Day 306: The Man and the Lone Traveler; ‘Pursue’

Today is my last (physical) day in the office, and then two personal days to complete the week (and the paycheck, hahah). This was waiting for me when I got in this morning.

Last Day

I do love the people I work with. They’ve got a great dark sense of humor. This is the team I work parallel to; they do the real main support and me and the rest of my team, we’re just the front lines, the ones who go out to the stores, so we get all the glory. It’s a shame really, wish I could give them a bigger shout out for all they do. I like the people I work with. (For, well, that’s a different story.)

So Friday I leave for Canada on my own, and aside from two nights where I will be meeting up with some old friends and a group walking food tour of Old Montreal, I will primarily be doing everything on my own. I’m very used to being a single traveler nowadays, though honestly I never thought I wanted to be one, or thought I would be. There are still so many trips I wish I could take with a special someone. I’ve done Vegas with friends, Vegas with family, but never Vegas with, you know, her. Or Aruba. I’m pretty sure that one I’ll specially reserve still though. No point going there by yourself.

The first couple times you do it, the first few nights there can sometimes be this tug of Solivagantwar between wanting to go out and just staying in your room where it’s safe and comfortable. The first few nights with this job when I was traveling to stores I’d just order insane amounts of Chinese delivery or pizza. Then I started slowly and gradually going out. First to chain restaurants, simple places where lone business travelers could find company by proxy in the shared chaos. And then to the more quiet, independent, noticeable places where a single diner could actually stick out.

There are definitely a few pros to traveling on your own. It gives you an unparalleled feeling of power and agency. There is nothing you’re doing that you don’t want to do. For the obsessive-compulsive planner (such as myself) it’s so much easier to have your entire trip planned out two, or even three weeks out, down to the day and time (which I have). For the free spirit, there’s no other accommodation or negotiation to answer the call of every whim. It also forces you to be more engaged and focused on your destination. When it is just you and a blank slate trip in a brand new city, you really have to create your own story. There is no safety blanket, no other who you can abdicate power and authority to. You are your own destiny’s author. So guess who’s fault it is if you have a terrible trip. I’ve put my ear closer to the ground than ever before and really had to find what it was I wanted to find, what I wanted to get out of every trip, every opportunity. I think it makes me a more responsible, aware, and excited traveler.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am in no way trying to convince people solo travel is better than accompanied travel. I’m not even trying to compare the two. What I am trying to do is convince those people who have always been on the fence about taking that trip and whose only sole reason for not going is because they don’t have someone to go with, to go. No one has to be convinced more than once about going on a trip with people. Everyone speaks of the joy of traveling with company. But solo travel shouldn’t be something intimidating, or hell, only for seasoned travelers. Newbies, rookie travelers, and the uninitiated should find the comfort and confidence to do it too.

I think the biggest, and sometimes funniest, obstacle to traveling alone is the constant need to contextualize yourself to curious minds. The person checking you in will ask you if you need one key or two, expecting you to say your travel partner is just late arriving. Eating AloneAlmost every pre-booked excursion or activity you try to go on will default to two adults. You’ll never have to worry about reservations at restaurants, though I would please encourage you to avoid the comfort of sitting at the bar and actually own the experience of dining by yourself at a table. Your waiter will do a double-take and try to figure out if they need to pour water into the second glass in front of you. I used to like to mess with people when this happened. At resorts when I was traveling as an agent to do a site inspection or familiarization trip, I would weave sob stories of being an abandoned groom whose bride-to-be left him at the altar, but the honeymoon deposit was non-refundable. At restaurants I would eagerly sit upright and tell my waiter I was there for a blind date who would inevitably never show up. I think it’s interesting that for as much as people don’t want to travel alone, they don’t want to think others would either. Hahah.

I’m too excited and too eager to take this trip to have to sit by the wayside and wait for someone to go with. There are enough adventures out there for a solo traveler to pursue that can fill one’s life with stories and interest while you move ever closer to finding the person you’ll travel with for the rest of your life. You have to remember that this is the time that they are out there making stories and experiences to share with you as well. Don’t be the one to bring nothing to the table. For anyone who might be hesitant or unsure of solo travel, take it from someone who’s spent the past two years now doing it, it can open up a whole new world. Maybe in the future I’ll do a solo traveler guide, but really, all you need is the drive. So if I could sell you the emotions and the motivation, I would.

Day 306

Man: 273 Loneliness: 33

Day 304: The Man and the Return to Normalcy; ‘Bitter’

Well, I’m back and it’s the last three days of work here with this company. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have a pretty good idea of how the past week went during my work conference at the Hard Rock Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, but for those of you who don’t here is a brief recap.

First of all, I’m not that much darker than when I left. And that’s really for two reasons. Hard RockFirst off, I’m brown, and brown don’t burn baby. Got that natural tan that’s just called being Filipino. Hahah. The second reason is it was pretty much raining the entire time we were there. My flight coming in had to circle the runway for about an hour because of some freak storm that came out of nowhere and was hammering the airport with heavy rain, thunder, but most of all lightning, which giant metal planes don’t seem to like very much. When we finally did land, the open air airport, which is normally lovely in Punta Cana, was about four inches underwater. Not the greatest for me in my open sandals. It was kind of funny though to watch airport staff take brooms and in desperation, try in long phalanxes to sweep the DR Beachwater out towards the doors. For the remainder of the trip it was, at best, gray and overcast. and at worst, actually raining. Apparently because of this they had to reschedule and relocate the conference’s beach party on the one night and the pool part on the other night. I’m not bitter about any of that though. For one, I spent most of my time either in the restaurants, at the casino, or relaxing in my room. For the other, I’m not a big crazy party person, and pair it with the fact that I’m out the door anyways, I really didn’t bother attending any sort of event outside of the actual conference where I had to present. Hahah.

HR Room

What I love about traveling as a travel agent (or as someone who works for a travel Showeragency) is that when hotels find out, they like to bring out all the stops. My room was gorgeous. One of the largest bathrooms I have ever seen. A separate room for the toilet, a large double sink, space enough for a dressing table and bench, and the biggest shower I have ever walked into. Two shower heads, a built in ledge and counter, and room enough for *coughs*two*coughs*. Let’s not kid ourselves about the kind of ambiance and vibe the Hard Rock is going for here. King size bed with all the pillows and no one to share with, speakers in the room connected to the TV to blast the classic rock channel the resort has, an incredible balcony view of the lazy river pool, and the piece de la resistance, a Jacuzzi tub in the room. After checking in, management also sent a bottle of Bubbles and Bubblychampagne and some chocolates, so of course my first night I was living it up soaking in the hot tub with some bubbles and bubbly. And a bacon cheeseburger. And fries. And an Oreo cheesecake. And fruits! So it’s healthy. Don’t judge me.

CarpaccioFood was…decent. It started off really strongly but then got progressively and noticably more mediocre. And this is a characteristic of Punta Cana in general, as I am sure that the Hard Rocks in Mexico and other parts of the Caribbean are phenomenal. There is something about the quality of ingredients in DR that affects the food, and it is a known factor that when we do speak to travelers about the destination, if food is a big part for them, we try to direct them to other islands. So I kind of knew what was going to happen. But the first night at their PappadelleItalian restaurant I absolutely enjoyed the beef carpaccio, the pappardelle with porcini mushrooms and truffle cream, the lamb osso bucco, and the fried calamari (though it had a bit of an ‘unwashed’ taste of strong seawater). My second night at their Mexican restaurant I was very underwhelmed with their offerings. The ceviche had a nice variety of seafood with shrimp, fish, and scallops but it had a very strong cured taste, as if it had been marinating in the lime and vinegar all day, which overcooked and toughened the Cevicheseafood. The camarones al ajillo had a nice strong garlicky taste and I like that it was spicy with the red pepper flakes. But it was served on a no-longer-sizzling sizzling platter which did nothing more than toughen and crust the usually fluffy Spanish rice. I will say this though, my god they know how to rock a really good guacamole and pico de gallo. The sushi selection was minimal, the salmon fresh and meaty though. The nigiri had way too much rice and it was tough and chewy, not light and fluffy like how sushi rice should be. I think aside from the Italian, my two best meals were the Brazilian rodizio style churrascaria with juicy succulent cuts of sirloin, lamb, skirt steak, and flank steak, and the breakfast I had on the balcony of my room my last morning there. An omelet with cheese, onions, chorizo, and mushrooms with hash browns, waffles, a side of bacon, and some fresh Breakfastfruit. (As a hilarious side note, whether for breakfast or my late night Jacuzzi ritual, I always seemed to order so much that they would assume it was for two people, bring two forks and plates, and always look around bewildered asking ‘and where is the lady’.) No, sorry bro, just a really hungry really big lonely single guy. Hahah.

Lest we all forget, as I almost did after my fifth cocktail the night before my presentation, this was supposed to be a work trip, after all. In the grand scheme of things I arrived Monday, arrivals of the consultants was Tuesday, conference itself Wednesday and Thursday, and departures all-around on Friday. Tuesday was a work day in the sense of meeting with the other leaders and speakers (including the president of the company, imagine knowing in the back of your mind you’re already mentally checked out and here you are enjoying a free trip with your company’s president expecting you to care) to rehearse and go over presentations and Wednesday was work in the sense of having to actually do the presentation and go through the rest of everyone else’s.RehearsalI’m not much of a rehearser, I really prefer to wing it and feel the room. So my rehearsal was very dry, very simple, and I really only wanted to make sure that all the slides and animations worked the way they should. But the day of the conference, when they put that lapel mic on me and I took the stage…*sighs*. Took me back to my glory days as a teacher. I transformed. I love public speaking. I love a stage and a captive audience. I am a completely different person when presenting. I was running up and down the stage, waving my arms, making jokes, answering questions, it was such a natural and effortless extension of myself and my knowledge that it went by in a breeze. And before I knew it, I was accepting a round of applause and walking off the stage when the MC and organizer of the conference says on the mic, ‘oh my god ManVsLoneliness, I never knew you were funny’. Ahahah. I’m telling you. I live when I’m speaking. And I could drink that attention right up. But in my personal life, you can all stay away. Hahah.

It was a fun trip, and I did hang out a few times and have a few meals with some consultants I actually knew and was generally friendly with. The treatment was great and honestly, it’s the kind of trip that would make you want to stay with a company. Which is why I get why they do this for novice consultants (within six months and before twelve months). It reinforces an image and an atmosphere. I don’t think anyone could fault anyone for enjoying themselves. I did too. It’s just that for me, that honeymoon phase is over. I’ve had the curtain lifted and behind the music and drinks, I didn’t see the future I wanted. The one that could see me finally moving out on my own and buying and owning my first home, and then being able to start a relationship and hopefully ultimately a family. It’s a good way of living for a little while, but it’s no life.

I’m back now and remembering all this while still appreciating and enjoying the experiences I’ve had. I have no ill will towards anyone or anything. But I absolutely have mentally and physically left this job already. I have two more days to finish planning and scheduling my Canada trip. Before I leave I have to print out everything because my computer and printer belong to work. So on my last day you know I’ll be printing everything in bright color.

Day 304

Man: 271 Loneliness: 33