Friday, August 7, 2015

Table For One

Solo Travel - Part 1 

I’ve never been the type of person who was comfortable going out solo. Sure, I liked my alone time and had no issues running errands alone, shopping or just spending a quiet evening at home.  But eating at a restaurant by myself, seeing a movie and certainly traveling alone was out of my comfort zone.
I often felt envious of the people who had the confidence to travel alone and I couldn’t have imagined becoming one of those people. In late June this year everything changed.

I received an email about a travel agent opportunity in Mexico. It involved touring three resorts and meeting several contacts at a popular resort chain that I have sent many clients to. It was the perfect opportunity to increase my knowledge, meet face-to-face with the hotel staff and see the new accommodations that one of the resorts recently built.

This was an agent-only trip, which meant no guests allowed. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity so I pushed past my comfort zone and confirmed my participation.

I had some concerns about traveling alone which I think anyone would have. I knew that I needed to be aware of my surroundings at all times. I made sure not to flash money and I didn’t wear expensive jewelry. I learned as much Spanish as I could in the month that I had to prepare and made sure that my transportation and accommodations were pre-arranged and confirmed. 

My stomach filled with butterflies as I wheeled my luggage through the automatic doors of the CVG Airport and down the hall to the Frontier counter. I waited a short time for my turn, then answered matter-of-factly when the agent asked, “Is it just you?”

After checking my luggage it was time for the security line. There’s nothing pleasant about airport security but the process was fast and I didn’t have to wait around for a traveling companion. 

I always arrive to the airport early. I would much rather spend extra time relaxing and reading than panicking and running to the gate. So, just as any other trip, I had a lot of time to spare. I went to Starbucks and ordered a latte, and leisurely walked down to my gate.

When I got there I plugged in my phone to charge and started reading one of the travel magazines I brought with me. There was a group of young travelers nearby and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversations. They were likely in their early twenties and they were all wearing matching T-shirts announcing their “Cancun Summer Vacation 2015.”

I couldn’t help but overhear their conversations and share in their excitement for the journey ahead. 

Right before boarding I witnessed this group attempting to use a selfie-stick to take a group photo. Even with the stick fully extended they still couldn’t quite fit the whole bunch into the frame so I offered to snap a few photos. As we all boarded the plane together I felt like a temporary member of the “Cancun Summer Vacation 2015 group.”

I love direct flights. Three hours later we were in Cancun. It was sunny and 80 degrees. The airport is was easy to navigate and since we arrived so early in the day it was not yet crowded. I waited a short time in the customs line after grabbing my checked luggage. I was one of the lucky ones and they pulled my bag aside to go through it by hand. Having it organized and having my smaller items all in clear plastic bags was extremely helpful.

Once I got my bag back I headed to the restroom. Typically I would ask my traveling partner to watch my bags while I went in, but this time I was on my own. I fumbled around a bit trying to navigate the small entry way and even smaller amount of space I had to fit my checked bag, carry-on bag and large purse… but I made it work and as strange as it may sound, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I also decided that I should learn to travel lighter. I heeded the sign in at the sink that read, “Water not suitable for drinking,” and opted to use some hand sanitizer after washing my hands just in case.

It was time to meet up with my transfer. I booked with AmStar,  who I highly recommend. I quickly walked past the “Time Share” area of the airport (as I always tell my clients to do) and went straight outside where I found a nice gentleman holding a sign with my name. He called his co-worker over to assist me.

Rafael was a cute twenty-something charmer with a huge smile. He told me not to wait in the transfer line, that he would assist me personally. We talked back and forth and he helped me practice my Spanish for about ten minutes while we waited for my van to come. When the driver came out, Rafael introduced me and sent me on my way, ending our conversation with, “Enjoy Cancun, bonita pelirroja.”

The driver said we had a couple joining us before we headed out to the resort. They arrived a few minutes later and we left the airport. I struck up a friendly conversation with them, learning that they had been on my flight too, were from Cincinnati and their names were Steve and Mary. We had a nice talk and they took my business card to keep in touch after the trip. As we pulled up to my resort, Now Sapphire, it started to sink in. I was in Mexico… alone for the next seven days...

Now Sapphire - Riviera Maya Mexico

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