My husband sent me to Zaragoza. He insisted – said he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I wondered what I had done wrong, or had I done something right?
“A break”, he offered with gentle conviction. “You can think, you can write – just get away. Take two nights.”
“But …” I had a stack of excuses, all ready to hand. “Your work, it will cost … the kids … it’s full-on right now.”
“You need to go. It doesn’t matter where.” he stated plainly, and looked me straight in the eye.
“Okay.” I said in a small voice, caught in the truth of his gaze.
With that single word of acquiescence, my adventure took flight.
Where would I go? Paris … Dublin … (New) York … Brighton? How near or how far, by train or plane or car?
In the end Spain called me back, because everything was just right: the quick flights, the good prices, the timings. To the city of Zaragoza. Away from the Costas, not in the September-warm south, it is less well-known but has a lovely old town (including a good tapas quarter). It appealed beyond measure.
My first solo travel adventure in over 20 years. How would it be?
I had my own set of reasons for wanting to be alone, but I’m sure what I discovered about going solo isn’t unique to me.
- You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. First-rate freedom.
- A meal can be quick with zero conversation (unless you talk to yourself – which I consider to be no bad thing). Reading a book can slow the munching, but there’s only so slow you can go (and your book might get grubby).
- There’s a different way to play it, of course. Stoke that sociable side, do the Spanish thing (if in Spain): move on and stay out late. Take a seat at a bar, watch the staff as they work. Practise the local language on a friendly face (unless he/she/they happen to be three pilgrim German sisters in Bodegas Almau – in which case use English or German).
- Sitting on a stone step to read, to sit, to watch, for however long you want, is fine, because no one moans, “Come on, we’re bored/hot/tired/hungry. Why are you sitting on a stone step, smiling to yourself, just staring at people? You’re weird.”
- You can sleep as long as you like, whenever you like. The caffeine-fuelled power nap works a treat: neck a coffee, then grab 20 minutes shut-eye while the caffeine does its thing. Open your eyes and you’re ready to go.
- Top-notch treatment at an eatery can be won by scribbling in a notepad, taking careful snapshots of food, wearing a considered expression when tasting, then scribbling again. My second glass of wine in La Republicana was fabulously generous.
- A bad sense of direction can improve when there’s no-one else to rely on.
- Being solo can be intensive (worries tend to travel with you, no matter how far you go). Getting out and about to see new sights, hear new sounds, and eat new foods is key.
- Observational skills become honed when alone. A street scene catches you in a way it never will when with a companion. It’s yours, and yours alone.
- On arriving home, you anticipate telling your tale of a wonderful time away … but find you can’t get a word in edgeways, because there’s more to life than just yours.
These last two things I know too:
- I loved my solo trip, but think I’d enjoy living on my own far less.
- My husband is a very good man to know that it was time to send me to Zaragoza.