Friday, September 6, 2019

A Love Story Part 4: An Engagement

After I spent the summer in Virginia, Farmer Man and I knew we wanted to continue to be together and that I would eventually move to be with him. I was starting a new school year so we would have to go back to long-distance dating for 10 months before I could make the move. With such a big step, naturally we also talked about our shared desire to get engaged/married within the next year to solidify that we were fully committed to being together.

Fall and winter came and went and before we knew it spring was here. At the beginning of March, Farmer Man and I were talking about the move and making future plans and the topic of marriage came up once again. I knew I wanted to get married in Maine (and Farmer Man was open to that) and we knew that we wanted to get married sometime within the year. We weren't even engaged yet but somehow the wedding plans were already being made! We ended up picking the venue and subsequently the date of our wedding a month and a half BEFORE we were actually engaged!

During April vacation I went to Virginia to spend the week with Farmer Man. Since we had already made the wedding plans, a proposal was just a matter of time! I was really hoping this would be the week he would propose but really had no idea where or how he would do it. At the start of our week together we drove down to Charleston, SC to visit some friends and I thought maybe it would happen there since there are so many beautiful and romantic spots. On the other hand, I really couldn't picture him proposing in front of other people and thought maybe he wanted to do it somewhere closer to home in a place that was special to us.

Toward the end of the week, we were back in Virginia and the proposal hadn't happened yet. I was beginning to wonder if he was going to do it at all! On the day before I was going to head back to Maine, he said a couple of his friends wanted to meet us for dinner that night at one of our favorite restaurants in one of my favorite little nearby towns. As we were getting ready for dinner that night, he said his friends cancelled and it would be just the two of us going to dinner. We parked and were walking down the street toward the restaurant and I commented that it was a bit chilly so he ran back to the car saying he would look for a jacket (little did I know but he was actually taking the ring out of his glove box)!!

We had a lovely dinner together and as we were walking back toward the car he stopped me on the street corner in front of a bed and breakfast, pulled me close, kissed me and told me he loved me. Then, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I jokingly said 'OK, how bout July 5th?' since that was the date we had already picked for the wedding. He put the ring on my finger and told me he knew how much I loved that little town and now we would have to come back each year and stay in the bed and breakfast to remember the night we got engaged! It was sweet, thoughtful, romantic, private, and understated- just very 'Farmer Man'!

The proposal was on the street corner just behind me in Smithfield, Virginia

The ring design is something we both love- a very simple and classic style. What makes it special and unique, however, is that the center diamond belonged to Farmer Man's grandmother! It would serve as my 'something old' on our wedding day.

Before I left to go back to Maine, we took a few engagement photos on the farm so we could finally make our happy news known to the world! Our wedding was only 2.5 months away so as soon as I was back in Maine, the planning was in full swing (along with getting my house ready to sell and preparing to leave my teaching career of 15 years)! Needless to say, it was the most hectic few months I've ever experienced!

Coming Soon...
A Love Story Part 5: The Wedding

Other Parts of This Series
A Love Story Part 1: The Single Life
A Love Story Part 2: Unexpected Double Date
A Love Story Part 3: Long Distance Relationship

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Love Story Part 3: Long Distance Relationship

After our awesome first/second dates in Maine, Farmer Man went back home to Virginia. I cried when he left because there's was so much uncertainty about what would happen at that point and I knew he was someone special. He called me on his drive back home and we chatted for a while but still, what was next for us?

I asked him if I could come visit him as I'd always wanted to visit Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg, both 'bucket list' places for this social studies teacher! He told me he'd love for me to visit and so I planned a trip to see him at the end of March (which was about six weeks agonizing wait)!

In the meantime, we chatted on the phone every couple of days, sent funny texts, which often referenced our common love of The Office, and got to know each other more with each conversation. We discussed early on what each other's goals were in terms of a relationship because neither of us were interested in wasting the other person's time. I was very clear that I wanted marriage and kids and told him it was OK if those weren't things he was ready for, he just needed to be upfront with me.  I'm 5.5 years older than him and was definitely in a place where I was looking to settled down with 'my person'. He said he was open to both and I said that if things ever worked out between us, I'd be open to moving since he was working on turning his family's land into a farm & campground and I could theoretically teach anywhere (more on that decision in another post).

The end of March arrived and I went to visit Farmer Man for the first time. We were both a bit nervous because we had only spent 1.25 days together and hadn't seen each other in about 6 weeks. But, we had a great time together and made plans to see each other again the following month. At that point, I'm not sure either of us knew what was going to happen between us since dating long distance is complicated, we just knew that we liked being together and spending time together so we continued to make plans to see one another over the next several months.

              Our first photo together, on a ship at Jamestown during my first visit to see Farmer Man

                                                       Long weekend in Rhode Island

By the beginning of June, we decided that I'd spend my summer vacation in Virginia so we could spend more than just a long weekend together once a month. It would be our 'make it or break it' trial period to see what the future would bring for us. At the end of the summer, we would either decide to end things or we would decide we were in it for the long haul, having to endure long distance for a whole school year as neither of us were ready for me to move that first summer but I couldn't up and move in the middle of a school year so if we stayed together, we would have to wait until the next summer for me to move.

 With Baby Daisy on the farm last summer

Camping with my Farmer Man

The summer months went by quickly and by the end of August, we were both 'all in' and knew we wanted to be together. I went back to Maine to start my 15th year teaching and Farmer Man stayed in Virginia. It was really tough to go back to long distance dating after spending every day together for two months. We talked on the phone every day but some days/weeks were really tough to be apart. Our communication styles are very different, which made staying connected pretty difficult at times. We've been asked what the 'secret' is to making it through a long distance relationship and both of us agree there really isn't one- it pretty much sucks and the only way through is a common commitment to the end goal- which is the day that you will actually be together without any distance between you.

 Suffolk, Virginia Peanut Festival

 With my very handsome wedding date 
(I officiated the wedding of my very good friends)

 Our first Thanksgiving together at my home in Maine

The only photo we got of our first Christmas, waiting for our flight from Maine to Virginia in the Portland Jetport

Celebrated our anniversary in February and went back to the restaurant where it all started!

For the next 10 months, we saw each other about every 4 weeks, give or take, me going to Virginia or him coming up to Maine, spending holidays together with our families, spending time with each others friends. We knew for sure that I would move at the end of the school year and we knew that we wanted to be engaged before that happened...turns out, not only would we be engaged but we would be MARRIED before I moved that summer!

Up Next...


Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Love Story Part 2: Unexpected Double Date

Part 1 of my "love story" was all about single life and this post is the next chapter, how I met the guy who would become my husband! Here goes...

Shortly after I ordered 100 calling cards in an attempt to shake up my dating routine, I got back on a few dating apps, including Tinder. If I'm being honest, my time on that app was mostly unpleasant, filled with many guys who did not seem genuine and didn't share the same reasons for being on the app as me. Still, I just looked at it as a numbers game- the sheer number of people using the app meant eventually I'd match with someone interested in developing a relationship. I had met nice, sincere guys on dating apps before so I knew it was possible, I just had to wade through all the crude photos and people just looking for hookups (no judgements of those who use the app for that purpose, it just wasn't what I was looking for, to each their own...but word to the wise, fellas, no lady wants to see unsolicited pics of your junk...but that's another post entirely).

One Friday evening at the start of school vacation in February 2018, I was mindlessly swiping on Tinder when I came across the profile of a cute, interesting guy with not a shirtless selfie in sight- such a novelty!! When reading his profile, I learned he was from Virginia and almost didn't swipe right (right= I like him, left= no thanks). Lots of people come to Maine for vacation and I wasn't interested in starting anything with someone who didn't live near me and in my experience, the people coming from out of state and using Tinder were usually looking for something casual. But, this farmer/beekeeper/world traveler from Virginia seemed intriguing so I made the fateful decision to "swipe right" and we matched (which means he "swiped right" on my profile as well).

(one of Farmer Man's online profile pics...that smile!!!)

We ended up chatting on the app for about 20 minutes that evening, where he told me he was in Maine for an annual ice fishing trip with a high school buddy and would be going up North for the rest of the weekend. I said goodnight and honestly didn't think it would go any further than that conversation. Still, the next day I decided to send one last message (knowing he probably didn't have cell service where he was and I probably wouldn't hear from him for a few days if at all) suggesting we meet up for dinner or drinks when he was back in southern Maine.

To my pleasant surprise, a few days later he sent me a message and we made plans for a dinner date. He asked if he could bring his friend with him since it was his last night in Maine and he didn't want to ditch him. Normally, I would never have bothered to go out with a guy who lived so far away and who wanted to bring his friend along (kind of awkward), all on a weekday evening BUT I was on February break and something in my gut just told me to go for it! What did I have to lose?

*This is the part where I advocate for safe dating practices so I will point out that we met in a very public restaurant and I was sure to tell some close friends where I was going and who I was meeting and sent screen shots of his profile information. 

I got to the restaurant first, as I always tried to do when going on a first date, and sat down at a table facing the door. Then came the nervous waiting to see if the person in the profile was the same in real life. In walked Farmer Man, his friend, and luckily his friend's girlfriend, which would even us out and turn it into a little double date! My first thought was how handsome Farmer Man was and that he looked just like his photos (apparently he thought the exact same thing about me and his friend jokingly commented "as advertised" after he saw me in person, ha ha)!

(the local of our double date)

The four of us had a really great time and I just remember laughing a lot that evening and thinking even if this went nowhere, I had had a really fun date! Farmer Man walked me out to my car, kissed me goodnight, and said "I know I'm supposed to go back to Virginia tomorrow but if I stay another day, will you go out with me again?". Luckily, this gal was on vacation from school and had a pretty open schedule so we made plans for another date in Portland the following day.

We spent all day together, walking around the Old Port, hitting up museums, window shopping, eating & drinking, and just getting to know each other. Although it was February in Maine, we had a rare 70 degree day, which only added to the awesomeness of the experience! I told him about the calling cards I had made and pulled one out to show him. He took it and laughed, seemingly impressed with my creativity, then put it in his wallet (where it still lives today). Even though we met online, I still believe those calling cards played a little part in helping him fall in love with me!

When he finally left to drive back home to Virginia, I remember crying and wondering why this awesome guy was sent into my life and yet he lived so far away! Little did I know it then but my life was about to change in bigger ways than I could have imagined. I'm so happy I said yes to a double date with three strangers on a cold winter Maine evening!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Love Story Part 1: The Single Life

Last month, at 38 and a half years old, I got married. I wasn't sure if real, long-lasting love was in the cards for me. By nature, I'm a pretty independent and industrious person, happily going through my twenties and thirties, building a successful teaching career, tackling ventures in house flipping/renovating, and maintaining an active social life with a wonderful group of friends. I felt accomplished in many respects but also felt the longing to build a life and a family with a loving, devoted partner. Being in a relationship and wanting marriage and children is not for everyone, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with being single, but I've always hoped for the former.

To that end, I actively put myself out into the dating world for 20+ years, going on more first and second dates than I can count. Blind date fix-ups through friends, well-intentioned co-workers offering up their male relatives, online dating before it was popular or mainstream, and eventually hopping on board the 'swipe left/right' apps, all in the hopes of finding 'the one'.  During that span there were a couple of relationships but for most of my life I've been single. As frustrating as it was to be the perpetual third wheel or to have yet another fruitless first date that wouldn't end up going anywhere, in retrospect I can see that being single for so long allowed me to accomplish so much on my own, providing a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Silver linings all around.

(One of my most fun and exciting accomplishments, 
the cover of Maine Women Magazine's DIY issue)

Still, there were many times that I was fearful that I'd spend my life alone. I heard many times "I can't believe you are single" and "just give him another chance" and "you should go out with my friend's cousin's roommate from college because he's single too", as well as so many pieces of advice. One person would tell me to put myself out there more while another would tell me to "just stop looking and then you'll find him when you least expect it"...two completely contradictory, yet well-meaning pieces of advice.  

I was told many times that I was being too picky, but in my gut I always just felt that I'd know it when I found it, as cliche as that may sound. As with most important decisions in life, but particularly when it comes to spending your life with someone, settling for anything less that what you feel is right for you and that is anything less than what you deserve will never end well. I was never looking for "perfect" in a partner but I was looking for someone who was perfect for me- which are two very different ideas. As much as it hurt sometimes to be alone, settling because I was afraid of being alone was just never an option for me.

In the fall of 2017 I went through a break up and subsequently a depression. It wasn't that particular guy that I was so upset about but rather that residual fear that I was going to spend my life alone. On top of that, I was about to turn 37, which can be troubling for any single woman who would like to try and have biological children. I had a rough couple of months, but after allowing myself to wallow a bit, I rang in New Year's 2018 with a commitment to work on my physical and emotional health and take active steps to pull myself out of my funk. I worked out faithfully, ate well, filled my social calendar, talked to a therapist, started journaling & meditating, planned a solo vacation, and found comfort in the company of dear friends.

During this time one of my friends encouraged me to read a really inspiring book called "The Universe Has Your Back" by Gabrielle Bernstein. In it she asks you to picture what your life would be like if you lived from a place of faith rather than a place of fear. That idea became my mantra and by mid-February I was feeling so good- strong, happy, and optimistic.

After taking a few months off from the dating apps while I worked on "me", I decided to put myself back out there. I even designed and printed 100 'calling cards' (very Victorian, I know) so that if I saw someone interesting while I was out, I could hand him a card with my contact information. I figured I had nothing to lose and a creative strategy for meeting people couldn't hurt! Little did I know then but I would only end up giving out one card to one guy- and that guy would eventually become my husband (we met on an app but he got the one and only card on our first date)!

(the front of the calling cards I designed)

Monday, February 25, 2019

Why I Love Teaching Financial Literacy

Six years ago my department leader came to me and asked if I’d be willing to take on the challenge
of creating the curriculum for a new semester course in personal finance that all seniors would need
to take before graduating. As any educator knows, teaching a new course can be daunting because
many hours will be devoted to finding, creating, and implementing quality curriculum. My department
leader buttered me up a bit by saying she thought I had the ‘creativity and energy’ needed to get kids
excited about financial literacy- so how could I say no to that? As it turns out, six years and 12 semesters
later, teaching financial literacy has been one of the best experiences I could have wanted as an
educator, and here’s why:

Teaching Practical Skills is Rewarding
As much as I enjoy teaching U.S. history or other topics that fall under the umbrella of ‘social studies’
there’s just something incredibly satisfying about being able to teach practical, hands on skills that I
KNOW my students will use immediately. I’ve never heard ‘when will I use this’ or ‘why do we have to
know this’ from any student in my personal finance classes, no small feat coming from a room full of
(sometimes) ornery teenagers! They can use the skills learned in class immediately in their everyday
lives and when I receive messages from former students who tell me they are using the information
learned in class out in the ‘real world’, it’s incredibly rewarding.

Personal Finance is Fun and Engaging
The topic of financial literacy allows for incredible engagement from students because most are already
earning and managing their finances to some extent. They naturally have lots of questions during class
and genuinely want to know more about each topic presented, which is such an exciting opportunity as
their teacher to build upon that natural curiosity. Whether it’s creating a real budget based on their
current earnings, participating in an ‘apartment renting’ simulation, or trying to guess ‘name brand or
store brand’ during a taste test activity, teaching personal finance also allows for so many fun and
engaging lesson ideas.

Financial Literacy Improves the Community
With student loan debt now in the trillions and financial literacy skills on the decline, it’s now more
important than ever to have quality financial literacy courses in every community. When students learn
how to make smart decisions with their finances, understand the consequences of various financial
decisions, and see the ‘big picture’ of how individual choices can also impact the community on a
broader scale, we all benefit from this increased knowledge of personal finance. My students take what
they’ve learned in class and bring it home to their families, engaging in meaningful conversations about
smart financial choices. As a financial literacy educator, it’s rewarding to know that I am making a
difference in not only the lives of my students, but inadvertently working toward improving the economic
climate in both my local and broader communities.

Self-Improvement Opportunities Abound
I can honestly say that teaching, in general, makes me a more patient, more knowledgeable, and more
well-rounded person. Having the opportunity to teach financial literacy has made a difference in the
management of my own finances. Being asked to teach this course has required that I do a great deal
of research, inevitably improving my own understanding of a wide variety of financial topics. Providing
the best quality education I can for my students has also given me opportunities to hear from a variety
of community members, from investment bankers to insurance agents, each experts in their own fields.
When my students don’t understand something or have questions to which I don’t know the answer, I
expand my knowledge base once again by finding the answers and engaging in meaningful
conversations. I’m constantly being given opportunities to learn and grow by teaching personal finance.

To any teacher who may be presented with the opportunity to teach personal finance classes, I would emphatically say ‘DO IT’!! Although it may seem daunting at first, you will be a better person for it and your students and community will thank you!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Useful & Fun Gift Idea: The Nixplay Digital Photo Frame

Confession: I have a problem...there are currently over 15,000 photos on my iPhone! Gasp!! Many of these should be deleted but I also have so many great photos from trips, family gatherings, and outings with friends that I never look at because they are lost somewhere amongst the thousands of photos my phone. Although I have every intention of printing and displaying the photos, somehow, this always falls low on my priority list.

Enter the Nixplay Digital Photo Frame- this handy little device has truly changed the way I display my favorite photos and memories and has brought so much joy into my daily life!

The Nixplay frame looks like a regular photo frame (I chose the 8-inch 'Iris' frame in 'peach copper' and it also comes in two other metallic finishes) but unlike a regular frame, the photos in the Nixplay frame continuously change, allowing you to view all of your favorite memories, digitally!

Using the Nixplay app on my phone, I can organize my photos into specific albums or just a general mix and then send the photos from my phone directly to the frame over WiFi. I have my frame in my living room where I'm able to see all my photos while sitting on my couch...I absolutely love being able to relive memories everyday when otherwise, the photos would rarely be seen and would never leave my iPhone! It's also a fun conversation piece when I have visitors.

Another great feature of the Nixplay frame is that you can share photos with family and friends through the Nixplay smartphone app. This means you can send photos to other peoples' frames, and they can send photos to yours- a really fun and functional feature!  How many grandparents do you know who would love to see new photos of their kids and grandkids pop up daily in their photo frame? Or how about friend groups who live all over the country? Everyone can share photos from anywhere!

The frame plugs into a regular outlet and has a remote with settings that change the speed of the photos, which albums will be played, and it also turns the frame on and off. Each photo adjusts to the frame as it's displayed so you don't have to worry about whether the photo is landscape/portrait or a specific size- it will automatically adjust the size to best fit whichever way you've displayed the frame.

Finally, one of my most favorite parts of the Nixplay frame is that it has allowed me to easily digitize old family photos. For example, my mother recently gave me an album full of family photos and I was able to take pictures of the originals with my iPhone, then easily and quickly display them in my Nixplay frame.

This would be such a great gift idea for anyone- loading in all sorts of old photos so they can see them every day without having to physically have the photo album! How about playing an album of the special birthday boy/girl on the Nixplay frame during the party? The options are endless and I can't think of anyone I know who wouldn't want this frame as both a useful and sentimental gift (myself included)!
Now through December 12th, 2018, 
Crafty Teacher Lady readers can use the code KELLY25 
to get 25% off the Nixplay Iris Digital Photo frame!  

Friday, July 6, 2018

Coastal Inspired Bathroom Renovation

At the start of this year my cousin and his girlfriend purchased their very first property- a multi-family home with three apartments. They already had renters in the bottom two units but would be renovating and moving into the third unit. As an avid home renovator, I was thrilled for them and proud they were ready to tackle this huge undertaking all by themselves!

Around the same time, Allure Flooring reached out and asked if I'd be interested in a collaboration. As I had already used their vinyl plank flooring in my own bathroom renovation and LOVED the product, I decided that I would design a new bathroom for my cousin's house, featuring the same flooring!
coastal bathroom decor renovation

Their house was originally built in the early 1900s, but had been somewhat updated in the decades after, although it was now in need of further updating. The flooring in the bathroom was linoleum made to look like tile. It also had an outdated vanity and light fixtures. They decided to gut the entire bathroom, except for the tub which was in decent shape, including ripping up the flooring and putting up new drywall.

Using my favorite mood board app, Morpholio, I put together a design board for their bathroom, inspired by the colors and textures of the coast. The design included painting the walls in a pretty seagreen/gray paint called 'Sea Salt' by Sherwin Williams and adding horizontal beadboard on two walls (4'x8' sheets from Home Depot). The vanity was actually a Facebook Marketplace find that we got for a steal because it had a couple of minor paint chips. They removed one of the doors and took it to Home Depot to get a sample paint jar in a matching color for touch ups!

bathroom renovation diy
(sources are linked below)

Now let's get to the flooring! When I renovated my bathroom last year, I wanted a product for the floors that looked like wood but was water resistant and durable. After doing A LOT of research, I chose Allure Ultra Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring in 'Durban Oak'. I love the color because it's the perfect medium shade (not too light and not too dark) and looks great with a variety of decor options. After a year and a half of use, it has held up amazingly well and still looks as good as it did the day it was installed! It's also really easy to clean, which is a bonus!

In addition to the durability, the other great part about this type of flooring is that it's so easy to install! My cousin's girlfriend installed the vinyl planking in their bathroom all by herself in a day without any previous renovation experience! The 'grip strips' on each plank make installation incredibly fast and simple.

flooring installation diy

After creating their design board, I linked most items on my Amazon favorites page so they would have lots of affordable options when decorating the space. If they didn't buy directly from Amazon, they had a template to use when out searching for similar items. Here is the finished result, including beautiful new flooring:

When I first walked into the space after they were finished renovating, I was so impressed! They did such a great job following the design board and certainly had such a feeling of accomplishment from tackling this renovation all by themselves!

Sources to Recreate this Coastal Look: 
Paint Color- Sherwin Williams 'Sea Salt'
Vanity- purchased off the Facebook Marketplace but similar options can be found here and here
Shower Curtain- Amazon
Beadboard Panels- 4'x8' from Home Depot
Bath Mat- Amazon
Mirror- similar option can be found here
White cabinet options- here and here
Wood Shelves- Amazon
Lighting- my favorite stylish and affordable lighting options can be found here
More of my favorite decor items can be found here

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Solo Vacations: Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid to Take One

"I love to travel!" In my experience, this a sentiment that many people express but fewer actually take the initiative to plan a trip. Money, time off of work, family obligations, or fear of leaving the comforts of home are usually the reasons that hold many back. For me, it was lack of a travel companion (for all of the reasons just mentioned) that was making me hesitant to take the trips that I'd always wanted to take. But why, exactly, was I reluctant to travel alone? Was I afraid I'd be unsafe? Was I afraid to dine alone? Was I afraid I'd be bored without anyone to talk to? After asking myself these questions I realized, that with proper planning, there really wasn't any actual legitimate reason I couldn't or shouldn't travel alone!

traveling alone

I've been lucky enough to have traveled extensively over the years and have taken some smaller road trips within the country by myself, but had yet to travel internationally alone. A few months ago I decided it was necessary for my mental health to escape the long, cold New England winter by heading somewhere tropical over April break. I was also looking forward to having some time to read, relax, and recharge away from my house and the never ending project 'to do' lists! So, I booked my first solo international trip to the Dominican Republic!

The Logistics
Book ground transportation in advance
Look for a small resort

One of my colleagues mentioned she had booked a trip for her family to the Bahamas through Cheap Caribbean so I decided to take a look there as well. Because I was traveling solo, I wanted to stay somewhere all inclusive so I didn't have to leave the resort for every meal or really for anything at all. I ended up finding a great deal that included roundtrip airfare, lodging, food and drinks at the VH Gran Ventana Beach Resort in the Dominican Republic. When booking the trip, Cheap Caribbean also had the option of paying for transportation from the airport to the resort. I would highly recommend this as it took away any of the uncertainty of trying to arrange ground transportation and traveling alone while in a foreign country. As soon as I left the airport, the transportation company had clearly marked signs and I took a small van with a few others vacationers to our respective resorts. It was really easy, safe, and seamless!

The resort itself was the perfect place for a solo traveler. It was small, which made it feel safe both during the day and at night because I didn't have to walk a long distance to access the beach, the pool area, or the dining room/restaurants. I spent most mornings on the beach, then after lunch, headed for the pool! There was entertainment at the resort each night, which was right next to the main pool area so again, I didn't have to walk far alone at night! Choosing a safe place to stay (be sure to read lots of reviews) and planning your transportation in advance will alleviate some of the hesitation/fear that comes with traveling alone.

The People
Vacationers are friendly
Book excursions early

Whenever I've traveled alone, there are usually so many opportunities to meet and connect with other people. I have found this to be true on any of the solo trips or outings I've taken. It seems that people on vacation are usually very excited and interested in hanging out with people from all over the world- chatting about where people are from and usually finding lots of commonalities. My trip to the Dominican Republic proved to be no exception as I met lots of people from all over. There was the woman from the Bronx who was sharing the shuttle bus to the resort, a mother-daughter duo who I ran into all over the resort throughout the week, the couple I met on an excursion who actually live in the next town over from me in Maine (I'm telling you, it's such a small world), a group from Germany who I hung out with at the pool, and even a group of teachers from Canada, one of whom recognized me because she follows me on Instagram and happened to be staying at the exact same resort!!

Booking excursions is a great way to meet other people as you are usually put into a small group and are sort of 'forced' to talk! It's even a great idea to take an excursion toward the start of your trip because you could end up meeting a group of people you can then hang out with the rest of the week, if you so choose! I met another woman who was traveling solo who ended up hanging out with a group from Canada for most of the week as they were all on an excursion together and were staying at the same resort. I took a city tour of Puerto Plata part way through the trip and met some really fun people! So, while you may think you'll feel lonely if you travel alone, you will most likely meet more people than you could imagine, some of whom may become life-long friends and travel buddies!

The Benefits of Solitude
Set your own agenda
Build confidence
Reconnect with yourself

While it's great to meet new people while traveling and it's always fun to take a trip with friends and loved ones, one of the benefits of solo travel is you are free to make your own agenda and can elect to NOT talk to or meet other people as well! I decided when I wanted to eat, when I wanted to skip out on the evening entertainment and go to sleep early, what excursions I most wanted to take, and whether I wanted to be on the beach or poolside...I made my own agenda with no one to please but myself!

When I told my students I was taking this trip alone, many expressed that they could never do that because the thought of dining alone and having others 'judge' them was too embarrassing (I think they may have some negative school cafeteria experiences)?! I feel like many adults let the fear of being judged by others hold them back from experiences as well. Why not dine alone? Why not travel alone? In my experience, most people aren't feeling pity for you they are actually envious and impressed with the choice to travel and experience life solo! In fact, whenever I told my colleagues and friends about my solo trip to the Dominican, almost all of them were like "What? That's awesome! Good for you...I'm totally jealous!!" Not a direct quote, but the sentiment was usually the same nonetheless.

Most people who I met while on vacation assumed I was there 'with my husband' (which I guess maybe I should take as a compliment?). I would just politely correct them (or sometimes just nod politely) and go about my business! Dining alone was no problem...I even met a stray cat who I fed some delicious mahimahi (true story)! The other diners were not judging me, in fact I'd say it's pretty narcissistic to think that in a dining room full of 100+ people, any of them were paying attention to me, so there's really no need to feel self-conscious. In fact, dining and traveling alone only builds self-confidence!

The other benefit of taking a trip alone is time to read, reflect, and do some things to feed your soul. I chose a variety of books (self-help, memoirs, and fiction) all of which offered introspection and relaxation. I watched the sunset, fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves, and reflected on the goals and dreams I have for my life. I'm not sure one has as much time to do these things when traveling with others. Solitude offers a unique opportunity for calm and connection with oneself.

As I was posting stories from my Dominican vacation on Instagram, I received so many messages from women asking if I was traveling alone (not in a creepy way but more in an inquisitive way), then expressing that they had always wanted to do the same but felt too nervous to do so. I'm truly hoping that you've read this post and will feel confident and inspired to book that solo trip! With some proper planning (or even no planning but just winging it if you're brave like some of my super adventurous friends), the willingness to strike up some conversations with new people, and the desire to reconnect with yourself, you'll end your trip with lots of new memories and certainly feeling a new sense of confidence! What are you waiting for??