I’ve always loved the adventure of travel and could not wait to grow up, leave home and head out to see the world. By 2002, I had been to a number of places in the US, Latin America, Africa and Europe. I had been to these places either with others or knew someone in those cities whom I could stay with during my visit. There were so many other places that I wanted to visit and for a long time I decided to put them on hold and wait for my Mr. Right to show-up and then we would travel the globe together, whilst having a series of adventures. But alas, that was not the case; not in 2002 anyway!
When yet another relationship ended in Spring 2002, I found myself wondering whether I would indeed get to meet that illusive Mr. Right. I started to consider all the things that I had been saving to do with a partner and wondered whether I would get to do them at all. Up until the end of that relationship, the idea of going on vacation by myself, to a place where I knew no one was the furthest thing from my mind. I had heard of people who did such things and at the time I used to feel that it was something sad and did not wish to entertain the possibility.
And so, in Summer 2002, I found myself booking a one-week vacation to Miami for the Autumn. I was told by friends that this was Hurricane season, but I thought ‘hey, I’ve put life on hold for too long. I’m going regardless’. Although I had been to Florida the year prior, I never made it to Miami. I remember seeing many pictures of South Beach in the past and thinking ‘I’d love to go there someday’ (yes, with him, the illusive Mr. Right!).
I set off on my trip on a Friday in late November 2002; I was flying from London Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic. I remember getting to the airport much earlier than required, so that I could soak up the atmosphere and experience. The flight was delayed for about 4 hours, but nothing was going to stop my excitement of finally doing something that I had never thought I’d have the courage to do. We finally took off and at about 20 minutes or so into the flight, the pilot announced that there was a problem with the plane and that we would have to return to Heathrow. I remember thinking for a split second, ‘my vacation is not to be’. But that soon passed to, ‘wow, what an adventure this is turning out to be’. On getting back to Heathrow, we got off the flight and after a couple of hours of hanging around the terminal, we were told that the flight would now be departing the next day as the problem with the plane could not be fixed.
During the wait at the airport, the passengers had started to bond with each other. One of the passengers was a Nigerian who lived in Miami, being of Nigerian heritage myself we started to bond over tales of our childhood in Nigeria. At about 11pm, the airline got a coach and transported us to a hotel near the airport. I had dinner with my new friend, along with a few of the other passengers. I rang the hotel in Miami to update them on the delay. The person I spoke to was so gracious and said that they would simply move my booking forward by a day, which meant I would be checking out a day later than I had booked.
Early that next day, we all piled into the coach and headed back to the airport. This time the flight took off, with no glitches. I had somehow managed to get a seat next to my new friend and we chatted most of the way. I’d already found out the night before that he was straight, married with kids and so whatever brief fantasy I might have had disappeared rapidly. Before landing he gave me his card and suggested I come round for dinner and meet his family. As I slid the card into my pocket, I knew I was not going to make that visit, although my words to him said otherwise. This was a trip where I wanted to be in the company of myself. I had spent so much time looking for myself in others, this time I wanted to be alone and simply enjoy being with me.
The hotel was a charming and lovely art deco design and only a stones’ throw from South Beach. I did spend everyday on the beach, starting off with jogging, and then heading back to the hotel for breakfast. Then back to the beach, then off for lunch. Then back to the beach, I’m sure you get a sense of the rhythm I was in. Even though I had ventured on the trip alone, it did not feel that way. There was so much to do and even when I was doing nothing, that somehow felt like enough. The week flew by so fast and before long it was time to return home. Having the extra night in the hotel came in handy, my flight was at night and so it meant that I did not have to do the usual checking out at midday.
I don’t often think of my trip to Miami, I have now been on so many other vacations by myself that they start merging into one. However, a couple of months ago, I was heading out for a picnic in Hyde Park, London with some friends and while looking for a blanket for the grass, I came across the massive beach towel I had bought on my first morning on the way to South Beach. I remember buying it and thinking ‘I’ll have to leave this here in Miami at the end of the trip as I will never get to use this again and it’s too big to fit in my luggage’. At the end of the trip, I had gotten attached to the thing and did somehow manage to squeeze it into my suitcase. On getting home, it has since lived at the bottom of my wardrobe all these years, until that early spring afternoon a couple of months ago.
As I reflect on the trip to Miami now, I come to realize that not only was this the first time I went on vacation by myself, It was also the first time that I became comfortable with my own company and got to truly know that I am okay, with or without the illusive Mr. Right.
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