“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
― Lao Tzu
Before my husband and I got married, we both agreed to have 7 nights of “hall pass” each year. What this means for us is that we get to travel alone or with friends, but definitely without each other – no strings, and no questions asked right after. This, for a married person, could mean freedom at its finest! Imagine that?!
In the first few years of the honeymoon phase, travelling leisurely without your better half can seem unimaginable, and it was honestly that way for us. So we quietly shoved this “hall pass” in the closet until it started to collect dusts and cobwebs – that was our mistake.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
What I realize now is that we should have stuck with our agreement to use this yearly hall pass. We should have made an effort to still keep our identities, the “me, myself and I”, instead of focusing only on the “we and us”. It’s never too late though. So on our 8th year, I have decided to start using mine.
The reactions I received from people after sharing this decision to travel alone (something I used to do A LOT prior to getting hitched) surprised me (an understatement):
Is there something wrong between you and the hubby? – I am appalled (to say the least) that our culture dictates that women can’t travel and enjoy themselves while away from their husbands, that there has to be something “wrong” with the relationship to validate this kind of trip.
Are you having an affair? – Imagine my disgust. Since there’s nothing wrong with my husband, I have to be the culprit then.
And while I was on the trip already, I received messages from concerned friends along these lines too:
Have you been behaving yourself? – I think I forgot to mention I’m 36-fucking-years-old who’s been through so much hell in life (death, miscarriage, calamities – name it!), so really?! Seriously?!
Any one night stands? Drunk and wasted? How wild did you get? – I hate to burst your bubble, but no, I refuse to allow you to live vicariously through me. Thank you very much.
“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I am re-discovering myself. I am gaining myself back. I am just being… JUST BEING.
Following my father’s death, I have realized there are so many things I’d like to change in my life. One would be my loss of independence. For almost 8 years, I have NEVER stepped out of our house alone – always, and I mean ALWAYS, with my husband (it probably didn’t help too that my work is home based). I would either be with him wherever I go, or I’d ask him to drive me there and back. This will come as a surprise to those who knew me before – I was surprised when it sunk in too. Yep, believe it.
Please know that my husband never imposed or encouraged this. Always the supportive and loving husband that he is – It was all me. I entered the married life thinking that I’ve done and seen it all, with much enthusiasm to let go of me and be a part of a unit that is us. I was ready. I am still. But I was wrong to lose my sense of self through it all. Guilty.
And so the journey begins, it all played well in my imagination. I was going to spend a couple of nights with no strings, no work, no chores to do, no one checking on me – a free woman! WOW! What to do?
First Day/Night – Indulge in all the adventures available in the island (Zip line, Jet Ski – what have you), and then party and get wasted at night. And no, I won’t call or SMS my husband.
Second Day/Night – More adventures. More drinking. Probably even go as far as talking to strangers. Still no phone calls with my husband.
Hah! Easy peasy! I can do all these. Pffft!
What actually happened:
First Day/Night – Pigged out (5 meals – not snacks – in a day!). Walked from one end of the shore to the other (that’s the adventure part!). Hung out with a boatman / lay minister (Kuya Let, bless your soul!) from the island who we’ve known for 7 years now – and talked about his life struggles and how he survived them all (my day’s high).
I visited the tattoo shop of the artist who did my ink back in Manila. I was so close to getting another one. We even talked about the design already. Did I? NO.
Come night time, I went to a bar. Ordered food. And when asked what drink I wanted, I stared at the list of cocktail drinks for a few minutes, and then ordered Coke.
And then I found myself sitting in a quiet area of the shore, gazing at the stars, enjoying the sound of the waves – mourning my father’s death.
Second Day/Night – Early morning walk by the shore. Shopping (hoorah!). More pigging out. More beach bumming and book reading. Got a pedicure and a whole body massage by the sea shore, and hung out with my masseuse (Nanay Fely, you rock!) for a couple of hours talking about how she made it through raising 3 wonderful daughters all by herself (my day’s high). And I also got to overdose on Star Movies cable TV while in my room!
First and Second Days – I got to meet and feed two dogs – both made me terribly miss my Chowdren more! Spent hours on video calls with my husband and our Chowdren, while my husband kept on reminding me that the hall pass shouldn’t include calls and SMS – but at that point, do you think I really cared?
“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
― Lao Tzu
It was perfect and exactly what I needed!
I got to travel alone (although my dear husband drove me to the bus station and picked me up in Manila when I got back – baby steps!). I got to prove to myself that I can still be independent. And more importantly, I have learned to appreciate the value of both the solitude, and the life I have back home.
Now all I have to do is keep the balance going. Hah! Easy peasy!
I still have 5 nights of hall pass this year…