A few weeks ago I woke up at 3:30am, showered & changed, and crept into my kids rooms to kiss their warm cheeks for the last time for the next 10 days.
I was a mix of excited and scared. Why? Because I was about to travel to a country halfway across the world…alone. No husband, no kids. Just me (and my friend who would meet me at our destination).
I was traveling alone.
Remember your late teens/early 20s (I still vaguely do although it’s getting foggier all the time!)? Remember deciding to jump in the car for an impromptu road trip for burgers you heard were really tasty or spending a weekend in a new city just because you could? Maybe you had the opportunity to study abroad or go overseas as part of a course you were taking. Maybe you backpacked across Europe or vacationed in Cancun with your friends.
Whatever your situation is, I am almost certain that travel was part of your growing up life in some way, shape and form. And it was a huge part of my early 20s and something I vowed to make a priority in my life once I discovered how amazing and life-changing it could be to travel to a country where life is nothing like it is for you at home. I was addicted to exploring the unknown and exposing myself to things that may have felt uncomfortable but would come to shape who I was as an adult.
But then I had kids.
And life took over.
Sound familiar? Corporate jobs, families to raise, lack of funds or time or all of the above – travel took a backseat to figuring out the “new normal” of life that ebbed and flowed in a different way than we had been used to previously.
Sure my husband and I had a few opportunities to travel here and there: mostly 2-3 day jaunts to Vegas or New York (which are both cities we love) – but the ability to pack our bags and leave for the unknown felt like it was no longer an option.
Truthfully, I felt envious of friends posting pictures of their trips abroad and longed for the chance to travel again. I remember telling my husband one night that the thing I missed most from my pre-baby life was the chance to be out in the world because that’s where I felt the most growth and development.
So imagine my surprise when my husband, knowing that I was going through a very rough time in my professional/personal life, decided to surprise me with a round-trip ticket to the country I have wanted to travel to for as long as I can remember: CHINA.
Travel without my family was scary, it was exhilarating, it was eye-opening, and it was exactly what I needed to happen in my life at this exact moment. Why? Well, let’s unpack why moms need to travel alone:
It gives you time to think
I traveled to China (Shanghai & Beijing) for a total of 10 days, unencumbered by work deadlines or children or a household to run, and I can say without hesitation that it was the best thing I have done for myself since I had kids.
Here’s a truth about my life that I am positive is a truth about your mom life: I am almost never alone.
It’s a fact about motherhood that has been a struggle for me since I had my first son. I CRAVE that alone time – the solitary of just having to worry about myself. Time where my brain can just have thoughts – thoughts that have nothing to do with raising my family, running my household, finances, school trips, new clothes for growing boys, groceries, and everything in between.
Although I was traveling with a friend, I wasn’t responsible for her in the way I am responsible for my family. This gave my brain time to just be – to be present in moments, to create and think in new ways, to ponder things that meant a lot (How am I raising my kids? Am I present and loving in my marriage?) and meant nothing (I wonder how Khloe Kardashian got her body looking so hot? Should I wear grey or black leggings today?).
I cannot remember the last time I had the chance to do nothing but think about myself and it was so liberating to the creative side of my brain. I came home with ideas and paths that never would have had the opportunity to develop were it not for the chance to get away by myself.
You learn how complacent you are
I totally don’t realize how awesome my life is. How could I? I’m bogged down every day in the details of life. When you travel alone, you get this amazing opportunity to hover above yourself and see just how amazing your life at home really is.
I have a beautiful home, two healthy and happy kids, I never worry about buying groceries or going out to dinner, I have a great job (that I created!), my husband has a great job that he loves, we have great friends and families. We have it all…and yet I feel angry and frustrated with my life so much of the time. It’s never enough for me – I’m always pushing for more or better.
When I was traveling my eyes were so opened to just how good I have it. I came home with an appreciation for being married to a guy I love, to having kids who were so full of joy and life, for the food and housing I have – I don’t need more…I need to be more grateful for what is already filling up my life.
I actually started a gratitude journal after returning from my trip and it has really transformed the way I look at my own life and all that I have in it. That has been transformative in and of itself.
You get to feel freedom
When was the last time you felt FREE? Unencumbered with the world at your feet, ready to do whatever you choose with no end in sight?
Since you had a kid, I bet the answer is never. It sure was for me.
The feeling of true freedom is something you can’t really put into words how delicious it feels to selfishly spend a day doing whatever the heck you want to do whenever the heck you want to do it.
Traveling solo as a parent means that you get to relish that freedom while exploring and learning and it is a beautiful thing, my friends.
You realize that life goes on
My kids and husband missed me a lot – I know that’s true – but life went on without me while I was on my trip. The kids got to school, they had lunches made, they got picked up from the bus and they hung out with their friends. My cat was fed every day and got nightly cuddles. My husband still worked. People still managed to laugh and smile without me there.
Life didn’t stop just because I wasn’t there.
That was a humbling but necessary lesson for this mom to learn.
I don’t need to carry the weight of my family’s world on my back – they will carry on even without my presence. Sure, things may not be done the exact way I do them, but they get done. I am not the only reason that life moves forward day after day.
Traveling without my family has given me permission to let some things go that I once held so tightly. I don’t need to control everything in order to have things run smoothly – my grasp doesn’t need to be so tight on the people I love the most. They are capable and can manage without me. *mind blown*
Your confidence comes back
I vividly remember, years ago, having my confidence crushed by a guidance councillor who told me that I had too much self-confidence and needed to be taken down a few notches (I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of our conversation). I’ll never forget how crushed I felt.
Confidence has always been an issue for me. No matter how much success I have in life, I struggle with feeling like an imposter who doesn’t deserve anything I get. Couple that with an awesome 15 pound weight gain in the past year (stress eating for the win!) and my confidence of late has taken a significant nose dive.
But traveling solo gave me a completely new perspective on who I am: I am super strong, smart and really capable. People generally like me when they meet me. I know what I like but I’m open to new things. I am kind person who really does care about the well-being of others. I totally haven’t reached my potential but that’s 100% ok because I am going to reach it -without a doubt.
I wouldn’t have typed anything like that before I left for my trip. But being alone for almost 2 weeks showed me that who I am is actually pretty awesome and that feeling confident in myself is a great trait (not one I should be embarrassed about). I like who Sarah is – and that’s a really great thing.
Growth happens when you reach outside your comfort zone
I probably don’t need to say much more than that title: growth happens when you reach outside your comfort zone.
I climbed the Great Wall of China. I walked in the footsteps of leaders and change makers. I ate food I’ve never heard of or seen before, I was the only English-speaking person almost everywhere I went, I navigated through hand gestures (and a wing & a prayer), I felt afraid & excited over and over again.
I did things I ever even imagined doing and you know what? It was amazing. It was overwhelming. It grew me immensely. I’m still unpacking what it all meant and how it all made me feel, but really and truly it was just an amazing 10 days of enormous growth and personal development.
I love my kids even more after solo travel
I actually didn’t think it was possible, but I love my kids more thanks to the opportunity to be away from them. I relish the time I spend with them. I missed them (I’ve never had the opportunity to miss them). I like the little life we have.
Of course, traveling to China is not an option for everyone but even a weekend adventure without your littles is enough to completely change how you view your life, your perspective on parenting (or even marriage) and so much more. It is such a treat for your family, as well, to learn exactly how capable they are of being without you – the one who does it all. The freedom that you all gain as a result is truly irreplaceable.
So get out there and travel, mama. You deserve it, so so so much!