The toughest part of solo travel...
Without a doubt, the toughest part of solo travel for me is going out to dinner alone. Finding a restaurant that doesn't treat solo diners with disdain. Finding a place where I am not stared at, mostly with pity it seems, because I am alone. Facing the prospect of eating, having a glass of wine, savoring dessert, and then walking back to my hotel alone. Especially in places like Rome and Madrid where dinner is rather late.
Some nights I will pick up something in a take-out kind of place and eat it as I walk home. Sometimes I take things back to the hotel room and eat them there. Sometimes I simply have gelato for dinner - and eat it walking. Last week in Roma, I ate gelato for dinner while walking in the rain. It sounds pitiful, but I was actually quite happy. I kept thinking: "I'm in Roma. It's raining. And I'm eating gelato. What could be better than this?"
And sometimes (as I documented in this photo of a most wondrous salad - notice the thick slices of mozzarella cheese and the sheen of fragrant olive oil!), I take the plunge, go to the eatery of my choice, enter boldly, walk and take my seat with my best posture, eat, drink, pray, love myself, and return to my hotel with my belly full and my spirits high.
The bottom line is this: I'm away. On my own. Eating.
Learning new ways to take care of myself.
All is well.
One of my favorite things to do on my trips is find a local coffee shop, a cafe where I can have coffee daily, where the folks behind the counter get used to my face, and welcome me when I return. And when such a local choice isn't easy to find, I seek out somethings familiar. In Madrid, that familiarity is found in Starbucks.
After a particularly long walk on the morning of December 28th and two cups of coffee at the cafe that had been our family's favorite place way back in 2005, I made a pit stop at Starbucks, to pee and get some tea. The following day, I went shopping with Eduardo, Leticia, and Alvaro. We ducked into a Starbucks for a hot drink on a cold morning. Next to my seat hung this poster, and I liked it a lot. Here's what it says: At the top - "A space for you." At the bottom - "A moment to think, create, work, dream, enjoy. Welcome to Starbucks."
When I'm feeling a little lonely, a little down, I do exactly that: take a moment to think, to create something in my journal, to dream, and to remind myself to enjoy every step of the journey. Even the faltering, lonely steps.
When all else fails, even when all else goes swimmingly,
I find a house of worship, a place to kneel and say thanks.
This photo was taken at St. Peter's Basilica just before the start of the 5 pm mass on Friday, January 4th. As always, I pulled out my journal to record the moment.
Thanks be to God.