In Praise of A Solo Staycation
The plan was simple. To take a week off from work and two days off from home. A solo staycation. Simply put, me time.
I wanted to accomplish three things:
- Be silent
- Read without interruption
- Write without a break
So I took my books, non-fiction and fiction, notebooks – ruled and plain, stationery – index cards and post-it notes, pens and pencils, not sure which ones would be needed. The room didn’t have wifi and I write on google docs, but I took my laptop, just in case.
As remote as it gets on a small island
The place was remote, the room cosy. I had a view of the villa behind me, and all around me was green. The days were blistering hot, preparing the evening for a loud thunderstorm. I stayed put in the room, writing longhand after a long time. Family had been warned to not call with enquiries for missing items or minor mishaps, and they kept their end of the bargain. They were happy to see me go, glad for a break from my moods and tantrums caused by fatigue and monotony.
The air conditioning kept me going at an even pace all morning. The TV lay unused while the tea kettle worked hard. I got up occasionally to boil water for periodic tea breaks. Reluctantly I stepped out for lunch, sunglasses and hat in place, eager to return to my cool, welcoming cave.
Minimising distractions is the best way to focus. And not having to speak is the best luxury for times when I get people-weary.
There is a reservoir within me that gets depleted when too many things demand my attention. Errands, chores, shopping lists, writing deadlines, office emails, and the like. As soon as I cross one off, another takes its place. The pause button just doesn’t cut it anymore. It has to be a complete STOP.
Travel used to be my preferred way of decompressing. It didn’t matter if it was a short business trip, an impromptu holiday with friends, or a long-awaited family vacation. Moving to a new place, taking in a new view and adjusting to a more leisurely pace of life had been rejuvenating in ways that I am only now realising, stuck as I am on the Covid-free island of Singapore with strict rules for those considering leaving it.
New ways of working and relaxing
The pandemic forced us to find new ways of working in the first year. And now in the second, it is making us find creative ways to relax.
“Why are you going away by yourself?” Well-wishers enquired with concern.
Was I not getting along with family? Did I not have any friends? Was I being extravagant or plain weird?
Most were too polite to dig deeper. And that was OK with me.
Many sensible people, mostly women, cheered me on. Some had done this before, others had secretly hoped to do it, and some were plain envious.
Traveling with family provides a change of scene but does not provide a break from ingrained hierarchies and expectations. We are more relaxed but we still are parents, still in charge and still responsible for overall well being of the brood.
Travel with friends is great fun; more democratic, more easygoing. We can make up rules and take detours as we go, and even take turns to call the shots.
But going alone has its own rewards. I could pack what I wanted, including comfortable but ‘cringe-worthy’ (as my children would call it) clothes, an assortment of teabags, and flipflops. Meals were minimal. Walks were plenty. And there were no rules. I could do exactly as I pleased.
Perks of a solitary holiday
I thought I would go to bed early and wake up late. But I did the opposite. I thought I would catch up on writing my memoir but I wrote other stuff instead. I took pictures while exploring the marshes behind the resort. I also took pictures inside my room.
I ate waffles with icecream for dinner one night. And skipped breakfast one morning. Not being answerable to anyone or justify anything, including my unusual behavior, was truly liberating.
The walks were the most illuminating. I saw no more than four people each time, photographers intent on capturing birds in flight or couples engrossed with each other. Without high-power lenses or binoculars, I could not see but could hear a variety of bird calls. We nodded and made contact over our masks as we passed each other, happy to stay silent as we looked around.
Were there so many types of tiny flowers growing amidst the grass? I had seen only tiny yellow ones before but now I saw pink filamentous ones, lavender trumpets with thin petals, and blue pea flowers. When I walked by the same pond the next morning, I saw bright pink and purple water lilies in full bloom. How had I missed them the previous day? I had been besotted with the panoramic view of the treeline at the golden hour spent atop the watchtower. With a companion, I might have been tempted to say something banal or witty or even profound. While alone, I focused on what I saw and heard, learning a lot more in the process.
Struggles, obstacles and achiements
Although I was by myself, my days were not without struggle. Should I stay in or enjoy the outdoors? Should I read or write? Should I keep mum or catch up on long-pending phone calls with friends? Self-made problems, but they still needed attention, and a decision.
Yet, I would consider this solo staycation to be a success. Like all holidays, it felt too short. I didn’t read or write as much as I had planned. But I went with the flow, choosing the outdoors in the early morning or before sunset, staying locked up in the room at noon and immersing myself in whatever caught my fancy in between. And yes, after 24 hours of silence, I had long conversations with friends!
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Photo credit Ranjani Rao
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