I have a confession to make. I know I may seem really independent and fearless, but truthfully, I can be a total chicken sometimes. I try to hide it by avoiding situations that make me feel uncomfortable, but last month I decided to get out of my comfort zone and confront one major fear...
The fear of traveling alone.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I had visited L.A. for a friend's wedding. I got to travel with friend and fellow yoga teacher, Michael Mann. We had a blast exploring Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach and the gorgeous wedding venue, but our trip was just for a weekend and I couldn't wait to return.
I was relieved that Michael had come along for the trip because it meant I didn't have to travel alone. I was secretly a little afraid of exploring a new city solo. When Michael mentioned his surprise and how much he loves to explore cities by himself, I reflected on why I felt so differently about it. I think in all honesty, being a woman makes me worry about my personal safety. I also think my discomfort is a quirk of my personality -- I like to be in control. I like to know my way around. (In the past I've always HATED visiting New York City because I feel like such a lost tourist there, always a step behind.)
When the opportunity came up for me to take a vacation alone this February (the kids were away and Jason was busy with work), I wanted to challenge myself to do it. I felt it would be good for me to get out of my comfort zone.
When I found out that a personal development course on communication I had been dying to take was being offered in L.A. that week, I signed up and booked my flight so I could get another look at this city.
There is scientific evidence that getting outside your comfort zone makes you more creative and capable, and I've written before about the importance of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Here are a few of the ways I stretched myself throughout the week:
Within the weekend course I took, there was plenty of opportunity for me to get uncomfortable. The course was based on communication so I was on the phone clearing the air with people in my life as well as raising my hand to share with the group and be vulnerable.
I met up with Amy Sullivan, a yoga teacher who I knew from Boston and who now lives in L.A. We walked Venice Beach together, bought art from a few vendors and saw two-headed turtles outside the freak show. We didn't know each other well in Boston so it was already a little outside my comfort zone to make plans together, but we had a great afternoon. A couple days later, when she wasn't impressed with my hotel choice, she insisted I come and stay with her. I took her up on her generous offer and was so so glad I did. It's been great getting to know her better.
I spent several days walking around shopping. I feared I would get lonely but actually LOVED being by myself. One day in the middle of my trip, I hired a personal shopper/stylist to show me around and help me find some fun new fashion to try. She was great and I absolutely recommend her. Knowing I had this appointment with Erin Micklow helped break up the monotony of hanging solo, and gave me another opportunity to try something new.
While I was out exploring, I tried to find ways to push myself. When a coffee shop looked empty and easy to navigate, I intentionally chose another one that was crowded and more intimidating.
When it came to ordering meals I tried different things: omusubi, an israeli breakfast, and dark sesame frozen yogurt (the best) to name a few things.
When I was out walking and my phone battery started running low, I asked shop keepers to charge it for me. I didn't want to be stranded without a phone, so why be shy about asking?
I saved stress (and possibly money?) by taking Uber everywhere while I was in town, rather than driving. Always make sure the driver and car match the description in your Uber app before getting into the car. There should also be a little Uber sign in the windshield. I have heard stories of random people pulling up posing as Uber drivers and asking women to get into their cars.
For the most part, I wore myself out walking around all day and didn't really go out after dark. Even though I only walked a half-mile to my course in the morning, I always got a ride home at night. I stocked up on healthy snacks for the hotel fridge and spent the evenings writing in my journal and brainstorming creative ideas, inspired by the sights of that day.
As indicated above, make sure your phone is with you and that's it's fully charged and working, and check in often with people at home, hosts you're staying with, etc.
Avoid drinking and bars when you're alone. It's safer, and you'll feel better. No hangovers!
Favorite shopping destinations:
Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice
This was by far my favorite place! I got so much visual inspiration just walking up and down this beautiful street. If you're from Boston, it's a bit like Newbury Street, but each boutique is laid out in such unique and exquisite aesthetic detail. The tiny shop at Zenbunni Chocolate was set up to look like a cave, complete with unicorns and cave paintings (below.)
Unique Vintage in Burbank
This shop had an impressive selection of vintage reproduction dresses, swimsuits, shoes and more. I spent an entire afternoon here trying on clothes, and the customer service was excellent. Check out their online shop, and save money on shipping by calling the store to place your order.
This British clothing store has a large location in the Grove mall in L.A. I found Topshop to be fashion forward and reasonably priced. I came here with Erin and they gave us a swanky "personal shopper fitting room."
This brand has a giant online presence and I'm a fan of their founder, Sophia's "#GirlBoss" podcast and book. I visited their Melrose Ave. store and loved the selection of bold, badass, statement pieces.
- The Gas Lite, a total dive karaoke bar in Santa Monica (With a friend. Don't go to bars alone please.)
- Lemonade cafeteria
- Dark Sesame Frozen Yogurt at Sunny Blue
- Barre classes at Pop Physiqe
- Smogshoppe wedding venue
- Yoga classes with Amy Sullivan
- Ethiopian food at Industry Cafe & Jazz
- Sunset and seals at the Santa Monica Pier
- Erin Micklow stylist and personal shopper
- Personal Development Courses at Landmark Worldwide. (You don't have to go to L.A., they're all over the world including Boston.)
- The peaceful quiet of Manhattan Beach, breakfast at North End Cafe and Sloopy's -- an outdoor-ish cafe that feels like being in a magical fairy forest.
I am so glad I did this solo trip. I made a lot of great new friends over the course of the week. I got to stretch my comfort zone, picked up some sweet new clothes, improved my communication skills, and got tons of fresh brand inspiration for Barre & Soul and the Fit Feminist Blog!
Just before I left we got this beautiful mural in our Harvard Square studio. I'm so proud of how the studio is coming out and I'm more inspired than ever to create an amazing aesthetic experience at all of our studios to add more beauty to the lives of our students!
How do you stay inspired? What do you do to get out of your comfort zone? Do you travel solo? Have any tips to share with fellow readers? Please comment below or drop me an email!