“That is correct,” I replied. “The Bonaire trip contest I won only provided one plane ticket.”
“Is that weird for you?” the neighbor inquired, concerned.
“Nope,” I replied. “Listen — my husband and I were independent humans for 28 years before we met. We have tons of love, but also support solo adventure.”
“Hmm,” replied the neighbor.
Now, that’s what I said at the time, but there’s more to the story. It came out as I was sorting swimsuits to depart for Bonaire: that tiny island in the Caribbean — just 50 miles north of Venezuela — which is a “special municipality” of the Netherlands.
“You know why else I’m excited to go on this week-long trip alone?” I asked Colin as I packed my suitcase. “I want to miss you for a little time.”
“Huh?” Colin queried.
“Before I met you,” I explained, “I was traveling alone for a whole year. Sure, I met people and volunteered, but I was alone a lot, and I was lonely a lot… but it was beautiful. There’s a musical ache to loneliness that I actually miss sometimes. Nowadays, I’m around students all day, and family all night. I love you all and want to be with you, but I am actually craving the taste of loneliness again… just for a week.”
“Whoa,” said Colin. “I don’t have that same craving at all. But if it’ll make you happy… cool.”
He’s a good one, that guy.
At 4am, I arrived at the airport and took off. (Note: Flying is mighty easy without one’s children vomiting hither and thither, as mine had for the bulk of our California wedding journey the week before.)
I arrived at last, travel-stinky and euphoric, to the Harbour Village Bonaire resort. (See the resort’s glowing TripAdvisor reviews and search price deals here — an affiliate link that supports this site at no cost to you).
Though the hotel’s famed private beach beckons couples, oooh was it ever sweet for this solo, exhausted double mama and middle school teacher to be there!
At first I was confused. Weren’t there diapers to be changed? Papers to grade? A meal to make, or spills from lunch to wipe down?
“Nope,” purred the palms. “Just be with us and chill.”
I gazed at the rainbow of Harbour Village staff members who were hard at work so guests could feel cared for. Appreciation to them!
I wandered the paths of the village, watching waves, swaying with flowers, and breathing. The music started coming back at last, haunting and soft: My own self.
Birds dove from the sky, smashing the sea’s surface for lunch. The feeling, seeing them, was like the LIFT of a plane off Earth towards a long-awaited destination. My stomach soared, and I grinned.
“Let’s eat, lady!” I sang to myself, noting the differences in dining alone, versus with two kids and a partner. No bibs were in my bag, I can tell you that.
A pelican followed me to lunch at “La Balandra,” Harbour Village’s boat-shaped restaurant that juts so far into the water that you feel afloat. The bird eyed my fish tacos, opening and closing his 7-inch beak, but maintaining a respectful distance.
Some birds know how to honor alone time.
Couples came and ate, as did a few families. Some celebrities may have shown up, but everyone looks the same in sunglasses. The ocean on the left side of my table was royal blue, and the right side, azure. I tasted solitude with my tacos, and was serene.
The General Manager of Harbour Village came by and asked if he could sit and chat. I took a moment to respond, swirling in the sweet of loneliness. Then I remembered the other boon of solitude: it lets you connect with new people so much better. Cocoons of family and friends are cosy, but they keep out as much as they keep in.
“Yes, please sit down,” I said.
The manager’s name was Rodrigo, and he’d traveled all over the world, launched at a young age from his home in Colombia. We talked about places we’d loved, and places we wanted to see. All this, while the pelicans swooped, and the waves lapped around that restaurant which feels like a boat.
Gratitude for that moment filled me, and love for all the people and forces that came together to create it. To my husband and in-laws, chasing after children back home, to the Bonaire Tourism Board that concocted the contest which I won, to the folks who envisioned and who run Harbour Village — that gorgeous spot — and to the insane luck of birth which allows me the job, passport, and power to fly off.
“Rodrigo,” I said, “I’ve been so happy to talk, and I’m excited to explore the island with you tomorrow, but I can’t miss photographing the sunset.”
“Oh!” he cried, “there it goes! Run!”
I spun towards the horizon, and indeed, the sun was dipping like the birds, sprinting towards the other side of the world. I waved to my new friend as I ran to the beach, snapping my photos, laughing, and drinking in the sky. The ocean turned to metal, and pink and gold burst out.
“I see you!” I called. “Go, pretty sky, go!”
It was one of those sunsets that gets better and better. You think it’s done, then purple pops out and seeps into every cloud and shadow.
I climbed the stairs to my room and watched from my balcony, shaking my head with love.
Have you been to Bonaire, Harbour Village, or the ABC Islands? I’m curious to hear your experiences!
As mentioned, my trip was graciously provided by a Bonaire Tourism contest, but all thoughts are my own. Some links above (including in photos) are affiliates that support this site at no cost to you. Thanks, and happy travels!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!