I’m fascinated by the idea of traveling alone. More women are doing it, and though the whole safety issue is one to be reckoned with, it’s important to learn to enjoy your own company. I was really good at this growing up, but these days, I find it much harder to appreciate an experience without people I care for. Jokes and awkward moments are always funnier with others, and meals taste better when at least one other person is eating beside you.
Summer is a popular time to go on adventures, and because I was working constantly, I skipped out on a lot of excursions my friends took the past few months. Every weekend, it seemed like someone in my social circle was running off to a cool hotspot while I was housebound in my scorching, un-air conditioned NYC walkup for one reason or another. Thank God for “New Girl” on Netflix because I would have felt really awful without such an uplifting sitcom to boost my mood on nights I was forced to stay in. My summer ennui was a factor in my decision to relocate to LA next year, but we all know I’ll probably complain out West too, because that’s what I do sometimes.
Much to my relief, fall is right around the corner, and that means my favorite programs will be back on air in a month. I don’t mind the shorter days, but everyone I know seems to be slowing down and getting back to the grind just as I’ve begun to decompress and relax.
I finally have some time to myself now, and I can go anywhere for as long as I’d like. It’s quite liberating, but the reality is that very few people I know can join me. YOLO season is over for the entire country, even though I’m a new member of the club and wanting to take full advantage of my membership. Summer or not, I want to enjoy myself, especially since I’ve devoted this entire year to working long hours and weekends without downtime.
This past weekend, I went to a mini family reunion in Boston, where I told my mom and sister I was considering making a solo trip to Vegas at the end of the month. A friend from college lives there and I love the desert more than anything, so I thought it would be nice to visit while Sin City is still too hot for comfort. Most people can’t stand 100+ degree days. I live for days like this, and if I could, I’d survive off the warmth of the sun and nothing else.
“You want to go to Vegas alone? Do you have a gambling problem?” my sister asked.
“No, I just really need to see the desert again before the end of summer,” I said. “I need to be somewhere warm — not oppressively hot and humid like New York.”
“Go to Phoenix or Tucson to see your college friends,” my mom added.
That brought me back to a rude remark from a plane creeper I met two years ago. On a flight from D.C. to Denver, I sat next to a guy named Chad who seemed nice at first but ended up being kind of a weirdo. We were too different, I think, as he was all about his acres of space in Utah and I said large patches of land frighten me. I grew up in a neighborhood with properties built so close together that you could hear the phone ringing in the house next door. I often picked up on shouting matches between my neighbors, and I was once scolded for sleeping with my curtains open, as two nosy, judgy, obnoxious yuppies across the street could see me resting at night and complained to my parents that it made them uncomfortable (to those neighbors now: get a life and stop trying to make children feel bad and embarrassed all the time. Gossiping about a 9-year-old to an entire neighborhood is disgusting). Anyway, Chad said he flew from D.C. to Utah every weekend because he didn’t like to do his own laundry, and after he asked what I did for hobbies, he laughed.
“I feel like girls don’t have hobbies. They like to knit but that’s not a hobby. So what are yours?”
Though unimpressed with the apparent hobby police, I said, “Yoga, meditation, writing, reading, writing sketch comedy, the news, jogging, rock climbing.”
“Reading and writing aren’t hobbies. They’re not active things.”
Because something can only be classified as a hobby if it involves you tackling and groping another guy on a wet muddy field. There’s no other way of saying this: his answer sucked and reminded me of everything I dislike about arrogant outdoorsy folks. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, then, when he said I wasn’t really going on vacation when visiting people, even if I was flying to an awesome destination. I couldn’t win with this guy, so I ignored him when he said we needed to go on a date after my trip. What would he have done besides mock me some more? Not into mountain men who think they’re better than me because they can start a fire with sticks and thrive in the wilderness. We all know I’m not made for the wilderness, and that’s why I gravitate toward big cities like NYC, D.C., LA.
Anyway, I don’t know how I ended up talking about a plane know-it-all from 2011, but the point I meant to make earlier was that I wasn’t interested in just visiting friends. I wanted to make an all out vacation for myself by going somewhere I’d never visited — all while soaking up the heavenly sparkles of the sun.
Last night, I explained all this via g-chat to my buddy Crystal, who is about to spend three months in Honolulu for her eye doctor rotations. She said she wished she could go to Vegas with me again, but didn’t like the idea of me hanging out there myself.
“Are you like, desperate to get laid or something?”
“No, that’s not it,” I said, laughing. “I just want to be somewhere hot, and I’ve always been curious about going on a trip by myself.”
“Yeah, but Vegas is not the place for a solo vacation,” she said. “It could get super weird really fast. Just come to Hawaii.”
I don’t know why I hadn’t considered it before. Hawaii is extremely far away from NYC, and that increases the cost of getting there, but when else will I have the time to visit Honolulu? I’ve never been there in my life — I’ve only vacationed in Maui, which, oddly enough, Crystal and I visited right after we graduated high school.
Granted, it was a family trip and she tagged along with me, my mom, my two brothers, and my sister-in-law, but we had an awesome time, and it’s hard to believe that adventure was seven years ago.
It really feels like another life: That summer, we were just weeks away from heading off to college — me to U of Arizona and her to UC Davis. We said then that it would be our last summer together as “kids.” We weren’t even 18 yet, and that’s why we felt so invincible about drinking wine coolers in the hotel room (oh, the irony). After a few sips, we started acting sloppy, and to this day, I don’t know whether we were being genuine or seriously tipsy from a lack of experience. Regardless, we said it was preparation for college, but nothing could prepare us for the insanity that took place at both our institutions of higher education.
A lot was different then. I was 15 pounds lighter, but I’m already thin, so I just looked sickly. I was obnoxiously and perhaps offensively in love with my high school sweetheart, who’d been writing me letter after letter from basic training at the Air Force Academy. I remember bringing his hand-written notes on the trip, reading them on the plane and aloud to Crystal anytime I wanted to see him. I cried a ton on the plane — because I missed my boyfriend and my late dad, who’d died just a month earlier. It scared me that I couldn’t see my boyfriend until Thanksgiving, which may as well have been five years away. The distance broke my heart and to my very core, I thought I could never love anybody the way I loved him. I look back on those days and shake my head — things didn’t need to be so freaking intense between us. I really think we were worse than the “Twilight” couple, and my friends knew it. Crystal had a boyfriend as well, but they weren’t close — not like me and Kevin.
We didn’t talk about our fellas much, though. We laughed with my mom, sister-in-law and older brothers, ate good food, had a lot of girly drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic despite being just 17, shopped with graduation money, took photos with my camera, swam in the ocean and various pools, and took turns applying sunblock onto my back.
Crystal joked that we had to block out a half hour each morning to covering every inch of my body in sunscreen. Last night, she promised to buy me SPF 100 because she knows firsthand how much I need it. I don’t sunburn in humid places, but dry climates fry me — so even though much has changed in our lives since summer 2006, we’ll still be devoting the beginning of our days to lathering my pale skin with sunblock.
In Hawaii seven years ago, my family and I couldn’t stop talking about the upcoming birth of my nephew Sawyer, who was expected to make his world debut in the fall.
“He’s so cute,” my mom would say.
“You haven’t even met him yet,” my siblings and I responded.
“I just know he’s going to be cute,” she replied.
And yeah. Mom was right. He really, really is adorbs:
Seven years later, I’m now the aunt of five kids: two nieces and three nephews, all of which are just a few short years away from being too embarrassed to associate with me publicly. Crystal and I have long since finished undergrad, and she’s nine months from becoming a doctor. I’ve had four professional jobs, four different non-college apartments, and many, many outrageous and hilarious relationship stories/mishaps. Gone are the days of weeping over letters from my hyper-masculine traditionalist beau and fancying us a contemporary version of “The Notebook.” I just want to have a smooth career change, and hopefully I’ll encounter some nice people on my long climb to the top.
There will be plenty of time to reflect on the difference between this “Crystal and Laura Take Hawaii” trip (did I mention we both like the Kardashians?) vs. our 2006 one, so be ready for a long blog post about it soon. We’re going to see Gabe Bondoc during my stay, and I bet the concert will provide lots of great material. He’s a very chill guy, and I like his Taylor Swift cover. I’m just ready to get back in the West Coast mindset. NYC is stressful even in the summer, which is supposed to be fun, but as my pal Sophia recently pointed out, there’s pressure to have fun here. The weather isn’t good for very long, so if you don’t take advantage of it, you’re in full FOMO mode.
Time to wind down and do things at my own pace. Luckily, Hawaii is just the spot for that, so I can’t wait to go there at the end of the month. As I was taught to do in improv class, I “yes anded” Crystal’s offer, and only extraordinary things can come from that: