There are two ways to think about traveling solo on your birthday. This could be lonely, was my first thought. My second thought was, this will be a gift to myself.
Guess which one I went with?
If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that these days I don’t always travel solo. I now have a partner, though we live on different sides of the world. He lives in Australia, I will continue to live in Maldives. When we see each other, every ten weeks or so, we try to go traveling.
But I still crave solo travel and for my birthday last week, I gave myself the ultimate gift. Two weeks solo in Sri Lanka.
Here are my tips for having a great birthday traveling solo.
1. Check into a Yoga retreat.
I had considered spending my birthday in a silent meditation retreat. The plan was to really sit still and listen deep inside. But I am glad that the dates for the retreat didn’t work out and I got to spend my birthday in a joyful yoga retreat instead. At Villa de Zoysa, on the South Coast of Sri Lanka, 10 minutes from Galle Fort, I had an instant community of nurturing, bubbly female friends. My new friends hailed from all corners of the world and all types of careers. Not all of them were single, but each one of them had come solo. We’d all come to have some ‘me time’, to decompress and, it turns out, to enjoy the company of other women. We had so much fun together, so much laughter. It never ceases to amaze me how caring and nurturing women can be. They took me out to dinner and bought me passion fruit margaritas and they made sure I had a birthday cake and a bunch of flowers (though the idea for the flowers came via email from my special friend back in Australia). I’ve rarely felt so spoiled.
2. Challenge yourself
Doing three hours of Vinyassa flow yoga each day, I got to stretch every single muscle in my body, even those I didn’t know I had. I”ve never done yoga like this before, because I’ve never done yoga in New York where classes are run at a different pace. Our Manhattan-based teacher Jordan Ashley plays music – anything from hip hop to opera – whilst she makes us sweat through endless sequences of Vinyassa flow. The 90 minute classes feel more like 3 hours, even after a week of morning and evening classes. At times it’s a real challenge to continue, but the satisfaction of feeling my body grow stronger and more flexible is enough motivation to endure the pain. And doing endless down dogs to Pavarotti is totally wacky and lots of fun!
The other challenge I inadvertently set myself, was to brave the Sri Lankan traffic on a scooter. I used to do it at 21, so why not at 52? And it is still as much fun now as it was back then. Try it, it’s totally rejuvenating!
3. Treat yourself
For the last 6 months I called a sauna-like, spartan and garishly decorated apartment in crowded Male’, Maldives, my home. My bedroom had a bared window and for privacy I had to keep the curtains closed day and night. It felt more like a cave than a home. So for my birthday I treated myself to the nicest room available at Villa de Zoysa. I loved it so much, I extended my stay for another week. Why not. At 52 I am allowed to give myself a week-long birthday treat!
4. Nurture yourself
At Villa de Zoysa I treated myself to an Ayurvedic full body oil massage every other day. It did wonders to my lower back. On my actual birthday I went all out and gave myself a special spa treatment at Galle Fort Spa. I usually don’t have the patience to sit through a manicure and a pedicure and I honestly can’t remember the last time I had my finger nails painted. But on my birthday I allowed a handsome and very sweet Sri Lankan man to indulge my hands and feet in a two hour treatment, whilst I treated myself to passion fruit cheesecake. I completed my Spa indulgence with a facial. I can’t remember the last time I’ve consciously made such an effort to pamper myself on my birthday. Traveling solo made me pay attention to myself and listen to my needs.
5. Do something you’ve never done before. Ride an elephant
Who knew it would be so much fun? Lily, a15 year old orphan now in the custody of Devinda, our host at Villa de Zoysa, becomes our surrogate baby for the week. Most of my new friends are childless like me. Some are yet to meet the right man, some are past their prime (actually that only applies to me) and some have left their kids at home to re-connect with themselves. But we all seem to share an urge to re-connect with that inner child as we splash and play like teenagers with Lily the 10 tonne pachyderm teenager.
Have you ever traveled solo on your birthday? What’s your best tip for a solo birthday?
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