could. You’re smarter and stronger than you think.)
“Did you get lonely? (Nope. And talking to people is like breathing for me. But no, oddly, never lonely.)
“I would feel so guilty!” (Why? You aren’t running away to join the circus. You’re taking a vacation! Call it a work trip if that makes you feel better. My husband is away from our family for those all the time.)
“That would be lovely, but I would want to share it with my husband.”
That last one is the kicker. Why travel alone when you can travel with someone you love? Isn’t everything better when you have someone to share it with?
Look, I love my husband so much. It’s so cliche, but we are honestly best friends. We love to be together, and I love traveling with him. Of course sharing beautiful, amazing places is a wonderful way to experience them! But it’s not the only way. Solo travel is a completely different way of seeing the world–and yourself–and it’s one worth having on occasion. For moms, whose entire lives revolve around other people’s developmental needs and sleep schedules and food preferences (or allergies) and bladder emergencies and ideas of fun, being alone in a new place is mind-blowingly invigorating. You get to decide what and when to eat, where to go and how long to stay there, how fast or slow you walk, etc.
You get to just be you. You’re not anyone’s wife or mom or referee. You’re just you. (Though if you’re like me, you’ll reference your husband and children in every single conversation you have with strangers. Especially charming Italian men who join you on benches and get a little too friendly.)
Taking occasional mom vacations has made me feel human again. It has reconnected me with who I am, and what I want to be and do. It has filled me up in ways I didn’t know I was empty. And all of that makes me a better wife and mom.
Turns out solo travel was one of the best mom finds I’ve ever stumbled upon.
Adrienne Rivetti lives in the DC metro area and writes about solo mom travel on her blog, Mom’s Flight Out. She loves gardening, butter, and late-night living room karaoke. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.