This past February I got on a plane in Phoenix and got off in Los Angeles. I took an Uber to my hotel and the next morning I walked, with my phone’s GPS in my hand over to the location where my four-day writing class would be meeting its first time. All alone.
Why was this domestic trip such a big deal? Am I 5-years-old? A traveling unaccompanied minor? No. The reason why this was remarkable for me is because somehow, during the course of my 24-year marriage, I had stopped traveling alone and having stopped traveling alone, I no longer thought I could do it.
There was the fact that, since we owned a store that required all of my husband’s time, I had to be available for everything else: all the driving, all the school scheduling problems, all the doctor appointments and all holidays–Jewish, Christian, National and other. The idea of gallivanting off on my own to do something just for me had become out of the question, an automatic no.
Any free time my husband had we went on family vacations. Later, as the kids got older, we sent them off on teen trips or camping and we went on our own vacations.
Basically, I hadn’t traveled alone since I was 31.
I hadn’t always been like this. I’d once worked a territory in my old insurance job which required me to travel via tiny aircraft up to a rural territory in Arizona. I’d go flying off once a month with no problem at all. As a Jewish Single, I’d flown off to Toronto on a Jewish singles vacation on some kind of coast to coast, North American hunt for Mr. Right, not realizing that I’d actually started seeing him right before the trip. Years before, as a 22-year-old, I’d even traveled on my own to Israel to meet up with a tour group. During a layover in New York, like a good Jewish girl, I found my way unerringly to Bloomingdales. My nightmarish return from Israel took about two days and ten airports. Again, no problem.
It’s not like there weren’t places I needed to be in the last few years. When my book was published, I needed to be in Chicago for two book tours. But that time, I managed to drag my husband along. When it won an award, I needed to go to New York for the writer’s conference included in the prize package and participate onstage in several panels. Again, I dragged my husband, convincing him how much fun we’d have in New York. I ended up busy for the entire four days and he saw Manhattan alone, the trip costing us a fortune in babysitters and anguish when our arrangements for our children fell apart from afar.
I figured part of the reason I’d lost my independence was that my husband and I had divided up our vacation tasks over time and mine involved all Airbnb, VRBOs and Uber. He, on the other hand, controlled everything pertaining to airports, flights and directions, to the point where I had just stopped thinking about these things when I was with him. He would get me everywhere. Just point me in a direction and I’d walk that way.
I got smaller and more frightened with time, my independence gone.
There were things I wanted to do as a writer that didn’t involve my husband. Writing programs I wanted to be in, instructors I wanted to learn with, other students with whom I’d wanted to connect. One of these was the program in Los Angeles. So I had to get on the plane and go; I needed to attend the writing workshop that I’d had a crush on from afar for about two years. I had to move it from impossible to possible, myself from dependent to independent.
So I got on that plane and I took that Uber and I walked over to the building to start my program and I said yes to a lot of things those four days. I said yes to the workshop and to my fellow students; I said yes to lunch and yes to happy hour. I said yes to figuring out dinner each night even in the pouring rain, clomping around with takeout on my way back to my hotel.
And I said yes to my independence regained.