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Solo in Paris


For countless psychological reasons I won’t bore anyone with now, I am not great at spending a lot of time alone. I’m better than I used to be, but I still feel a sense of relief when Jodi comes home from work if I’ve been at the house all day by myself. There's just something about the way that another person's presence and perspective tends to soften things for me. Still, in the same way that we know we really should drink more water, even though Diet Coke sounds so refreshing, I feel kind of challenged by the idea of learning to feel more comfortable with my own company.

That’s part of what prompted me to plan this solo trip to Paris for the week. I’ve been longing to travel since I retired, but Jodi is still working and I didn’t really want to go out and discover a bunch of places without her. We’ve been to Paris together and she is working on her own grad school adventure this week, so it seemed like the perfect time to try out my solitary traveling idea.

The solitude of retirement has reminded me that I enjoy my own company more than I did when I was in my 20s and 30s and was desperate to have a plan for Saturday night.

I practiced a little last fall during a three-day stay in Montreal. I enjoyed exploring the city, buy it only took about an hour to realize that, without another person, I was really going to have to push myself out the door each morning. I planned an activity for every day, bought groceries at a supermarket I discovered at a metro stop, and treated myself to reading by the electronic fireplace at night. But I didn’t know Montreal at all, and it only made my travel bucket list because it was close to where I was at the time. It was a lovely few days, but I was very happy to see Jodi at the end of it.

The interesting thing about this Paris experience is that I could end up feeling exactly the same way I felt in Canada. It might be that the little humming anxiety that ran through me for those three days is just what happens when I’m left to my own devices. So I won’t be surprised if that’s how it goes, but it’s not my hope. My fantasy is that I will feel more at home. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Paris many times, so I’ve rented a little apartment in a neighborhood I know fairly well. I don’t have a must-do list, so I can explore at my leisure, but I do have a few manageable ideas to keep me going.

Still, like every other experience in life, I won’t really know what it’s going to be like until the apartment rental company representative hands me the key and I’m standing in the apartment alone, looking out on the street filled with people who speak a different language than I do. That this is no doubt how most of us feel just living our regular lives is not lost on me.

The solitude of retirement has reminded me that I enjoy my own company more than I did when I was in my 20s and 30s and was desperate to have a plan for Saturday night. This just seems like a logical next step in the process of learning how to sit with myself, see the world through my own eyes, and decide for myself how I want to spend my days. It’s a test of sorts, for sure. But hey, it’s in Paris.