A Single Traveler's Manifesto
I’m writing this while sitting at SeaTac International Airport, awaiting my third flight of the day as I make my way to Alaska for a backcountry snow machine tour. It’s the twelfth time I’ve occupied an airport in the last 24 days; they’re starting to blend together.
In the spirit of honesty, I'll tell you that my ex-girlfriend and I got into a fight the night before I left, and a series of texts this very afternoon has signaled what seems to be the end of an eight-month rollercoaster of highs and lows. So it looks like I'll be making plans to spend Valentine's Day on my own this year.
Perhaps because I'm so terrible at maintaining any sort of relationship, I'm pretty damn good at being alone, especially around the holidays.
Perhaps because I'm so terrible at maintaining any sort of relationship, I'm pretty damn good at being alone, especially around the holidays. Last Christmas I found myself while wandering the streets of Pokhara. This Thanksgiving I had an eight-dollar filet mignon in Kathmandu before spending the rest of the night joyriding a rickshaw around Thamel. The last Valentine's Day that I remember celebrating was spent hiking 55 miles of the Trans Catalina Trail in a weekend with my buddy Alan (I wasn't totally alone here, but you get the picture).
Throughout the years and these experiences, I've learned how to make the most out of this love-centric holiday, even if I'm not in a relationship. Here are a few of my tried and true tips for staving off depression this Valentine's Day.
Few things are as gratifying as picking up a new skill, especially as an adult. Whether it's learning how to build a table from scratch, taking a cooking class, or sending your first route at the crag — the challenge of learning something new will occupy your mind while simultaneously providing opportunities to meet like-minded people, grow as a person, and develop new confidence in yourself. Maybe you’ll even discover a hidden talent along the way.
Or rediscover an old one. Whether it’s stored on Pinterest, a note-taking app, or a in pocket journal, you surely keep a list of places you’ve been dying to explore. So go explore them. Chances are that one of those destinations is within five hours from where you live, whether it’s accessible by flying or driving. Don’t have a ton of cash to throw down? There are equal chances that someplace awesome is lurking nearby. Find it. (National forests and Wilderness areas are a great place to start looking.)
Alternately, some places are worth revisiting. You know which ones those are. They call out to you like a siren at sea — beckoning your soul with promises of a renewed spirit. Answer that call. But don’t expect the same experience that you had before. Cast away any preconceived notions of what you might find and rediscover those gems in a new light.
Who besides your mother loves you unconditionally? Your pet. Camping and hiking with your dog (or even your cat!) can create a special bond between the two of you. And that bond is pretty incredible, especially when shared in the backcountry. Try it out; you might find yourself a new adventure buddy.
You work hard, and there’s nothing wrong with a little self-indulgence. So get a massage. Grill a nice steak. Go do something fun: think dirt biking or go-karting or paragliding. Really, anything that you enjoy or you’ve been wanting to try will do. By the end of it, you’ll have enjoyed the activity so much that you won’t even remember that you were preoccupied on a holiday designed for couples.
What’s better than treating yourself? Treating someone else. It could be a simple gesture like buying a drink for the person in line behind you at the coffee shop, or something more committed like volunteering to play board games with patients at your local hospital or enlisting in a trail crew to do maintenance on your favorite hike. Whatever it is will not only enrich someone else’s day, but it’ll make you feel better about yourself, too. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
While this outlook may seem pessimistic at first, it's actually quite the opposite. Modern society has commercialized a handful of days throughout each year, convincing us that those days are more special than the rest — but that's BS. Each and every day on this glorious planet is is a gift, so treat it like one. If we shift our perspective and approach life with the vigor and passion it deserves, then we can’t go wrong — even when nothing seems to go right. Perspective is key.
And for those who are sharing Valentine’s with a significant other? Great for you! Enjoy every beautiful minute of each other’s presence. A good place to start? Instead of exchanging presents, put that money toward a shared experience. It doesn’t matter what the experience is, but the memories from it will far outlast anything that can be bought in a shop. Unless you buy it from Huckberry—because if that’s the case, you're in store for an adventure. [H]