Feel free to hum the George Michael song – I’m listening to it as I type.
I love to travel. Of course I love to travel to places I love like New York, Chicago, London, and Paris. But I also love to travel for work, pretty much anywhere. When I travel alone I always feel like I’m recalibrating. From the moment I’m on the plane and texting my family that they’re closing the door and that I love them, to the time I land when, suddenly, I’m no longer acting as a mom or a wife. I’m not a dog owner. There are no clothes to fold, there is no dog to feed or walk, no house to straighten, no errands to run, nothing that HAS to be done – at least not by me. No other people to contend with in my space, no pick-ups, drop offs, doctor appointments, homework to remind people to do, nothing. I become a combination of the Carrie I am now and the Carrie I was before I met my husband and girls.
Back then, I was single, working a ton, and living on my own. It. Was. Glorious. I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I had popcorn and a fruit and yogurt parfait from McDonald’s for dinner – often. My fridge was virtually empty – much of the time. I sometimes spent entire Saturdays watching Law & Order: SVU marathons on my Tivo. I listened to my iPod as loud as I could without my condo association neighbor complaining. I went to the gym, or I ran around the pond behind my building, with no concern about schedule or if it worked for anybody else. It was freedom.
When traveling for work, of course there are responsibilities and a schedule. I have to be somewhere for much of the day, there is actual work back in MN I need to attend to, but when the day is done – the day is done. My colleagues will attest that I like to find a mall, or a Macy’s, or a Target in every location to which we travel. Because people – when can you just shop with no agenda or timetable? WHEN I ASK YOU?! I also consider Target runs (in other markets) research – even though I don’t actually work for Target.
Sometimes I go to dinner with colleagues, sometimes (like tonight) I come back to my empty (!!!) hotel room. I order whatever food I want to be delivered to the lobby (St. Louis BBQ!). I crank up George Michael, or Stevie Wonder, or Jay-Z, or Rage Against the Machine – WHATEVER I WANT. And I write, and read, and stretch, and balance my checkbook, and go to bed early. Sometimes, like yesterday, I force myself to go to the local branch of my boxing gym or I go for a run.
There’s something to be said for removing yourself from your life, temporarily, to reintroduce you to you. I value alone time. A lot. I have been so good about taking that time this year. In the mornings I write and try to meditate most days – 25-40 minutes of precious quiet time that I sincerely hope I can continue giving myself each day until the end of my time. Most nights, I try to meditate too. But all of these actions take place in my home office. Which is one of my favorite places in the world. It is not, however, removed from the things that I know I have to do. Chores, taking care of people in any number of ways, and my favorite puppy who is incredibly needy.
Well spaced out trips, the ones that get me to a different city by myself, they are like a reboot. After which, everything works better, everything feels clearer, I’m better able to make solid decisions without waffling or worrying about how they’ll be received.
Being single was pretty great, but I got bored. All of my friends were married, most had babies, and when I wanted to go out with friends – it was sometimes hard to find anyone who could leave their lives. The freedom was lovely, but I wanted to share all of that awesomeness with someone else.
And while I love travel, and I need it, I also get to a point at which I think ‘man, this would be so much more awesome if my husband were here.’ Or ‘the girls would think that is so cool.’ Within a couple of days, I miss my favorite people and I find myself eager to rejoin my life. Because at the end of the day, there is nobody I’d rather be with every single day of my life.
I have two more days on this trip and I plan to bask in the alone time and the freedom. There’s another trip to the boxing gym in my future, perhaps another shopping excursion, and certainly time to write and listen to amazing music that my family may not appreciate the way they should (it is not my problem if you can’t adore Frank Sinatra like I do). Then, on Friday night, I will be so ridiculously excited to see my family. And I’ll be a refreshed and renewed version of myself. Win-win.