By Jarod Todeschi
“How are you spending spring break?” many students might ask one another in the weeks preceding it, as I asked my friend, Lavender Wu (’18) as the celebratory week off approached.
“I am going to Cancun!” she told me, “I’m going by myself.”
A light bulb went off in my head. Spring break is understandably a point in the semester where students might be anxious to escape Salem and do something exciting or rewarding with friends. But here, it occured to me that the secret to a perfect spring break might be to spend it alone.
For Psychology Today, Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote an article titled “6 Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone,” including improved concentration and increased productivity, crucial characteristics for strong students. Alone time also provides space for open thinking, reflection and discovery. Similar to sleeping, solitude gives your brain a chance to reboot and revitalize, giving it a rest from the chaotic stimuli of everyday interactive life.
Alone time can often be the screen for projections of insecurity as well, according to Brent Crane from The Atlantic ,who wrote “Humans have long stigmatized solitude. It has been considered an inconvenience, something to avoid, a punishment, a realm of loners. Science has often aligned it with negative outcomes.”
As more contemporary attention is being focused on concepts of isolation, though “scientists are approaching solitude as something that, when pursued by choice, can prove therapeutic,” as reported in an article titled “The Virtues of Solitude.”
News of Wu’s spring break adventure inspired me to pull my pennies together and book one night away at a seaside resort with no specific itinerary. In the spirit of freedom, I took a scenic loop off of the main highway to get there. I pulled over on the last leg of the journey to inhale the fresh Pacific Ocean breeze, something you can’t find in Salem.
Wu was raised in China and moved to the USA for school in 2012. “Its my last year in America,” she continued, “so I thought if not now, then when? I decided I would go to Cancun even if I couldn’t find anyone to go with me.”
Wu did admit, “I was afraid. Besides coming to America, it was my first time going to a foreign country alone, and I didn’t speak Spanish.”
At a point she began to search for a travelling buddy online. “I saw a website for other people looking for travel buddies, so I posted about my Cancun plans and one guy’s timing worked out with mine, and we talked every night before the trip to ensure that we were on the same page about where we wanted to go and everything.”
For Forbes Magazine, Donna Sapolin mentioned a few tips for solo travellers, consisting of sticking to public places and walking with an air of confidence, avoiding a tourist demeanor, staying aware of the location of your valuables and booking escorted group tours with others.
To ease her nerves, Wu did a lot of preparation, reflecting the agency Sapolin addresses as a necessity for individual travelers. “I looked at the hotel resorts to make sure that they were safe, and if I went to a place alone I made sure I didn’t go late at night.”
Such efforts were not as successful for Wu’s travel companion. “My travel buddy got robbed on the second day of our trip.”
Wu was also able to spend some alone time at the beach. “At first I felt weird that I was the only one there without company, but I saw people using seaweed to write names and notes on the sand, so to surprise my friend for their birthday I started collecting seaweed to write a happy birthday note.” She found that even in our solitude, we aren’t ever really alone. “A few people stopped and looked at what I wrote and smiled at me”.