travel

The Inner Journey of the Solo Traveler

Pokonji Dol Beach, Hvar Island, Croatia

Pokonji Dol Beach, Hvar Island, Croatia

After leading a yoga & success coaching retreat in Dubrovnik this month, I did some solo travel north of there in Hvar and Split, two places I’ve been meaning to get to for years now. They did not disappoint! I’ve listed some special places I visited and restaurants I loved at the end of this blog. I haven’t taken a trip by myself in a while, so I found myself reflecting on solo travel - how much it’s changed for me over the years and how much it’s changed me over the years.

I started traveling alone about 11 years ago. I had been in a 4 year relationship where the ending was clearly imminent, and I felt confused and lost about myself and what I wanted. I was compelled to leave town, and hopefully with it, the negative feelings I was having. I only left for a few days and treated myself to a luxury weekend at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa where I played golf, got a 90 minute relaxation massage, and ate at wonderful restaurants around town. I’m laughing as I write this because my first solo travel experience wasn’t exactly toughing it out somewhere in a distant, exotic or culturally diverse area of the world, and there wasn’t some grandiose intention of healing my life through travel. At that time in my life I had little awareness of how to utilize my time alone for self-reflection, self-nurture, or self-discovery, but I followed a compulsion and it was the first time I had gone anywhere by myself for more than a day without it being for work.

And it felt foreign to me, uncomfortable, and too indulgent. At first I found my mind hyper-focused on my problems and feeling sorry for myself for having to do all these things alone. But then I slowly realized, oh wait, I can give myself permission to enjoy doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. I don’t have to refer to anyone else to decide how to spend the day. Good thing! Oh wait, but I always liked for someone else to decide what to do and when to do it because I didn’t really know what I wanted.

I had always been fiercely independent and self-sufficient in taking care of my external security needs like living expenses, but when it came to my internal needs I really didn’t have a clue because I filtered my needs through the lens of what others wanted. Dare I say I had some co-dependency patterning that affected every relationship I had been in, romantic or otherwise. I began to do some self-inquiry into my people pleasing nature, and the ultimate lack of self-referral. It was the first time I became aware that I needed to understand who I was and what I truly wanted for myself, and traveling alone could give me an opportunity to do exactly that.

Since that weekend, I’ve done so much solo travel across the world and love to spend pockets of time in foreign lands alone, wandering, enjoying the process of self-discovery through following my intuition and seeing what adventure, people, experiences it leads me to. Solo travel represents the Solo Life Journey we all are on, walking each of our individual paths ultimately alone, learning about our true essence and how to engage life from an honest place inside of ourselves, hoping that it leads us to the feeling of being fully alive.

The days I spent alone exploring Hvar and Split led me to some of the most magical places I’ve ever been and in those moments I was present to the very nature of my existence and it’s essential part in the web of life. Being with myself, and being myself, in a completely new and foreign place, I felt at home.

I normally don’t give recommendations for my travels, but I did find some lovely places and ate at some wonderful restaurants so I thought I’d share!
Although I enjoyed both Hvar and Split, I found the energy on Hvar and the surrounding islands to be more peaceful for me. I was only on Hvar for a few days but my favorite beach Mekicevica or Robinson’s Beach, which was recommended to me by my airbnb host. After finding Pokonji Dol beach, you keep walking through a forest along the cliffs until you come to two small secluded coves, the second of which is Robinson’s beach. There is also a quaint restaurant behind it with fresh grilled seafood and good local wine. If you go early enough, you can have the beach to yourself until around 11am or so. Perfection! I also highly recommend taking a boat taxi to one of the Pakleni Islands for a beach day and lunch. I went to Palmizana for a more beach club kind of day and ate at Laganini which had a great DJ and fantastic food.
It was high season in Croatia at the time so Split was very crowded including the local beaches but I was able to find one that was quite beautiful and again mostly empty before noon called Kasuni Beach. It was about a half hour walk from the center of Split. I also had some truly incredible meals in Split, two of the restaurants I’ve listed below and are a must if you go. Croatia also has some pretty amazing white wines, my favorite being the Posip (it happens to have an alcoholic content of 14%, go figure it’s my favorite).

Here are some great restaurants that I highly recommend:

Hvar Restaurants
Macondo
Giaxa
Laganini and also Zori - both on the island of Palmizana

Split Restaurants
Bokeria
Food & Wine Zinfandel

Heart Connection in Marrakech

IMG_0383.jpg

I’m back in Italy after completing a truly special yoga retreat in Marrakesh. What seemed like an ordinary retreat (we laughed, we stood on our heads, we bargained like crazy, and we rode 2 different kinds of animals), when reflecting deeper, was anything but ordinary.  There were many stand out moments including the gorgeous lunch in the Atlas Mountains, the incredible outdoor tagine cooking class at a mansion riad in the desert, the shopping mania and antics in the souks, and the out of nowhere monsoon hail storm that swept through our outdoor restaurant leaving us tucked in a cozy tent to have our farewell dinner by candlelight.  But what makes these experiences stand-out moments for me has less to do with the adventure or circumstances and everything to do with the magic that happens when people open themselves up to connection and experiences they aren’t familiar with.

 

The cooking class was taught by two very talented Moroccan chefs who were very engaging and jovial while teaching us how to make incredible traditional Moroccan dishes.  The class took place at a spectacular riad in the desert where we cooked tagine outside by the pool after being served Moroccan mint tea and pastries.  The event was set up graciously by a Moroccan friend of mine who also gives the tours of Marrakech.  I trusted he would set something up special and it was beyond what I imagined.  The food was outstanding (my favorite meal of the entire week). And despite the language barrier, as one of the chefs didn’t speak English, the sentiment of deep appreciation came through anyways and by the end of the night, we were all sitting around the dinner table laughing, smiling, enjoying each other and grateful for our new Moroccan friends.

 

Beautiful new friendships were indeed a wonderful result of being together for a week in this exotic and sometimes chaotic land.  The souks are comprised of a maze of narrow dirt streets with vendors selling their handmade wares… and some not hand-made. Over the week, one of our lovely guests bought 20 fake Goyard bags as gifts for her family. The last day of the retreat some of us went back to the souks for a little shopping before flights out of Marrakech.  One of the other guests had asked her to buy some more Goyard purses for her as well if she had the time and bring them back to California.  Well, she didn’t have any extra time but was determined to get them.  We got caught up in one store for a while and by the time she was heading to find her Goyard store, it was essentially time for her to head to the airport.  But she insisted she would somehow navigate the souks alone and find this one store that had the purses.  We wished her luck and I was truly worried she would miss her flight. 

Well, she in fact did find the store and after her last desperate purchase, with sweat dripping down her face, she was swept off by the store owner on the back of a moped weaving through the craziness of the souks to grab a taxi. I won’t go into more detail (and there is a lot more), but basically she nearly missed her flight.  It struck me as such an act of kindness to risk missing her flight because she had promised to get these purses for her new friend.  Her story truly moved me…and made me laugh out loud. There were many examples of kind gestures and demonstrations of love throughout the week.  Offering a heightened experience of inspiration and expansiveness, travel seems to set the stage to open our hearts and heal our lives.

After this last retreat, what has become certain to me as it pertains to my work (which I have only created in the past 5 years) is that the highlight for me during retreats is to witness meaningful connections being made between guests.  And when I think about it, connecting people has been a pattern of mine since a very young age.  I’ve always had a passion for bringing people together, whether it was in the form of having parties at my home (God knows I’ve had a million of them!), making time for fun gatherings for my employees, planning trips for groups of friends, and now in the platform of wellness retreats. I absolutely love bringing people together and setting the stage for deep connection to occur. So it’s no surprise to me that what brings me the greatest joy from these retreats is to see new friendships being made. 

I haven’t had one retreat where I don’t see guests as perfect strangers develop meaningful friendships. I truly believe that this is one of the reasons I’ve been put on this earth. When I started this retreat business, it was impulsive and not thought through clearly, but I was driven by a profound inspiration to bring people together in beautiful places.I didn’t realize at the time that my soul was speaking through me and that the bigger soul intention has always been to create an environment conducive to helping people wake up to the Universal Truth that All is One. Somehow by following my passion, my purpose found me. The greater overall lesson I learned (and which has also helped me deepen in trust) is that we don’t have to know with exact clarity what we are “meant to do”, whatever that means. We just need to lean into the things that spark something inside of us, that sets our heart on fire, and trust that living with passion is enough to show us the way forward. It always does.