Sometimes you gotta know when to bail.
A summer road trip from Miami to Cape Cod led me to step away from a good friend, her trusty Toyota Highlander, and her two lovely dogs. En route from Miami to Cape Cod, after leaving Roanoke, VA at 4:30 am, I was filled with guilt – and anxiety- for committing to such a fatigue-inducing trip.
I am a cancer survivor. My mental and physical weariness and the monotony of city traffic were draining me in a BIG way. My traveling companion, a dear high school friend, understood my discomfort. I’m just not as free and easy as I was in my younger days. Or as free and easy as I’d convinced myself I could be, just for the spirit of a summer road trip with dogs, a school buddy and good tunes.
So I listened to my inner needs; I embraced my intuitive need to STOP and REST.
I needed a calm hotel, a soft bed and, most of all, to be OFF the road. I spotted a Marriott Bonvoy in Stamford, Connecticut and jumped out of the Toyota into the asphalt exaggerated heat with my three small duffel bags. I collapsed in the lobby while gathering my wits. I booked a room for two nights but changed it to four. I intended to see Manhattan solo – and salvage a much needed summer escape.
No agenda, no conforming to other people’s – or dogs’ – schedules. I carved out the ME time I was in such desperate need of after clearing out my family home, the only home I’d ever known, following my mother’s death. As an only child, it had taken a huge emotional toll on me.
Age and weariness – and the stress of discarding and donating 54 years worth of my family’s stuff – had made me a less than ideal travel companion.
The road trip involved too many miles and a sleep schedule that upset my own personal body rhythm. As a cancer survivor, I always need to listen to that intuitive inner guide. So I finally tuned in, turned off and chilled out.
What followed were the best three days I have ever spent in New York City. Taking the train after a good night’s rest from Stamford, CT, I was revived by the pulsating energy of Grand Central Station. I headed to Soho, Tribeca and the Village. Places I’d heard about but never really experienced.
All I had in mind for the day was a big steak at a French restaurant. No museums, no shopping, no tours, no theater. Just a steak.
I people watched endlessly. I made mental notes of effortlessly chic women who looked cool and comfortable in the 85+ degree heat. I took photos of beautifully staged shop windows on 5th Avenue. I stopped into St. Patrick’s Cathedral and lit a candle, saying prayers for my parents and one to ask for a quick and easy sale of my childhood home.
Here are the highlights of my road trip recovery:
– Brunch at Balthazar’s bar with steak frites and rosé Champagne (plus an extra glass on the house because the bartender read my mind, as good bartenders always do)
– Visiting The Whitney Museum
– Finding a chic black Audrey Hepburn dress with a button down front and ditching my dirty jeans and frumpy t-shirt
– Buying street art from a spirited, witty artist who knew that complimenting a middle aged woman on her dress could lead to a sale
– Cocktails at the St. Regis New York’s legendary King Cole Bar
– Buying soap and facial products from Marianella Soap Bar, a mother/son enterprise I’d supported on Kickstarter
– Capping my last evening in NYC with dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor (13 Doyers Street)
– Wandering into the open air street fun of Little Italy and savoring a real-deal cannoli
Here are my life lesson takeaways:
– I’m a solo traveler at heart.
– It was good to stimulate my brain by navigating one of the world’s greatest cities all by myself.
– I can find — and document — more beauty by being alone and having the time to focus on the moment.
– I meet people easily and relish their stories. I’m learning to listen more and talk less.
I’ll be paying my friend for my share of the trip and cottage rental. I’m pretty sure that she had a much better time without me.
I sense that she’s a solo traveler, too. We’ll be sharing our journeys with each other when we meet up to see The Rolling Stones together in Miami on August 31.