When I left NYC a few days ago it was a wintery mix of rain, snow, and wind. I needed a winter coat and an umbrella on my way to the airport. Now I'm sitting on a park bench in Paris. The sun’s out, there are pink flowers blooming on the tree behind me, I have on a light sweater. But the thing that’s making me happiest right now? I’m alone.
I started taking vacations by myself since the twins were born. It’s my secret to happiness. When I find myself becoming overwhelmed by the mindless task of doing the dishes. Or overwhelmed by the chocolate milk stain in my daughter’s favorite shirt. Or when the Ghostbusters theme song stops being funny after hearing the boys sing it for the 15,000 time. I know it’s time for me to take a vacation by myself. It's not something I plan far out in advance or have to save for. Whatever we can afford at the moment is how my husband and I arrange the trip.
The first time I went on a mom vacation, I was living in San Francisco. Our budget was tight so I arranged to stay at the Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel for two nights. Its location is set on a bluff with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. I knew the accommodations were going to be anything but luxurious, so I packed my down comforter to make the bed feel softer. It didn't offer much in regards to entertainment, so I downloaded free episodes of the radio show This American Life to my iPod to listen to while I watched the sunset. The hostel was twenty minutes from my house, it cost me $46 total to stay there for two nights, and I came back to my home on Sunday night rejuvenated. Changed. Happier. I couldn’t wait to do it again.
That brings me to this park bench in Paris. It’s been four year since my first motherhood vacation and with each trip, I’ve gained independence as a traveler. This is by far the most expensive, farthest from home, and longest trip I have taken. I saved money by traveling during the low tourist month of March and by staying with friends. My only goal for the trip is see pretty things and eat good food every seven days I’m here. I'll go back when the kids are in high school and drag them to all tourist attractions and museums. I’ll go again when I'm old with a tour group. The Paris I want to see right here on this park bench. Quit, unrushed, mixed with a twinge of guilt for being so happy.
Since you became a mother, have you ever taken a vacation by yourself? How has it helped?