The trip with my sisters and friends shortly after returning home to a newly divorced life in New York opened up a Pandora’s box for me. The travel bug was back, and it bit me hard. It was a struggle adjusting to being a single mom, especially when their dad lived in another state and I had hardly any physical support from him. I was pretty much on my own to hold down a full-time job, raise them, take them to school/daycare and navigate through the most painful time of my life without letting it affect them. The pressure was mounting, and I was feeling a bit claustrophobic.
I always had the need in me for “alone time”; it was why I was so flexible about my husband traveling for work, because it both gave us space. Ideally, it should have been a perfect set-up. But now in this role, with very little time for myself and sitter costs eating up my bank account for work and happy hour excursions, I needed a real kind of break. Not one to just party the night away for a few hours.
I needed time away to think, heal and just be by myself for a while.
Luckily, my mom had offered to watch the kids so I could go away for a few days by myself to the Bahamas, and peacefully, knowing they were safe and in good hands. She knew I needed this time away to re-evaluate my life, and find some clarity about how to live it. When I would tell people I was going away by myself, I got the weirdest looks. Why wasn’t anyone going with you, at least a friend? I would get asked. Not many could understand my need for solitude after everything I was working through, but I knew in my heart it was something I had to do for myself.
So I booked one of those all-inclusives during a spring break (and you can imagine what happened when I realized that I didn’t have the foresight to plan outside of college spring break). But I was only going for a couple of days, and I needed some beach time and a relaxed nightlife. When I got there, everything was perfect. The weather was gorgeous, the service was friendly, the room was amazing and it was really nice to just spend some quiet time to myself. I thought, wow, this is exactly what I needed. This was going to be the perfect trip.
But then night time came. And the nights there were no different than the nights at home—except, it was more obvious how alone I was in this world while I was there. At least at home, I had a reason to be alone, as my children were tucked snug in their beds and I couldn’t go anywhere. But here, there was nightlife; people to meet; fun to be had. I couldn’t bear to deal with any of it. I tried to sit out in the main lounge where others were, but quickly I ended up in my room, crying my eyes out. I called my mother, completely bawling. I was utterly depressed. There—I finally realized it and admitted it out loud. All of my acting out was a result of my postpartum depression turned full-on depression, and my inability to cope with the pain of the divorce, the pangs of loneliness and the devastation of multiple rejections.
I was in paradise, and I could not find an ounce of happiness.
Thank goodness for my mother during this time. I knew her heart was breaking—and had been breaking—for me throughout this whole transition. She had some very motherly things to say, and then some more uplifting ones. Words that gave me the courage to sleep it off that night, and wake up anew tomorrow and enjoy the opportunity in front of me. And that was all I needed to hear. I just needed to acknowledge my emotional demons, and then confront them. I was not a victim, remember? This cycle had to stop. I was not going to let depression take over my life ever again. I was not going to let my wounds stop me from fulfilling some bucket-list opportunities.
I had already booked an off-site adventure before I arrived, filled with activities I have never done before. I went all out, and I was not about to let my fears and anxieties stop me from what I intended to accomplish. I had a deep-seated fear of the water. I always worried about drowning, so I had denounced any form of swimming or water enjoyment outside of safely contained bubble baths. But this trip was about breaking through those fears. And once I woke up in the morning, I took my mother’s advice and
decided to face them head on with all the courage I had within me.
First up was snorkeling. I know, way to break into things gently, right? Well when I decide to do something, I don’t do it half-ass, or wade in the water. Literally. I get in a life jacket and jump overboard. (Okay, I actually walked slowly and hesitantly down the boat ladder, but that didn’t sound as dramatic.) I almost didn’t make it. I literally was petrified. I swam out a few feet and tried to look into the water. I had this snorkel mask on my face, and the fears bubbled up so violently inside of me that I began to hyperventilate. Literally, I could not breathe and had to pull the snorkel mask off. Immediately, I headed back and up into the boat.
That was it. I tried it. I was done. No more.
But then as I stood there, watching others enjoy it and talk about the beautiful creatures they had seen, I felt the nagging in my stomach that I couldn’t give up now. I don’t know where I found the strength, but I did and I went back in. And this time, I allowed myself to breathe into a state of calmness, and then went under. I wasn’t down for long, but I was down long enough to see what I was missing. The colors and the vibrance of sea life took my breath away—this time, in a good way. This feeling of pride swelled up inside of me in ways I can’t even explain. I faced one of my deepest fears—the water—and not only did I survive, but I loved every minute of it.
So when it came time to move on to my next adventure of jet skiing—something I had actually done once before and liked—I was pretty fearless. Before, I had my husband and his family right next to me guiding me through the waters, since I was terrified. Not this time. This time, I hopped on that ski and rode out like the badass I was!
Then I headed straight out to try something else new: parasailing. That also frightened me a bit, but not because of the height. Being high in the air never bothered me. It was the potential landing into the water (and of course, drowning, because that happens on a guided tour with a lifejacket on, right?) that had my nerves shot. But I had just been snorkeling and jet skiing. So this was something I was ready to take on. And it was another amazing experience, being up in the sky, just gliding along and seeing how
beautiful the earth was below. I felt such a sense of peace up there. I had conquered extreme fear. I had battled my previous night’s depression. I had come so far from being that woman who held herself hostage in her own home for years. I was free.
After my excursions were over, it was time to head back to the resort—and time to face another night alone. I could feel the anxiety starting to bubble up as I faced eating dinner alone again and going back to my room alone again. I got my food and was about to actually disappear to my room, when I saw two women, gratefully closer in age to me than all of the college kids running around, walking down the stairs in front of me. I have no idea where I found the courage, but I called out to them and asked if
they would mind if I joined them for dinner since I was there on my own.
That decision changed everything for me.
They graciously accepted, and I had a wonderful dinner getting to know two incredible women who happened to also live in New York! What a great feeling of reaching out to strangers and finding a connection. We ended up going for a walk to the casinos that night together, then back to the hotel lounge. One girl wanted to go to bed, but the other one was willing to stay up with me for a little while
longer. We really connected—and in fact, have stayed in touch and met up on other adventures since.
We hung out again during the next day, as I prepared to leave later that evening, and it was nice not to feel so alone on my solo adventure. It really is amazing how transformational one experience—three days—can be in your life. What started out as a very lonely, fearful, depressed journey ended up freeing me of so much emotional baggage I had. I overcame serious blocks and challenges—physically, mentally and socially. I opened the doors to meeting beautiful people, and seeing more of the world than if I had crawled back into my shell and back into my room.
That trip changed my perspective, and opened up my heart a bit more. I wasn’t so afraid to go it alone and take chances. It was brave enough of me to even consider going all the way to the Bahamas on my own; but to actually have significant life breakthroughs as part of that solo journey, was something I would take with me in how I sought adventure and opportunity for the rest of my life.
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