Calling all Mickey Mouse-obsessed friends and acquaintances! There is a free room with your name on it in the wonderful world of Disney. Enjoy three nights of warmth, adventure, and gators. I am guaranteed to make a good snuggle buddy and entertaining plane partner, so book your trip now with yours truly and there may be a tan in your future.
This was going to be the advertisement I’d put out on Facebook to convince any friends to accompany me along my Floridian journey. For my full-time job I have to attend a conference every year in Orlando… I know, my life is so hard! The conference is at a beautiful resort conveniently located next to Epcot. You would think I could have gotten one person to take off of work to bathe in 80 degree weather, but I guess no one wanted a poolside piña colada.
This trip, therefore, did not only mark my second trip to the Distance Learning Conference, but the first trip I’d ever take by myself. Last year I had no one fly with me into Orlando, but at least my colleagues were waiting for me to attend the sessions together. This year, no one was going. It was just me, myself, and Mickey!
Would I be bored? Would I get abducted like in the Liam Neeson thriller Taken? Would I wake up late and miss the sessions? Would I feel awkward dining alone each night?
The answer was “no” to all. I was completely content with my solitude; I did not meet any creepos; I woke up promptly every morning; and I had no qualms with eating alone while others dined in groups around me. I found myself taking full advantage of my time alone. Not only that, but I started to enjoy it. I realized I could go anywhere I wanted without having to consult somebody else. It was like having my own pad in the middle of Disney World that definitely beats an overpriced Hoboken apartment.
The biggest night on my trip was Epcot. It just so happened to be the Food and Wine Festival in October, and the conference lets the attendees in for free. I got to waltz right in and walk around the countries. I tried cuisine from Hawaii, South Africa, South Korea, the Caribbean, and Germany. I even got to talk to someone from Germany who taught me how to say, “How are you?” in his language. I met people from Alabama who had to deal with the BP oil spill in their backyard, who also rescued little dogs. I met people from all over the world as I sampled the food from other cultures.
It dawned on me that traveling by yourself is actually a rewarding experience. You get to make the vacation what you want it to be. The only thing you have to make sure is that you are safe. It is good to speak to people, but I have three cardinal rules:
1) Don’t give away the town you live in. One woman asked what city I live in, and I kept it as general as possible. “Near New York City in Jersey,” I would respond.
2) Don’t let people see what floor you are on. If I was in an elevator with one other gentleman, I didn’t want him to see where I was getting off. So, I’d conveniently selected the floor below and waited for the next elevator.
3) Don’t look so lost. Sometimes I can look like a complete tourist when I walk around oogling the buildings and decor. It is good when you go through airports or are traveling to appear confident. I feel people can take advantage of you more when you seem vulnerable and “doe-eyed.”
In summation, if you ever have to take a vacation by yourself, don’t fret. It is actually quite liberating and self-defining. You can make your own schedule. Imagine how easy it is to plan something with one other person let alone five other people? Now imagine planning something with just yourself? Although I was singing to “It’s a Small World After All” and drinking out of Sleeping Beauty-themed cups, I can say with confidence I went there a scared little girl and came back a woman. Ironic, isn’t it?