Friday, November 22, 2019

It started a few years ago.
I was turning 40 — a big birthday for those
who care — and some friends were planning a dinner, a party, or
… something.
And at first I was fine with that, excited even.
Unlike
others, I"ve always kind of liked getting older and have had a true, firm
belief that life for me would start at 40, as opposed to the common
misperception that once you get gray hair, it"s over.
But then I started
thinking … and, as per usual when I think too much, got less excited."I
know just exactly what is going to happen," I thought.""It will be a large
party — I won"t get to really speak to anyone, I will be supremely
stressed about not being able to greet people properly and whether or not they
are having a good time, I will drink too much, and I will end up at home with
(my dog) Karl." And just like that, I wasn"t all that excited about my
birthday anymore.
And then I thought,""Hold up — let"s start the
second half of your life the way you want to finish it.
What have you always
wanted to do but never done?" And immediately I thought of the pyramids.
So,
in a fit of pique I did it."This is what 40 looks like — happy."At the
time, I did a Tumblr post noting,""So, the stress of planning my birthday
party finally got to me.
I freaked out and booked ticket to #Cairo.
I"m giving
myself the pyramids for my birthday.""At the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo with
new friends.And it was marvelous, so much so that, despite being looked at
like a freak by a few fellow travelers ("You"re here for your birthday
… alone?"), I wrote all about it:"Related: The Top 10 Reasons You
Should go to Egypt Right NowI"m not alone in my love of solitude — even
on occasions that are supposedly meant to be shared with others.
According to
the Wall Street Journal,""More vacationers are choosing to go alone, leaving
significant others and friends behind," adding that "most U.S.
solo travelers
say the purpose of their trip is to ‘relax and get away from it all,"
according to a recent survey of 4,115 travelers conducted by Hilton
Worldwide."Meanwhile, in a similar story (written a few months earlier than
the WSJ piece), the"New York Times"noted, "Some 24 percent of people traveled
alone on their most recent overseas leisure vacation, up from 15 percent in
2013, according to the 2015"Visa Global Travel Intentions Study." Even more
interesting,""Among first-time travelers, solo travel is even more popular,
jumping to 37 percent, up from 16 percent in 2013.
And while the stereotypical
solo traveler has traditionally been single and looking, a solo traveler these
days is just as likely, if not more likely, to be married or in a committed
relationship."Gail Wasserman, senior vice president for public affairs at
American Express, went to Kyoto, Japan, for her 50th birthday earlier this
year, alone, despite being married."Although I"m happily married, I wanted to
travel alone to Kyoto to experience the freedom that comes from doing whatever
I wanted, with an itinerary that catered to my interests and allowed me to
change my mind on a whim —without any thoughts of compromise or
judgment about being ‘selfish,"" Wasserman told me."My birthday trip
taught me several things: I found my aesthetic spiritual home in the wabi-sabi
ethic that appreciates the ‘beauty of things imperfect." It reaffirmed
my love of gardens and the restorative effect they have on me
—especially when I visit them alone."But the best surprise awaited me
when I got home and my wife, Ilene, greeted me with a ‘Welcome Home
Gail" sign that featured little maps of Japan and the U.S.
I felt such
gratitude for having both roots and wings.
And it deepened my appreciation for
the freedom I enjoy — to travel solo while a loving partner misses me
and patiently awaits my return."
Related: I Have Faith: The Quest for the
Perfect Travel PartnerThis year, I took off again for Mexico.
A friend had
invited me to Mexico City to catch the Formula One race and the James Bond
premiere.
Extra bonus: I was to stay at the Four Seasons, one of the
highest-ranked luxury hotels in the world.
Even if I"d never traveled solo
before, how the heck are you going to turn that down?"Cake, champagne, and
balloons were waiting for me in my room in Mexico City."I arrived and there
was a bottle of Dom Perignon in my room along with a birthday cake surrounded
by balloons and flower arrangements.
That evening I had drinks at the El Bar
prepared by master mixologist Mica Rousseau before heading to Martha Ortiz"s
famed Dulce Patria for dinner.My birthday is one day before Halloween and
three before the Day of the Dead, so I put on my best goth lips and some
leather pants and rocked out.Guacamole with fried crickets is delicious.
Who
knew?The next day I rambled around the Museo Soumaya — billionaire
Carlos Slim"s gift to the people of Mexico, which houses a portion of his
artwork — looking at Rodin sculptures and works by Dali, Miro,
Modigliani, Picasso, Frans Hals, and Michelangelo as well as a handful of
artworks I"ve only ever read about and never expected to see in person."A
helicopter (!) ride for my birthday…
#livingsomeawesomepersonslife.Then, of course, there was the Formula One race,
and for some magical reason, I had met a friend of a friend who invited me on
his helicopter rather than taking the subway or getting stuck in traffic.
I"m
serious when I say I"m not sure this birthday could have been any more
magical, and I would never have had such a great time if I hadn"t gone
alone.But even with the balloons, the champagne, the beautiful food and
cocktails, and the marvelous chocolate cake I will dream about for years, the
best of the birthday was actually the few hours I had alone in my room to
think.
To reflect.
To dream and plan.
And to take stock of the past year
— of""mistakes" made, of triumphs and accomplishments, of friendships
lost and found, of my family and the changes in all our lives.
And I cherish
it.
Because, to me, I always want to start the new year the way I plan to live
it: boldly, bravely, and with a hot second of solitude for
reflection."Related: 9 Life Lessons I Learned by Ditching My Career and
Traveling the WorldSo when someone looks at me askance and (undoubtedly with
some pity) says,""Oh, you"re spending your birthday … alone?" I always
laugh and say,""By design.
I wouldn"t have it any other way."
WATCH:
Traveling in the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia in Jordan
Let World
traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
Hang out with us on
Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.Check out our original adventure
travel series, "A Broad Abroad."For more on World traveling club Travel"s
travel policy, click here.

So, in a fit of pique I did it.  This is what 40 looks like — happy.  At
the time, I did a Tumblr post noting, "So, the stress of planning my
birthday party finally got to me..I arrived and there was a bottle of Dom
Perignon in my room along with a birthday cake surrounded by balloons and
flower arrangements.
That evening I had drinks at the El Bar prepared by
master mixologist Mica Rousseau before heading to Martha Ortiz"s famed Dulce
Patria for dinner.My birthday is one day before Halloween and three before the
Day of the Dead, so I put on my best goth lips and some leather pants and
rocked out.Guacamole with fried crickets is delicious.
Who knew?The next day I
rambled around the Museo Soumaya — billionaire Carlos Slim"s gift to
the people of Mexico, which houses a portion of his artwork — looking
at Rodin sculptures and works by Dali, Miro, Modigliani, Picasso, Frans Hals,
and Michelangelo as well as a handful of artworks I"ve only ever read about
and never expected to see in person."A helicopter (!) ride for my
birthday… #livingsomeawesomepersonslife.Then, of course, there was the
Formula One race, and for some magical reason, I had met a friend of a friend
who invited me on his helicopter rather than taking the subway or getting
stuck in traffic.
I"m serious when I say I"m not sure this birthday could have
been any more magical, and I would never have had such a great time if I
hadn"t gone alone.But even with the balloons, the champagne, the beautiful
food and cocktails, and the marvelous chocolate cake I will dream about for
years, the best of the birthday was actually the few hours I had alone in my
room to think.
To reflect.
To dream and plan.
And to take stock of the past
year — of""mistakes" made, of triumphs and accomplishments, of
friendships lost and found, of my family and the changes in all our lives.
And
I cherish it.
Because, to me, I always want to start the new year the way I
plan to live it: boldly, bravely, and with a hot second of solitude for
reflection."Related: 9 Life Lessons I Learned by Ditching My Career and
Traveling the WorldSo when someone looks at me askance and (undoubtedly with
some pity) says,""Oh, you"re spending your birthday … alone?" I always
laugh and say,""By design.
I wouldn"t have it any other way."
WATCH:
Traveling in the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia in Jordan
Let World
traveling club Travel inspire you every day.
Hang out with us on
Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.Check out our original adventure
travel series, "A Broad Abroad."For more on World traveling club Travel"s
travel policy, click here.

So, in a fit of pique I did it.  This is what
40 looks like — happy.  At the time, I did a Tumblr post noting, "So,
the stress of planning my birthday party finally got to me.

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