Ecks and the City: solo travel is the best therapy ever


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“Do you want to meet for coffee Friday?” a good friend e-mailed me two weeks ago.

“Sure! I’m in Mexico. Do you want to come here?” I wrote back jokingly.

“You’re there again?” she replied.

“Yes!” I said. And I don’t feel guilty in the least. At least twice (maybe three) times a year, this mommy takes herself on solo vacations, anywhere from five to 10 days.

I love travelling as much as my daughter loves french fries, which is to say, “an obsessive amount.” My daughter is in overnight camp right now. I’m in Playa Del Carmen (the Yorkville of Mexico).

I’m such a feminist that not only do I sometimes forego shaving my legs, but I believe that my fiancé (and our nanny and his mother) can help take care of the baby just as much as mommy can. In fact, I think it may be entirely possible that my mother-in-law likes me travelling because she is so in love with our son (I think she sometimes wants to adopt him).

People ask me all the time, “How do you do it?”

To which my response is “Do what? A cartwheel?”

Some people just can not travel on their own. Rather, they don’t want to or simply don’t get the appeal. I like to travel alone. I look forward to travelling alone because I like being alone. Thanks to my profession, I can pretty much travel anywhere with a laptop to any place that has working Wi-Fi (this will and has been my excuse to never go on a cruise). I’m just so much more productive when I’m not working in Toronto. It’s sort of sad, actually, that I have to get on a plane for almost four hours to get to a place, literally and figuratively, where I am more productive and creative in one morning than I am in Toronto in an entire week.

When I wake up on my “working vacations,” I don’t need an alarm. My inner clock wakes me by saying, “You’re in a beautiful place. The sun is out. Why don’t you go try writing outside for a little bit?”

And I listen. It’s definitely a nicer inner voice than speaks to me at home, which yells, “Get your daughter ready for school and your son needs a diaper change and you have to sign that permission form!” I do not wake up with a smile in Toronto. I grunt when I wake up in Toronto.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m staying in the Yorkville area of Mexico, with a Starbucks and shops that sell bikinis for more than $300 (US, not pesos). I noticed the other day, while in Mexico, that I was actually talking to myself, after not talking to another human in more than two days. But lonely? Nope. There’s so much to do, and my questions to myself, after I’ve done my work, are usually, “So, do you want to go to the beach or get a massage?” (A massage here is $25 and a nail polish change is $6). Or, “Do you want to go for a walk or take a nap?” Or, “Do you want to take a quick walk, then read, then take a nap?” (“Yes, yes, and yes,” my brain answers with little restraint.)

And let’s not forget the peace and quiet when you travel alone. Fifty per cent of the time at my house, I have four children. There’s always the baby, the dog and the fiancé around. Here? The loudest noise I hear is the ceiling fan. Pure bliss. Here, I can actually think clearly. I take better care of myself on solo vacations than I do at home; I can eat healthier, go to bed by nine and go for hour-long walks twice a day.

I also follow Journeywoman, run by Yorkville resident Evelyn Hannon (the mother of Erica Ehm), for women travelling on their own. One of her best ideas is to immediately go to a grocery store, take a bag and keep it on you wherever you go for the rest of the day. This way it’ll look like you live wherever you are visiting and are not a tourist.

Then there’s the packing aspect. After packing for a family of six for our last vacation, the beauty of actually packing a carry-on is as freeing as if I just got out of jail after a 30-year sentence.

Admittedly, my fiancé does not love the fact I like to travel alone, but it’s the one thing he knows I will not compromise on. I do miss my baby, but it’s not like I’m gone for six months. I think it’s good that he bonds with other family members. So how do I afford this? I give up other things and save for travel, my one true love that has never disappointed me or called me “fat.” If you’ve never tried it, and don’t want to, that’s fine. But if you have the inkling to try it, do it. For a few glorious days, your biggest stress is whether you should “get a smoothie” or finish that book.

The day I was leaving, my fiancé asked if I was “excited to come back?” I am not excited to come back, but I was excited to see him and my baby.

So now I’m back in Toronto — already trying to break up the stress that seems to appear as soon as I land at Pearson, and also already planning my next solo vacation. It’s a good thing I like myself so damn much.

Post City Magazines’ columnist Rebecca Eckler is the author of Knocked Up, Wiped! and her latest books, How to Raise a Boyfriend and The Lucky Sperm Club.

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