Solo Trip

One year ago this week, I took a vacation with myself to Heidelberg, right before starting my Master’s degree and right after quitting my job.

I had no expectations. I just wanted to eat soft pretzels and walk around for a few days. Read some books. Sit in some cute German cafes. Reflect on my life and be by myself.

It’s crazy to think this was my last trip outside of the Netherlands since then. I now have endless hours to look inward and be by myself, for myself, but then it felt like a treat.

There is a long laundry list of reasons why this pandemic is awful. Isolation is used to punish prisoners, after all. But there is also something calm and quiet about finding smaller things to appreciate in life. Being with yourself without the expectation of productivity or “getting things done”. That’s what my trip to Germany was last year. A reset. A bunch of books and me. Wandering around. Watching Netflix in my little single hotel bed after dark because there was nothing else to do, no one else to see. I didn’t know anyone in Heidelberg. I had no real reason to visit. I just went because I could.

Now, no one can go anywhere without a reason. The Netherlands has a curfew. People are rioting, destroying stores, fighting with police.

As we get antsy and angry and claustrophobic in this lock down, it’s good to remember that sometimes there is calm where you are. You don’t have to go anywhere to be by yourself. And sometimes a vacation alone is just what you need.

The Rules

So, as I have mentioned before, I am a top-notch, high-ranking corona worrier. The plan for this vacation was to bunker down with friends in the middle of nowhere for a week, and hang out in our bubble.

The problem is the airbnb landlord, a plump jolly looking older gentleman who owns a series of slightly dinky and rundown farm homes, seems to have no concept of a bubble, and keeps entering ours.

Everything in this holiday home is from the second hand store. It looks okay until further inspection, when you realize it doesn’t work quite right. The oven door won’t close, the shower floods the bathroom, the dishwasher doesn’t clean, there are no plugs in our bedroom or lights in the right spot. The toilet paper roll falls on the floor every. single. time. because the holder is missing a screw. The bathtub leaks. The list goes on.

Luckily, the landlord is very responsive. He has given us apology wine, then come back with apology cake. He comes in to hum and haw and try to fix things whenever we tell him something, essentially everything, is broken. Luckily for my peace of mind, each time he swings by, we have been out of the house for a walk. But yesterday he took me by surprise. In a time where I am terrified to be with other human beings inside, he barreled into the kitchen while I was looking for a snack. Panicked, I yelped, frozen where I was, and then ran from him as if he was a serial killer, into the other room. My husband and I hid in our bedroom as he messed around with the stove in the kitchen and I worried my hardest that his germs were polluting our air. When I finally emerged, my friend reported he had accidentally taken a kitchen hand cloth, and come back to return it. Then accidentally stolen my phone from the kitchen table, the one I abandoned in fear, and had to come back to return it. For a man we wanted in the house zero times, he came in three times in one afternoon.

Then I think – why not have a rave? Why not lick someone’s face? We have kept such strict corona rules for ourselves just to have this one man come in and turn my world upside-down. We haven’t let my in-laws come over, haven’t seen friends in months. And now suddenly this random stranger can come into our kitchen with an apology cake? What is the limit? What is the rule? If this man can come in 10 times in a week, why am I not hugging my nephew? Or my best friends? Why am I not going to a gym class? My world quickly is turned on its head. In a time when nothing makes sense but we are trying to follow rules, what rules are right?

Then I think of this dietician’s advice: just because you eat a donut once, doesn’t mean you have to eat donuts the rest of the day. Being healthy and eating healthy is not ruined forever.

So I picked myself up from a collapsing puddle of worry on the floor, all from one visit from a man trying to fix the oven in our holiday home, and got myself back together. Back to hand sanitizer and masks. Back to eating broccoli and holding out for my desert until this is over. Luckily we still have some apology cake in the fridge.

Corona Pains

The past few days, I had been unconsciously clenching my jaw so much that I could no longer open my mouth fully. I had to carefully maneuver food inside, and still prefer apple sauce over granola due to the amount of effort it takes to get down. My body hurts from stress.

I am not out of shape, but my legs feel a bit shaky when I go for walks, not used to stepping at their same pace and frequency this year. I have three pimples in my yogi third eye. What does that mean? Am I emotionally clogged?

It feels that way, sometimes. Since March, I often feel like I am on a plane waiting to crash. At the moment, we are at a holiday house with a family in our corona bubble, and this is finally the time to relax. But I still feel sometimes like I have forgotten how.

When will I not be like this?

It has gotten a little better now on day three. I am starting to take deeper breaths; we’re doing yoga and takings walks, playing board games and reading books. But still, when someone tries to pass me in the kitchen, or hand me something, it’s like their hands are on fire. I’m afraid to be too close.

So much of my time up until this moment has been scheduled in zoom, smiling at people I either enjoy talking to, or feel uncomfortable in front of – in school, for work, at home “connecting.” But what if these tools aren’t enough for the human connection I’ve missed since March?

I hope I will remember how to be there for people when this is all over, when I can manage more than just a text, and give a hug instead. I hope this pandemic hasn’t broken my spirit like it has often broken my body – a injured hip, a twisted knee, now a sore poorly functioning jaw. I hope these are just growing pains, that we are all in a metamorphosis now, just waiting for something better, something new. No longer caterpillars inching along, looking down, trying to get where we need to be, but something else. Something able to fly.


My dad had three pairs of shoes: his LLBean duck boots, and his black slippers – one pair in suede, and the other in leather. The leather ones had hard plastic soles and were deemed his dress slippers; he’d wear them to formal events accordingly.

Growing up, I never thought of this as particularly strange. I can’t think of a time he wore sneakers, for instance. During my childhood, he was at one time a limo driver and at another, a country club bartender, so he did own one pair of shiny tuxedo shoes for work, but otherwise there was nothing in between. He went to the supermarket in his slippers, to weddings, to restaurants.

The two sets always sat by the door, ready for their next event. Before we’d go out, he’d pick accordingly. Sometimes he’d ask to make sure. “What type of thing is this? Should I wear my dress slippers?”

I think now that my dad was ahead of his time. Today, shoes seem obsolete when considering the comfort of working and bunkering from home. Everyone has a pair of dress slippers now.

Inspired by him, whenever it’s not raining, I put on my “formal” slippers and step onto the balcony, or into the grass, to enjoy the rays.

I like to think he’d approve, as I stand outside in my PJs for all the neighbors to see, me in my formal slippers, ready to take on the day.