In 2019 I traveled alone for the first time in my life. I was forty six years old. I came to Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. Actually, my daughters sent me here. A plane ticket for mother’s day, I’d fly the coming September. They could see my edges fraying, they knew I needed a break. Mom was about to lose her shit. I’d talked about returning here since our first trip as a family nine years before. They knew Mérida had a hold on me.
On that first trip I’d confided in my mother in law that I wished I could stay there, alone, another two weeks. She encouraged me to do so but I knew my husband would never, ever, go for it. So I held an ember of hope for my eventual return for many years.
When that September came I was delirious with stress and consumed by fatigue. I didn’t think anything through… I got on the plane and arrived alone, in a vaguely familiar city, with no plan. Zero. I was incapable of planning. I was so overwhelmed and broken. Monumentally fucked up. Could not tell which way was up if I’d had a compass and voice assist.
And, for the first time in my life, the only person whose needs I had to consider were mine.
Where did I want to eat? What did I want to see? What would make me happy in this moment and the next and all the moments to follow for the next ten days?
No earthly idea. I was paralyzed. Totally fucking immobilized.
I could not make a decision for myself about anything! How could this be me? Successful multi venture entrepreneur, mom of two incredible daughters, capable, confident, badass in nearly every aspect of my life.
My friends were constantly in awe of me and my ‘fearless’ go forth and get it done spirit that seemed undaunted by any obstacle. Why then, if that was actual me, could I not decide where to fucking eat? Or shop? Or walk to next? Why can I not see myself the way my friends see me?
‘All my friends that think I’m blessed, they don’t know my head is a mess.’
They thought I was so brave to travel alone. And to Mexico no less. Didn’t I feel scared? Unsafe? No. Not in this city. It never occurred to me to feel fear about this. About a myriad of other things, sure, but not this.
So there I was. Returned to the city that had been calling me back since I left nine years before. Perfectly safe. All of Mérida at my feet, anything I want to do, all I have to do is choose.
Sits on a park bench on Paseo de Montejo, sips water, studiously watches life moving all around me. Mosquitoes feast despite the deet. I find a ball of Spanish moss beside my park bench, old familiar. I’m so hungry I can hear my belly. A city known for its extraordinary gastronomy and here I sit… totally destabilized by the thought of deciding what I need and want without the metric of others’ needs to dictate my choices. My ass just stuck on a park bench as the sun fades and the bat’s appear, waiting for some part of me to make a God damn decision.
I don’t recall what I ate that day but that experience repeated itself for the week I traveled. I could not settle. I didn’t know how. About three days before I was scheduled to fly home I spontaneously decided to go to Guadalajara. My connecting flight was there anyway, for sixty bucks I could fly in county and check out another city.
In Guadalajara I got food poisoning, had to change rooms at my Airbnb (it was so big I felt acutely lonely), I left my phone in a Mexican Uber, and worse… As soon as I arrived I wished I had stayed in Mérida.
The whole trip was a bizarre twilight zone experience and I was a hot fucking mess. But I did it and that trip started my hunger, and confidence, to travel solo.
I’ve now been back twice since then and each time I think it will be my last. Got my fill, I’m sated. Then months pass and I get to craving Mérida.
February 2023. I’m here again now. Writing this in one of my favorite cafés. The mild Yucatecan winter cradling me in its warm balm. Booking this trip was spontaneous and not entirely chosen with a healthy decision making paradigm.
It’s my 50th birthday in two days. I am doing me this year. All damn year. I am young, healthy, happy, and more in balance than I’ve ever been in my life.
At this age my mother was diagnosed with a voracious bone cancer and thirteen months later, after an excruciating illness, she was dead one month and one day before her fifty second birthday. So why the fuck not? Why not return to my happy place to kick off my birthday year?
I made a friend here two years ago. We’ve built a friendship since then, we’ve messaged and talked nearly every week since I left in 2021. This week we planned to couple up and see what two years of friendship might yield, recreationally speaking. I was here for his birthday two years ago, this year he wanted to celebrate mine with me. Seemed like a good idea at the time. And a free place to stay, with a chef?! Bonus!
I knew by the first morning I’d stay one more night then be on my way. A lot has changed in my life in the years since I’d seen him and in the months since I planned this trip. I have evolved into an entirely new me in the two years since we met. Those choices are not for me any longer. I’ve long since released that previous version of me and I don’t miss her way of relating to and moving through the world.
There’s been another fundamental shift in my life recently and omitting its impact on how this trip feels to me would do my heart and mind a generous disservice.
I’ve met someone. We’ve been seeing each other nearly four months. We caught feels this past December and have been together nearly every day and night for the past month.
Every time I turn around I am struck by how intensely I want to share these moments with him. I’m happy here on my own. I love my own company and I love this city but for the first time, I wish I could share it with someone. With him. Just him.
Next time, love. We will consume this city, its incredible food, and its beauty together. There is no one I’d rather share it with.
Right now I’m back at my favorite boutique hotel, lounging in my hammock after a swim in the pool, dreaming of the travels we will share and the life we will make.
This year I am celebrating to the fullest. I’m not saying no, within reason, to adventures and opportunities. I’ll get to the end of this year, heart full of joy, credit card groaning from all my joy, and a smile plastered across all of the beautiful, well earned lines etched into my fifty (and counting!) face.
Fifty is a big deal to me. I’m so excited for this year and all to come. Predominantly because I am so in love with me. I mean like crazy for who I am and how I relate to and move through the world. Finally!
This is the best me ever and I love her. And now I have someone at my side who loves this me too. He’s extraordinary. ‘Us’ has made my life so much sweeter.
I’m so happy. Nothing Missing.
‘… that’s why I move the way I move and why I’m so in love with me…’
I love writing I mean I LOVE WRITING. It’s helped me regain agency over my dark stories and celebrate my growth and joy stories. Writing helps me self-heal and has given me a place to explore my creativity and keep my sanity! Working for Our Story and Starfish Connection gives me an opportunity to do what I love and give others a place to do the same in a supported community that we built for storytellers like me.