“Didn’t you think about Vegas?” I asked him, tears and snot running down my face.
He just shrugged, “No”.
We were having another breakup talk. Five years I had been with this “man” and I had lost count of the times he had lied, manipulated, cheated and dragged my name through the mud to make himself look like the victim. He was a coward. And it turned out a drug dealer. I knew how to pick them.
There had been so many red flags, so many times I should have held up the red card, actually starting right back at the beginning – but I was besotted. He had come along at a vulnerable time of my life. I could write loads about what I went through in this relationship and perhaps I will. But this is not the time or place! Because actually having been dragged through the dirt and come out the other side is what gave me my new lease of life. So maybe I should be saying “thank you”!
This time, in the garden, he said he still wanted me in his life. Despite everything he had done to me, he still wanted me in his life! I think I laughed out loud! Now it was my turn to say “No”, and for once, I meant it. When he said he would stay, I said “No, you won’t”. Deep down I felt that something had changed. Something inside had finally broken for the last time and there was no going back. Mingled with the dragging feelings of pain and loss and despair was something else. Something that felt like hope. A tiny bud of hope tinged with a ray of light.
Don’t get me wrong, I was devastated. I couldn’t sleep and I tore my hair out trying to decide whether to go to Vegas or not. I asked friends if they would come with me, but nobody could go at such short notice or they didn’t have the money for the flight. They didn’t want to leave their boyfriend. They couldn’t get time off work, and so on. This, it turns out is the reason WHY SO MANY PEOPLE TRAVEL SOLO.
I had spent so much time researching Vegas. Hours spent on Google, time spent devouring every post in the Vegas groups on Facebook. We had worked out some of the things we wanted to do and see. But I started searching out and clinging like a limpet to the bad things I would read. The things that scared me. Tales of the street sellers who would force you to buy something by putting an item in your hand and not leave you alone until you paid for it. Stories of people being mugged on the bridges that connected the hotels and opposite sides of the Strip. I was literally lapping all these stories up and saying to myself, “you’re not going, why would you want to put yourself in this situation? You will be there on your own!!”. It is almost like I was looking for an excuse not to go.
Why hadn’t we booked a week in a beach resort?!
So I decided not to go. Then I changed my mind. Then I changed it back again. I don’t know how many times I did this. However, the fact is the trip was booked, the money was non-refundable, and I hate wasting money. Plus, Elton John was playing one of his last sets of his residency at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace and I had bought two tickets. I think deep down I knew I was going to go, I just had not admitted it to myself yet.
On departure day, at 11pm, I locked up the apartment and left on the 470km drive to Barcelona airport. I bought a few energy drinks to keep me awake and filled the car with fuel. It was an uneventful journey and I didn’t really dwell on the fact I was on my own as I like driving so it was like a mini adventure.
The flight from Barcelona to London Gatwick was uneventful but I then had to rush from one terminal to the other to make the final flight to Vegas (I had decided not to bring a checked bag for this leg and it’s a good job I didn’t). Finally getting to the other terminal I was even starting to feel a little excited.
This excitement totally evaporated the moment I got to the boarding gate and saw the plane that would be whisking us (I mean me) to Vegas.
I love airports, and I love planes (oh how I wanted to be a pilot when I was younger). When I saw this incredible piece of engineering, this magnificent hunk of metal, the beautiful shape of the upper deck of the 747– where yes, I had treated myself to a seat – I could feel the tears coming. I was looking around at everyone else. They all looked happy. I was trying to spot the solo travellers, but all I could see were couples. Couples with their matching luggage, holding hands, laughing happily. In their own happy bubbles. I remember staring at the plane, trying not to blink, to keep the tears in my eyes and everything just went blurry. I wasn’t meant to be doing this on my own. I’m not meant to be here alone. I had to keep looking out of the window so people couldn’t see me crying. I felt so sad.
Then it was time to board and the excitement took over again. I silently congratulated myself for having paid for a seat in the upper deck (it was only £25 to do that). I had the rear window seat, and wow the storage I had! I had more storage on that plane than I do in my flat, I’m not even kidding. And the best thing? The middle seat was vacant. Bliss. Now the tears had gone and I was more than happy to sit back and relax, spread out my things, make myself at home and thoroughly enjoy the 10.5 hour flight to come.
As the plane took off and London receded I started feeling that dull ache, the feeling that something was missing. But then I thought no, I’m NOT bringing you and your crap on this trip so I pushed it away, snuggled down with the pillow and blanket and gorged on movies and TV shows. And a couple of free vodkas. For medicinal purposes.
On the approach to Vegas I started to spot the iconic sights on the Strip that I had spent so long looking at during my research. I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel and the rollercoaster on the roof of New York, New York and the unmistakable pyramid of the Luxor. Then I didn’t want to get off the plane. I wanted to stay on it and fly back.
Waiting in the line to go through the security checks at the airport I was starting to feel more and more nervous. I knew I was on the way out of the safety of the airport to the big scary world outside. Surrounded again by those happy couples who were just about to start their happy adventure together. And there was me feeling sad on my own.
Hands started to feel a bit sweaty, stomach started to feel a bit, wrong. At the security desk I was asked the usual questions. Then he asked me if I am there on my own. There we go, that’s it. That is all that is needed to turn on the tears again. Yes, I am on my own I tell him, I was meant to be here with my boyfriend, but we broke up…
Feeling like a pathetic idiot I was trying to swipe away the tears faster than they were falling.
“Well, that’s his loss” said the security guy, smiling at me, “you will have a great time”, and I wiped my face and said “yeah, I’ll try”.
I knew I would start to feel better when I was finally in the hotel room, where I could do whatever I wanted. I could be a sobbing mess if I wanted and nobody would know. It was starting to feel draining from the up and down emotions and trying to hold it together.
Stepping out of the airport I was really feeling the fear, but the mere fact of HAVING to get to the hotel helped. Because unless I wanted to spend the next five nights in the airport (I really didn’t although at that stage I would have happily got back on the plane) I had to get my act together and work out where the bus went from.
After only one minor mishap (having to have the exact change for the bus so I had to run back into the airport to buy something I didn’t want to get the change I needed) I arrived at the hotel. If you have been to Vegas you will know what I mean when I say that when I walked into the hotel I was blown away by the size of it. I knew they were big but I wasn’t prepared for just how big.
I made it into the hotel room about 5pm Vegas time, approximately 23 hours after I had got in my car to drive to Barcelona. I had done it, I had got there, I had arrived. I was in Vegas baby!!
And then I didn’t want to leave the room. I felt nervous again and I didn’t want to go out.
I told myself I should at least take a walk downstairs to get my bearings in the hotel itself (I didn’t get my bearings until about 3 days later, and even then not completely). I had a map from the hotel, “so you don’t get lost”. That’s how big they are. It was full of people. It was noisy. It was bright. It was everything I expected Vegas to be.
The constant clattering, and ringing of the slot machines. The cigarette smoke everywhere. It was a bit overwhelming. I was tired and emotional and nervous again. I decided to be gentle on myself – I learned you have to BE KIND TO YOURSELF, especially when you travel solo – and I went back to the room. I spent the first night in Vegas in my hotel room, lying on the bed, watching TV. I wasn’t about to start beating myself up for not heading out for a night on the town.
I woke up in the morning with a clear head and was out, coffee in hand by 8am. I went out the hotel door (one of them) and took in the early morning view of the Strip. I snapped a few photos and then decided I was going to find the nearest supermarket and stock up on some goodies for the room – some nibbles and drinks. Three hours later after some fun and games with the bus system and walking around Walmart I was back in the hotel, all stocked up and ready to go.
I spent the next 4 days and nights working my way through the things I wanted to do, now tweaked to suit me and me only. I saw the Bellagio fountains which I could look at all day long and never tire of (please check the hours they run before you stand there waiting for them like I might have done once). I went to Madame Tussauds and saw a Cirque Du Soleil show, both for free, and I rode on the Hi Roller at the Linq. I ate where I wanted to eat. I worked to my own schedule. And the freedom that gave me felt fantastic.
There were a few things I didn’t do and I will admit that is probably because I was on my own. I didn’t go to Fremont Street. During my research I had read things about this area and so I decided that I did not want to go there on my own, not on that trip anyway. I didn’t play on a table (cards or poker or roulette) because I didn’t have the confidence to walk up and join in a game. I had intended to have a go at Blackjack but when it came to it I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have a drink in the Chandelier bar because when I walked past it one day I decided I was not glamorous enough to go in there!!
But this is ok, if anything ever feels out of your comfort zone, just don’t it. It really doesn’t matter. Remember, at a time when you may be feeling delicate, be kind to yourself (I subsequently went back to Vegas and did do Fremont Street and it was fine! Though I was not on my own then).
As a momento of the trip I decided to collect $1 casino chips from each casino which I now have displayed at home. Every time I look at it, and the collage I also put together it reminds me of what I did and I feel proud of myself all over again.
Overall it was a FABULOUS experience. I will always look back on that trip with great memories and with such pride that I did it. And I did it all by myself when I really didn’t think i could! Of course I had some low moments, a few sad times where I wished it had been different. But that only happened two or three times. Mainly I was glad to be there on my own. I knew that if things had gone to plan and I had been there with my ex that we would have spent a lot of time drinking – and a lot of time hungover. I probably would not have done half the things I got to do and reckon I would have spent a fair amount of the time feeling rotten.
Five days after I arrived I was standing in the bus stop waiting to go back to the airport. And I really didn’t want to go. Partly I suppose because I was going back to reality at home, picking up the pieces of my life there, but mainly because I had had such a great time I did not want it to end.
Having thought Vegas was the worst place I could have gone on my own it dawned on me that Vegas was one of the BEST places I could have gone. At that time in my life it was the perfect destination. It is full of so many different types of people, from all walks of life, from all over the world.
There is so much to see and do, your senses are bombarded all the time. You don’t have time to feel conscious about being on your own or sad that things hadn’t work out the way they were meant to.
And now I look back, I think that maybe, just maybe, they worked out EXACTLY the way they were meant to.
When I got home, friends said I was so brave going there on my own. I certainly didn’t feel brave at times. But when I came home I felt like I could do anything!
This was the trip that turned me into a travel addict.
If you have read this because you are facing a solo trip that wasn’t meant to be a solo trip, or you have just gone through a breakup and fancy a trip to start to heal yourself, but are not sure if you have the balls to go all I can tell you is DO IT! Whether it be to Vegas or anywhere else, I can wholeheartedly tell you that you are stronger than you know. You won’t regret giving it a go – you will only regret not going.
When it comes down to it you just do it and you definitely WILL survive – because you have to!!
If you would like your first solo trip featured on this site to inspire other people then reach out to me here.