Last weekend, I visited Washington, D.C.
I rode the Metro, took a taxi and wandered Capitol Hill for one glorious morning. Meandering through Eastern Market, I paused for a pastry and coffee, observing people pampering their lapdogs to breakfast on the patio seats next to them. I lingered in Capitol Hill books, a wonderland of literary treasures, blissfully scanning the mountains of books for ancient jewels. And just before I caught my flight back to Abilene, I paused in the National Art Gallery – maybe my favorite feature of our nation’s capital – to wonder at the Dutch Masters, standing mere inches away from paintings by Degas, Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh.
And I did it all alone.
Anticipating the weekend, I wondered if the trip would be lonely. With a graduate school interview bringing me to the area, it’s not like I could bring friends or family. But then, I wasn’t sure I would have anyway.
For several years, I’d thought, the best vacation would be one experienced on my own. But sometimes, the best part of a trip is looking forward to it.
Upon embarking on a journey, plans fall through, tempers flair and Murphy’s Law inevitably brings the unexpected hurtling into our carefully crafted schemes. If we can pick ourselves up enough to limp back home, we often declare the holiday a success by default.
Vacations are like Christmas – in the worst possible sense. They take people out of their natural element, cram them in with others and add a heaping dose of stress. And then we’re crushed when our comrades fail to suspend their inborn natures as the holiday collapses under the weight of cranky individuals and unfulfilled expectations.
Solo vacations paint the scene a little differently. So a plan falls through? So it rains? So you ride the Metro in the wrong direction for six stops?
A normal vacation adds all these variables to cramped space and multiple tempers. But on this trip, my plans serenely adjusted to each minor bump on the Metro ride. I only felt responsible for my own attitude and happiness.
My D.C. jaunt was everything I’d hoped. It lasted only a couple days, it rained, I constantly felt just a little lost and I only had about 15 minutes to absorb the brilliance of my beloved Dutch Masters by the time I found the National Art Gallery.
But I wandered the sidewalks of D.C., beaming with an unperturbed smile even in my more befuddled moments. It was my weekend, it was my trip and, for just a couple days, D.C. was my city to take.