Traveling Solo

I’ve travelled to many wonderful cities since I gave in to my wanderlust, and have loved nearly every place that I’ve visited. But, when I recall my solo trip to Germany  and Italy, I will always say that it was my best vacation ever. EVER!

I had never travelled solo for vacation before. I’d travelled many times for work and conferences ( work/school related), but more often than not, I’d always see someone who I knew or strike up a friendship with someone also attending the conference.

But this time, I was all alone.

My itinerary was set for 2 weeks. I  left Atlanta and landed in Munich. From there, I visited with family in Germany for a week. After that week, I kissed them goodbye and boarded the train for Italy. Destination: Venice. Party of one.

No, I didn’t know anyone there.

No, I didn’t ( and still don’t) speak Italian.

 

The train ride through southern Germany and through Austria was picture postcard magic. Just beautiful. Being alone, forced me to look out the window and see the world as it whizzed by. Just before the train arrived in Venice ( Italy), the sea salt air beckoned me to lean out the window and take it all in. I got a taxi to the hotel from the train station and settled into my room overlooking the Grand Canal. Bella!!! Soon, my wander got the best of me and I had to hit the pavement! I love cities that are easy to navigate on foot, and Venice is definitely a walking city ( no cars are allowed). There are seemingly endless mazes of sidewalks and bridges, and it’s nearly impossible to take a boring photo there.  I walked for hours, well past sundown and found the city more alluring by moonlight. After my first few hours of solitude, I began to settle in. Even at night, I felt safer than I have ever felt in the USA. Of course, I used common sense, (and recommend that you do as well); no visiting dark alleys, no rides with strangers, etc. I checked in with home daily and alerted them of my daily itinerary. After a few days in Venice, and learning a few phrases ( Ciao!), I moved on to the next stop, Milan. After Milan, I spent the last days of my solo sojourn in Rome, the Eternal City, and my adopted second home.

So why was this vacation my best EVER?? For the most part of that vacation, I was footloose and fancy free. No rules. No guidelines. No expectations…And I loved every minute of it!! I danced to my own rhythm. I got up when I wanted. I went where I wanted and stayed and as long as I chose. I changed my plans on the fly- and no one objected. I ate when and where I wanted. I lingered  at tables over a bottle of wine and watched the world go by. I did exactly what I wanted to do, precisely when I intended.

I discovered a love of Italy, and consider it my European home. But most importantly, I learned how to enjoy being in my own company. That being alone does not equate to being lonely. I got out of my comfort zone and talked to strangers. I tried new things. And in the end, experienced Italy in a way that probably wouldn’t have been possible in someone else’s presence.

Now that I am a wife and mother, being away from them for 2 weeks would be nearly impossible for many reasons. But I will always hold this trip with special fondness. I recommend that,  if possible, take a solo vacation. You’ll be enriched for many years afterwards!

Some tips for traveling solo….

  1. Give a family member ( or someone else that you trust) a COLOR copy of your passport photo page and driver’s license in case of emergency.
  2. Give a copy of your itinerary, including how you will travel. Flight and/or train numbers, time of arrival/departure. Name, address and phone number of all hotels where you will stay and the dates of arrival/departure. Your hotel room number.
  3. Give a copy of your medical history, including illnesses and medications and name/contact info of your treating physician(s).
  4. Location of the embassy in every country you will visit.
  5. Put a color copy of your passport in every piece of your luggage.
  6. Before you take a tour, research it and make sure it is legit.
  7. Take only authorized transportation. Be wary of random people offering transportation at train stations and airports.
  8. Use common sense- be it day or night.

Enjoy your travels and tell us about your solo treks!

  
~Dr. Peaches & Miss Pickles

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Visiting Times Square for New Year’s Eve has always been a bucket list trip for me. Every year, I’d watch the ball drop, and wish that I could be at the big party in NYC. So this past January, I booked the trip!

I’ve stayed in Times Square on a trip with Miss Pickles, and loved the DoubleTree Suites hotel. I used my Hilton Honors points to book the room and found an airfare sale. A few short ( read: long) months later, WE’RE HERE!!!

  

  
  
    
    
    
    
  
 

 

 

 STAYING IN TIMES SQUARE FOR NYE

Preparations in Times Square for the coming new year start very early. In the early morning hours, barricades start going up, and street closings start. People start filling up the streets as early as 9 am! Yes, these individuals will stand for several hours in the cold, without access to bathrooms, for hours awaiting the ball drop.

  

  
So if you’re planning to venture out, let’s say for lunch as we did, prepare for a trek. The DoubleTree is at the corner of 47th Street and 7th Ave. The Hard Rock Restaurant is at 43rd Street and 7th Ave…so not far. About 0.6 miles actually, and ordinarily a straight shot. But NYE in Times Square is anything but ordinary. We walked down 47th to 6th and then over to 43rd and back to 7th because of the street closings and barricades.  

The restaurants in the surrounding area close early. Many were hosting private parties with views of the activities. For example, Bubba Gump was closing early in order to host a party with a $900 pp ticket fee! (say whaaaaa?) So, if you didn’t make it to the restaurant before about 2 pm, you were out of luck! We ate at Bubba Gump ( because it was open), and as a bonus got great views of Times Square, the preparations, and growing crowds.

       This was the crowd at 1pm….
After we finished, we had hoped to take the same route back to the hotel….NO MA’AM! So, we trekked up 44th Street to 8th Ave., then over to 49th Street. We had to show our hotel room key along with a pass (given by the hotel) in order to get through the barricades. So down 49th Street to Broadway-more barricades, and finally a personal police escort (otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere) through more barricades back to our hotel. Whew!

HANGING OUT IN TIMES SQUARE

NYC’s police department uses barricades to create “pens” down 7th Ave and surrounding streets. Some rules:

  1. Once you enter a pen area, there is no re-entry. Once you leave, you’re out.
  2. There are no porta-potty’s.
  3. The pens are closed by 11am.
  4. Some larger bags are confiscated at the pen entry and are not returned.

So here are my tips for navigating…

  1. Be aware that some train platforms close earlier than usual on NYE. So your train stop may not be available. And you may not be able to get back to your hotel depending on the time of day ( even with the passes/hotel keys).
  2. BRING PATIENCE. There are about 1 million extra people in TS on NYE. It takes longer to go everywhere
  3. Prepare to walk—alot. On NYE, the streets around TS are closed to car traffic ( except for emergency vehicles) for many blocks.
  4. The train schedule is altered, check the transit website for details.
  5. Keep your ID handy.
  6. Dress for the weather and for walking.
  7. Plan to get out and back to your hotel early. I had hoped we could do an activity before all the festivities started…nope!
  8. Reconsider trekking out with very small children (unless you are prepared to carry them), strollers, wheelchairs, etc. The sidewalks are incredibly congested.

All in all, I’m glad that I got the chance to cross this off my bucket list. It was great hanging out with my family, even though we were pretty much confined to the hotel. The energy in the area was incredible, and seeing the ball drop, and the confetti shower at the stroke of midnight, were definitely unforgettable. But I’ll chose another time for my next trip to NYC!

  That’s not snow…it’s confetti! Lots and lots of confetti.

Happy New Year from Dr. Peaches  & Miss Pickles!!

  

Falling Forward: Facing your fears and winning

Going All In

I am an adult learner. I am learning how to swim. It has been a slow and steady process, and although this is my 4th time “learning,” I’m confident that this time the lessons will stick. While I’m impressed with my abilities and new confidence in the water, I’m more in awe of the things I’ve learned about myself and how it applies to my life. 
At the first lesson, I refused to put my face in the water. “You’re not a fish- you can’t breathe under the water,” my inner voice said. But without fully immersing my face, I’d never become the swimmer I wanted to be. So the question I posed to myself was simple… Do you want to be a swimmer, or do you want to just keep your head above water and be limited to the shallow end of the pool? 

Limitations. Hate those. 

In life, are you just keeping your head above water? In your marriage, as a parent, at your job? Or could it be that if you went all in, face and all, would you be a better version of yourself? Could you be? 

The lesson: 

Immerse yourself and be fully present. 

Leaning In- Mommy style

Growing up, my solitary ambition was to be a doctor. Not. Anything. Else. Becoming a wife and mother were the theoretical things on the check list of my youth.  College.  Medical school. Marriage. Kids. Check. Check. Check. Check. As time moved on, my ambition became my reality. I was Dr. Hines. It was wonderful! I worked a ton of hours- always finding new things to strive for. I was tired, but satisfied.  And then, I became a mother. As all mothers will tell you, motherhood changes you in ways that are unimaginable and difficult to articulate. There I was with everything-  career, love, and now a beautiful daughter.  And I was exhausted…. And I wanted out. I needed out. My life had become overwhelmingly stressful. I loved being a doctor, but at the end of the day, I dragged an exhausted, frustrated, cranky bitch home to my family.  My daughter deserved better. So a choice had to be made. For many reasons, I could not leave medicine. But something had to change….something had changed.  I no longer wanted to be the career-driven woman that I once had been. So I leaned out of my career, and leaned in to being Mommy. I thought I would miss her- my work self. Funny thing is, I don’t.  Some days,  I hardly recognize myself. Long gone for me are the days of working 18 hour days, leaving home in the dead of night to go to the hospital, calls that interrupt family time, missed opportunities to participate in my child’s life…. Nowadays, I work as little as I need to. I realize that my fear was not in being judged as a bad mother. My very real fear was of becoming an absentee one.  Now I don’t miss anything. I don’t miss school plays, field trips, birthday parties. I am able to participate in my daughter’s school, and get great satisfaction from volunteer work. After many years, and many attempts,  I found a balance that works for me. It came when I realized that I didn’t have to juggle all the balls- some of them I could just set down.