Sunday, January 13, 2008

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.
Yum, yum.

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.


Amy said...

That meal looks mighty fine!

Thansk fro the coffee shop tip. It makes total sense and is advice I will heed during my own rare travels!

Lisa said...

Yes. 20 years ago, our familiar place in Europe was McDonald's! It was a place where we felt comfortable and at home. Plus, we could depend on their clean, Western-style bathrooms!!!

Laurie said...

For whatever reason, I can't see your last three pictures on your latest post. Dont know why.... is it just my computer?

GailNHB said...

I don't know why the photos have disappeared. I will try to post them again and see if anything changes. It's not just your computer, though, Laurie. Hmm...

GailNHB said...

I replaced them - and it looks good for now. Thanks for letting me know about that. I don't know what happened, but... we're back up and running well.

jmgb said...

yum is right.
i went through a time, between relationships when i was traveling for work rather frequently. initially my discomfort with dining alone stripped the pleasure of dining and resting away...until i became devoted with dating myself.
taking myself out, pleasuring in the company of god, of my own quiet reflections, staying at the restaurant as long or as little as i like, ordering appetizers and dessert, and warding off those who passed by with either interest or pity.

to be. alone. with god.
to woo myself, and know myself all the richer.
to sit in discomfort and unease for as long as necessary to feel my way back to normalcy.
all of it.
as you say, praise be to god.

GailNHB said...

jmgb, I couldn't have put it better myself. I love that final part about wooing and knowing myself and ending up richer for it. Stay as long as I want, listening to my own heart and spirit. Order. Eat. Wait. Enjoy. Be. Last year, I went to a restaurant alone and had only cheesecake. A huge hunk of cake and a cup of coffee. I smiled the entire time. Thrilled. Joy. Peace. And a happy tummy.

Shelby said...

Awesome photos! And I do love coffee. And the whole experience of it..