"My favorite quote comes from one of my favorite poems, Alfred Lord Tennyson's 'Ulysses':
Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
There's another line in there I love about 'drinking life to the lees,' which speaks to me as well. I strive everyday to live life to the fullest and drink in all the experiences that come my way."
* * * * * * *
One of the things I do love about traveling alone is the ability to explore without having to cater to anyone else's agenda -- you can go sightseeing all day if you want, or lay around and do nothing; go clubbing like a madperson, or have a quiet night in -- your agenda is entirely your own, without running the risk of hurting someone's feelings because you don't want to do what they want to do. And so, when I landed in Portland last week, and discovered I had a few hours to myself before I was scheduled to meet anyone, I decided to treat myself with a few hours of "solo vacationing."
First, I asked the concierge at my hotel* for a good lunch recommendation.
"Are you looking for very casual, or ...?" she asked.
"I don't care if it's casual or formal," I said, "because this will likely be my main meal for today. I'd just like something that serves good local food."
"Clyde Common," she said immediately. "It's right down the street."
After quickly referring to a street map, I made my way to the restaurant. It's a lovely small place, where people share tables family-style; instead, I opted to have my lunch at the bar, and befriend a kind bartender who served me a wonderful Oregonian red wine along with my delicious heart-attack-on-a-platter lunch.
After lunch, I decided I should take a stroll around the city (my feeble attempt to work off some of my indulgent meal). I asked the kindly bartender which direction I should head to find something photogenic to capture, and after a moment of thought, he said decisively, "The Chinese Gardens. They're stunning. Definitely. You should go to the Chinese Gardens."
I paid my bill, thanked him, and headed out.
This place is astonishing: one mere city block of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen in my entire life. At every corner and turn, there was something even more gorgeous to see.
It was amazing: so peaceful and even mystical. I didn't stay very long -- maybe 30 minutes or so -- but I had to get back to my hotel and get ready for the rest of my day. Still, I really loved my mini "solo vacation," and it reminded me of a time back when I was single, and decided to take myself on a holiday to the Cayman Islands. It was one of the best things I've ever done for myself, and I'd recommend to anyone to travel by yourself at least once -- even if it's just a quick overnight trip to a new place outside of your home town. It's liberating: it forces you to push yourself to explore things that you might not otherwise, for fear of being thought silly or disappointing by your travel companions. Solo travel makes you live a little larger and take a chance, and even learn something new. And more often than not, once on the other side, you'll find it's an experience you'll take a surprising amount of pride in.
Besides, let's face it: every now and then, it's good to take some time, even if it's just a couple of hours, to drink life to the lees.
Have a great weekend, everyone.
* The hotel I stayed at was the Hotel Lucia in downtown Portland, as suggested by responses to an inquiry I put out on Twitter a few weeks ago. Even given the small rooms, I have to say this is one of the sweetest hotels I've ever patronized. The daily rates aren't outrageous, the hotel is clean and modern and full of beautiful original art. But most importantly, it has the best customer service I've experienced at any hotel in recent memory. In my short stay, it has quickly become my go-to hotel if I'm ever in Portland again, and it should be yours too. And to be clear, Hotel Lucia did not compensate me in any way to write this paragraph. It's seriously that good.
Images: Photographed with my Nikon D300, 50mm lens. Inspired by lizzybef's contribution to the photography scavanger hunt.