How I Went To the Spa and Ended Up At the Grand Canyon

Image

There’s a lot of debate over Solo Travel – especially amongst women.  Is it dangerous? Is it lonely?  Does it mean that I’m pathetic because I can’t find anyone to go with me?

Not that I’m immune from these thoughts, but I am one of those people that does enjoy traveling alone.  In the past, I have traveled on my own for months at a time, and while it is lonely at times, it’s something that I enjoy forcing myself to do on a regular basis because…well,  it’s uncomfortable.  It takes me a couple days to get into the rhythm, but I’m quickly reminded that there are immense benefits.  I can allow myself to be indulgent – eat candy, stay inside, and sleep all day long with zero guilt.  I can choose my own itinerary.  I can sit in a cafe and read for 5 hours.  But the most important thing though, is gettting a rest from having to compromise in all your decisions.  So refreshing.

And so that’s how I ended up in Scottsdale, Arizona, in a room with 2 giant Queen beds, completely on my own. I’m sure some of you are saying “Alana, that’s not really a solo adventure.. I’ve traveled through the Sahara Desert on a camel for 6 months living with the locals.”  And I would say you’re right.  But I would also say that visiting a Republican state that loves guns, anti-immigration laws, Fox News and Nancy Grace is also an adventure for a girl from Vancouver, Canada.  Just a different kind.

So why Arizona you ask?  Expedia told me it was cheap, and the Westin was having a sell-out on their hotel rooms.  Need I say more?   The Westin, if you don’t know, has this Heavenly Bed upgrade which is exactly as advertised.  I was first introduced to it at a conference several years ago…. the bed at the hotel was so comfortable that I chose to play hooky and relax amongst the 8 pillows and extravagant white linens while watching crappy day-time television.  It was pure bliss.  So… obviously Arizona seemed like the place to go.  After all, how hot could it get in the beginning of July?

I arrived at the hotel and promptly took myself out for a fancy dinner at a Cuban restaurant.  I sat at the bar, ordered delicious cocktails and flirted with my server Jose, because after all, isn’t that the fun of traveling alone?  I went to bed early because each drink cost 12 dollars and I’m a bit cheap, and then woke up in the morning to beautiful sunshine.

I headed out to the pool, and started my first Solo Independent morning.  I’m not used to 39 degrees (103 Farenheit for you Americans), and so this was a bit uncomfortable.  That might have been mostly because I could only lie on the recliner on my back, since solo-sunscreen application proved to be a bit difficult.

By 1 pm it was a bit much, so I decided to go to the ice cream bar.  Guilt free.  I contemplated buying an extra one for my pretend vacation partner.  Not realizing that the effects of sunstroke were about to smack me in the face, I was a bit embarrassed when I got super nauseous and had to sit down collapse against the cold metal of the ice cream bar to rest.  Luckily the place was pretty empty and the 19 year old kid working there was very busy on his Facebook, so it wasn’t really that awkward.  I managed to push through (since I”m an independent solo woman), and passed out on the Heavenly bed to rest.

The next morning, fully recovered and pretty sure that my sun burn was just temporary, I had another great day at the pool. I bought a super ugly giant sun hat and rocked it because I remembered that no one knew me or cared what I looked like.  Solo travel was looking up again.

After 4 days of swimming in the pool and pretending to work out in the Spa (the TVs attached to the machines were really difficult to watch if you moved quickly), I had fully embraced my vacation.  I didn’t have to ask anyone what they wanted to eat, I stopped shaving my legs and washing my hair since there was no one to impress (except Jose), and I was having as many naps as I wanted without feeling lazy or ashamed.  I was a bit bored though, so decided to rent a car and go on a road trip.

I took off in a giant Buick rental car with room for 4 sets of golf clubs early the next morning, and headed north to Sedona.   Who knew that Arizona held some of the most beautiful scenery in the world?  My mind was blown.  Driving into Sedona and seeing the incredible Red Rocks was breath-taking.

Image

After taking about 80 images of rock formations for my geography students, I saw a sign for Helicopter Tours.  Of course!  This was easily justified because of the fact that I was being a virtuous and independent woman, and I subsequently booked myself into a 20 minute helicopter ride for an enormous amount of money.

The helicopter had no doors, and so you could lean right out to take pictures, and it was simply the seat belt that held you in.  I was in Rock Heaven (which does exist for you skeptics).  Here are some of the beautiful mesas and buttes that I saw.

When we landed it was only about noon and so I decided to just keep going… the Grand Canyon looked close on the map, and so I figured – why not?  I  headed off, and as the elevation changed, so did the weather.  Dark storms clouds emerged from nowhere, and the fields became dramatic.  I took some artsy photos out the window as I was driving.

drive1

By mid-afternoon I arrived at the Grand Canyon, one of the places I’ve most wanted to see, and it fulfilled its namesake in all its entirety.  I wandered around, called my father on my cell – the only other person I know that loves rocks as much as me – and then simply turned back.

grand 5grand6

Being alone, I had to take a self-portrait to prove that I was actually there, as it felt important to have at least one photograph with a person in it.

me1

It kind of looks like one of those silly and vain profile pictures that people take of themselves, but that was just because I was having trouble getting my whole face into the frame with the glare of the sun.

Traveling out the east exit of the Grand Canyon took me on a road that was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.  Once you leave the park, the canyon continues for miles, winding its way through the earth like a giant gash inflicted by a giant sword.  There are homes on the edge of the canyon, some without even electricity, completely isolated.   The wind picked up, and I contemplated what it must be like to live on the edge of such a dramatic and extreme landscape.

I made it back to the hotel after 12 hours of driving – one of the best random road trips of my life.  While it seemed ridiculous to have spent such a short time in two spectacular places, it was also just one of those things that happened…

I got into my giant spa tub, relaxed, and then called Daryl and got mad at him for not having called me while I was on my Solo Adventure Trip.  He replied “I thought you said to not call you because you were being independent?” and I stated “I know that’s what I said, but you were supposed to know I didn’t actually mean that.”   After I cleared up that confusion, the loneliness passed, and I reminded myself of the good things about the past week.  That actually, I was very very happy, and while I missed my family, I did adore traveling alone because it makes me feel brave…even if it’s just in the smallest way.

Do I wish that I could have shared the Grand Canyon with Daryl, or someone else that I loved?  Of course. But, when you are alone, you become more in tune with your emotions and your thoughts.  This focus leads to an intensity of emotions that isn’t always felt when traveling with others.  When you play the role of a stranger, alone in a foreign land, your sense of what it means to be alive, is simply very different.

And you also don’t have to share the wonderful free toiletries that they leave in the hotel room.

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “How I Went To the Spa and Ended Up At the Grand Canyon

    • Well, that’s just the nicest comment ever! And I mean it. There is just so much amazing writing on word press that it can be a bit intimidating at times. However, this blog has been the greatest thing to get me writing again, and back into the groove. I really appreciate the positive feedback, and am inspired to write something new ASAP.
      P.S. Your post today about Sex Tapes killed me! I laughed very hard. I can’t wait for Daryl to read it when he gets home from work.

      • Thank you. It’s not quite Grand Canyon caliber, but it was what was on my mind. I’m always surprised when one of these celebrity sex tapes come out. Why did they make it and how did it get to the public? They always seem so shocked. I want to say, “well, duh!” You made the thing what did you expect. All joy in your travels. I’m looking forward to reading about your next great adventure. HF

  1. What a great story! I travel alone for work a lot and just booked a flight to Scottsdale at the end of May. I really need to try to explore more and not just focus on work – look at all the fun I could be having!

    • Thanks so much for the visit and the appreciation!

      Yes, work and play go well together! Scottsdale was actually a great place to visit. There are lots of great restaurants that have happy hours where you can get great food and drinks at a nice price and sit on some good patios… There is also supposed to be a beautiful cactus garden somewhere close by as well. I think you’ll really enjoy it… but I would recommend heading to Sedona if you have a chance – it’s about 2 hours easy drive from Scottsdale. Have fun!

  2. Terrific blog title! They say the title is what really gets people in, and yours did for me! The writing also kept me going- very nice. Have you been to desert areas before? How did they compare with the US southwest?

    • Thanks so much for the visit, we’re glad that you like the blog! I’m glad that you liked the title. I was pretty proud of that one… I’ve been to the Sahara, the Atacama Desert in Chile and to quite a few of the deserts in California. The colours of the rocks in Arizona though are just so much brighter. I’ve heard that Utah looks pretty similar though. Have a great week!

  3. I love to travel alone! I don’t get to do it often, but I love it. I spent 2 weeks (summer before last) alone in the Tetons and Yellowstone, and it was fabulous! I need to do it again, and this post really reminds me of why. Really enjoy your writing. I live 1 hr from Vancouver. We’re lucky to know that anywhere we go, we return to an incredibly beautiful place!

    • Good for you! Solo travel is wonderful, it’s just so rare to get a chance to relax and do whatever you please! I’ve always wanted to go to Yellowstone – it’s on my list for sure. Thanks for the visit and the comment — especially about the writing. =) That’s a wonderful comment, especially in light of your post today about Blogger vs. Writer. Where do you live? Just in Washington? Have a great week!

  4. I was just talking to my niece a few days ago, and she was telling me about her spring break trip to the Grand Canyon— I’ve never been, always wanted to, and absolutely will, but in the meantime, I’m really enjoying your story and photos!!

    • Thanks so much for the visit and comment! I’m glad that you liked the story. When I was posting those photos I was struck again by how gorgeous that scenery is. You should definitely visit sometime!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s