In historic sub-zero temperatures, I had become a virtual hermit in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Between consulting assignments and determined to finalize my startup business plan, I could only ask why. Why was I hibernating in New York City. How had online shopping become my go-to for daily provisions rather than risk frostbite walking across the street. It was too cold too soon ;and it wasn’t even winter technically. I searched every weather forecast as far as possible and it went from a bad to worse. The prognosis was hunker down and pray for relief – as in double digit degrees. I dreamt of warm locations and then had an epiphany: Road Trip!
As a couple I “wintered” in Miami Beach a few years back and it was invigorating. Now single with none of my friends ready for a trip, I thought it was a no-go. Wait..why? I travel solo for business all the time, I know Miami, I could rent an place and be productive, social, and warm. I could go even further and make the journey part of the adventure. Road trip✓ train ride✓ reconnect with friends✓ explore roads less travelled along the way✓. The details came together so easily, I was cautiously skeptical yet increasingly optimistic. Go for it, I heard the blustering wind, rain, sleet, snow say.
I found an Art Deco bungalow in a secluded enclave, reserved the train, serviced the car, contacted friends, and hit the road.
Travel went terrifically, the hiccup came with housing. The enclave was more hostel than retreat. One look and both the owner and I knew it wouldn’t work. We laughed about it over lunch. I decided on a hotel for a few days to explore options. Three days turned into five, and I conceded that the adventure would have to end. And, I was okay with it. Instead of a monthly escape, it was mini respite from what turned out to be even colder, life- threatening weather. On my last day, I met a kindred soul at an elevator in a specialty food store. We struck up the kind of conversation has with perfect strangers: critiquing each other’s attire. I mentioned I was leaving due to failure to secure permanent, temporary housing. Instantly, as we adjourned to the parking lot, my elevator companion, Alain, said “I have a place you can stay”. Minutes later, my new bestest friend forever, Alain, arranged for me to stay in a condo for two weeks on Ocean Drive. In lieu of payment, Alain suggested a donation to a charity. I knew then he was my brother-from-another-mother when he suggested paying-forward. I have been giving charitable contributions since my first piggy-bank. Care For the Homeless, NY was chosen because of the very weather I was escaping Charities supporting the homeless were experiencing dire shortfalls in providing assistance for all those in need.
Turned out the condo was for sale and the owners had already moved back to France. Natalie and Frederic are lifelong friends of Alain and gave the okay before our cars exited the parking lot. Alain’s husband Peter (thankfully the voice of reason coordinated the details) texted “All Set. What time do you want to meet at the condo”. I moved in the next day and on to a whirlwind friendship studded with holiday celebrations, birthday parties, day trips, and special dinners in exotic locations – and that was just with Alain and Peter. I renewed old acquaintances and may have met my next ex. He is from DC and travels often to NY, I do the same in reverse. We spent a lovely day inland sightseeing in the Fashion District and Wynwood and remain in touch.
This trip was one of the best experiences of my life. I did something about my unpleasant situation and that alone freed my mind. Rethinking travel from a means to an end to inclusive of the adventure allayed the long distance doldrums, and redefining success and failure, opened my mind to goodness in general, and people specifically. Not too long ago, I would have criticized myself for being spontaneous, irresponsible, and even a bit “extra”. The cold weather was an affront to my delicate sensibilities! The fact that I couldn’t find suitable accommodations was my comeuppance. This time I tried something different: celebrating improvisation, uncertainty, the messiness that comprises life. I’m a planner oftentimes to my detriment; and not all plans has produced the desired results. Many times I have tried to shepherd through outcomes on sheer will when I should have accepted and moved on. It was empowering to relinquish control and accept I did my best and the rest was out of my control a la the Serenity Prayer. Equally, illuminating is that I do not have to let “have-not’s” determine my quality of life. No husband, no travel companion, no vacation home – oh well. Rather than lament, I laughed and went to the beach.
Never did I expect a casual, honest conversation (my plan didn’t pan out) would turn into a lifetime of happy memories and lifelong true friends. It takes faith, determination, and little crazy to step out of a rut and expose yourself. There are no guarantees of a happy ending. The only given is more of the same if you do not change. You can’t stay in the same place: mentally, emotionally, and physically and expect a different outcome. The destination can be disappointing, so make the journey is worth the Ride!
Always practice safety whether traveling with a group or solo. The Buzzfeed post 46 Incredibly Useful Safety Tips For Women Traveling Alone offers a comprehensive checklist of tips to help ensure safe travel. My mantras: When it doubt; don’t do it and always trust your instincts.