Just a couple of days ago I returned from a ski vacation in Bulgaria. Not only it provided me the much desired opportunity to learn and practice skiing in a real European ski resort, but also the dubious pleasure of enjoying the sole company of myself. Since my vacation was bounded to specific dates (after discharge from army, before beginning work), and my budget restricted my options to Bulgaria’s ski resorts, I couldn’t find anyone to join me.
I decided not to let this ruin my plans to go skiing, something I loved doing as a kid living in a snowy Ural, but missed for the last 20 years. Also I wanted to mark the occasion of my discharge with some memorable vacation. So I started to prepare.
A Little Preparation
Seeing the movie “Into the Wild” about a guy leaving behind his family and embarking on a solitary trip through America got me in the mood. Impressed with his resolve to leave civilization behind, I found an especially cheap flight and a hotel. Spending some time online, I found fellow skiers from Russia that were also looking for a company. Armed with some tips about how to fall properly, I packed my suitcase with warm clothes gathered from friends and made my way to the airport.
Having a Plan
Having some plan in mind before landing is probably a good idea. When you are in a company, you can rely more on “what feels like” mode to organize your activities. But being alone means that the responsibility of choosing what to do in every moment falls on you. And that can lead to decision paralysis, that state in which you have hard time figuring out what is it that you want or need to do. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be spontaneous and flexible, but having a good set of defaults helps you avoid this indecisiveness.
In ski resort the plan is rather simple…well, ski. But I also had smaller plans – things I told myself I need to do, like: taking ski lessons, getting souvenirs, checking out sports stores, etc.
For someone who lives alone, going to vacation alone, is not much different, as I discovered. Surely, the surrounding and the schedule are new, but the need to rely on yourself to cope with boredom, procrastination and decisions is familiar. One thing that helps is establishing a fairly constant routine. Since the days of ski vacation are pretty similar to one another, it’s easy to do. You get up in eight o’clock, go to ski after breakfast, get back to hotel in five o’clock, shower, eat lunch, rest and go out for the evening. Having this fairly stable schedule is mentally liberating since you don’t have to constantly think and decide about what to do next.
Keeping Travel Log
Having small rituals, such as having a cup of tea before sleep, goes a long way to make you feel home away from home.One of those small, but important rituals is keeping a travel log. Updating it each evening, it allowed me to remember and reflect on day’s events. Small discoveries made along the way, impressions, thoughts and feelings become somewhat more significant once they are written down. As a teenage girl sharing her intimate secrets with her diary, I finished every day with a brief account of what seemed noteworthy.
By Myself But Not Alone
There is something inherently solitary in the skiing experience. Being isolated from the outside world by a thick clothing layer, a mask that cover’s your face and a cap that covers your ears, the possibility of communication with other people is severed. Add to this the occasional bad weather – windy and snowy conditions that feel like a meteor shower once you gain speed, and you get a picture of skiers as human cocoons, each submerged in himself, trying to conserve heat and withstand the challenge the nature poses. And there is something captivating in facing this alone, the experience not being diluted by small-talk.
But that being said, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to have a company at evenings. In the first day I met a nice older Russian lady-skier, and went out with her and her friends to a traditional Bulgarian tavern, where the fire, the wine and the people really warmed the atmosphere. Over the next couple of days I met and hanged out with the guys with whom I talked on the Internet. I was on my own, but I wasn’t lonely.
So although the prospect of going to vacation alone may seem a bit scary at first, it’s not that bad actually. If you are open and friendly, ready to invest some time in preparation but don’t become too entrenched in your plans so not to allow interesting opportunities to unfold themselves, than eventually you will find enough things to make your vacation enjoyable.