By Gina Abuyuan
Writer and editor Alya Honasan takes pride in her annual solo getaways. She’s a diver, and for about a decade now, she embarks on dive trips—Palawan, Palau, Australia—by herself. It’s invigorating, she says. And the feeling of freedom and independence is like no other.
When I was single, I never had the courage to take off the way Alya does, even though I daydreamed about it. Hitch-hiking across the Philippines, setting up a tent alone on a beach, discovering Sagada on my own–I thought about all doing those things, but never had the balls to carry them out. I stand barely five feet, a tad gullible, and sometimes too shy to speak out in case I offend someone (although people close to me are sure to contest that)—not an ideal formula for a solo female traveller.
These days, though—older, tougher, not afraid to tell someone off–I can pretty much hold my own. I’ve travelled to Camarines Norte and Palawan alone, downed drinks in bars alone, and roamed the backstreets of Chiang Mai alone. The latest solo trip I took was the one to Marabut, Samar, for a much needed break after a weighty assignment interviewing farmers affected by climate change in Southern Leyte.
I chose Caluwayan Resort, a three-star resort with four villas and two open cottages fronting the beach. Since I didn’t have the budget to rent a villa (P5,000 a night), I opted for the open cottage—and when I say open, I mean open. It’s a gazebo walled-in by a white canvas tied to the posts. The “door” is a double layered curtain of canvas and gauze. There’s a double bed and a side table. It may sound bare, but it was actually quite comfortable. I felt like I was sleeping in my own room, with the bonus of the sound of waves and natural breeze. Magical.
That said, there are certain things you need to remember if you choose to go on a solo holiday. Here are the most important:
- Make sure your kids, husband or partner, or a close friend knows where you’re going. Show them the web site and give them the contact details. Tell them when you plan to leave, and your ETA back in your hometown.
- Keep your mobile phone on (even if it’s on silent) all the time. If the signal’s wonky (as it is in Samar), inform them so they don’t worry.
- Bring medication if you’ve got a condition that calls for it. I’m asthmatic, so I bring at least two inhalers with me, plus anti-histamines. Inform the restaurant or the cook of any allergies, so they don’t mix any crab or shrimp or lobster (in my case, that is) in your food.
- Bring along a self-defense weapon and know how to use it. This can be a pepper spray, a taser, or a small knife.
- Don’t attract attention. It’s inevitable that a man/men will want to chat you up or be curious on your solo status. I choose not to make eye contact if I sense a man is trying to catch my attention, and I clothe myself in a “leave me alone” aura. I also make it a point to let the receptionist or waiter or boatman know that I’m married (or at least, partnered) and have three children. This is my way of saying, “Yes, people will look for me if I disappear.”
- Don’t get inebriated. No explanation needed.
Some moms may think that this is a little extreme—alone time away, hundreds of kilometers from home, when an hour at the spa can do the trick. There comes certain instances, though, certain valleys in one’s psychological, emotional, and physical health patterns, that can only be cured by a literal change of pace and scenery. Like Alya’s—and if you are so inclined—you can treat yourself to a solo holiday once a year. Let go of the guilt, plan it well, involve the help and understanding of your partner, support group, and kids. Take it from me: you will come back renewed and refreshed. You won’t regret it, and—seeing what good it did Mom–neither will your partner and children.