Solo Travel Is The Ultimate Form Of Self-Care

I have always enjoyed alone time. Whether that has been a traumatic response to activating survival mode from a less-than-idealized childhood, or the genuine wonder that comes with knowing that I have the power as an adult to understand what brings me joy in the midst of stillness, is yet to be determined.

As I reflect on my life as a Black, female, immigrant woman of Caribbean heritage, I realize that solitude has always treated me with unreserved kindness and dignity. Juxtaposed against a world where Black Women are not often met with the same grace and space as we navigate landmines of hatred, misogynoir and unrepentant hostility, that is my truth. In my reality, solitude is freedom that acts as a buffer between who others think I am and what I can allow myself to be in my own downtime. Solo travel, in particular, has become a major source of happiness.

Solo Travel Is The Ultimate Form Of Self-Care

Said happiness has become essential as I cope with grief. I have learned many, many things since my father passed away in 2021. My Dad was my very best friend, and his transition ruptured and decimated everything that I thought I knew about the human condition, while simultaneously mangling my outlook on life. That period of darkness was then further exacerbated by the murder of a dear friend of mine earlier this year. At the top of that list of lessons stands one harsh truth: grief neither respects your time nor does it acknowledge proof of tenacity.

Forlornness that comes with “What’s next?” constantly triggers that suffocating fog of grief, and without warning, your life becomes dichotomized with the urgency to live it to the fullest while taking time to wrap yourself in the comforting luxury of the little things and moments. Travel has always been my North Star, and the anonymity of these wanderlust moments simply feels like a gentle, warm hug when the world closes in on you. 

Towards the end of 2023, my trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands became several things of personal importance: a birthday getaway, some much-needed healing in the Caribbean sun and an opportunity to prioritize self-care after an enormously challenging year. From New York, I whisked myself away to the Pink Palm Hotel by American Beech: a stunning boutique hotel nestled in the hills of Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas.

Solo Travel Is The Ultimate Form Of Self-Care

Offering views of a crystal blue coastline, greenery as far as the eyes can see, and overlooking the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals going about their daily business at the port, the property gives much more than what meets the eye of a passer-by. The tropical interior décor brings an elevated touch of Caribbean elegance, where 28 rooms are unique in design and the landscape is punctuated by communal spaces such as an emerald green infinity pool, jacuzzi and lounge areas shrouded by rattan and bamboo.

Serendipitously, my room was located at the very end of the property, which offered a majestic view of the island – sunrises and sunsets included. But even with Mother Nature’s generosity, my heart subconsciously came in search of more.

As I languidly strolled along the terrazzo terraces at the Pink Palm under the midday sun, three elements overwhelmingly became bigger points of reflection for this unforgettable trip that became my quest for self-care. For one, the trip reminded me of ways that the idea of community and care can show up in the most unlikely places.

My new friend, Adrian – the bartender at the poolside restaurant called El Barsito – ensured that I lived every moment as if it were the first and last happy hour. After all, it was my birthday. But he also instinctively knew when my quiet time was necessary. Whether that meant ushering me to a secluded, cushiony lounger on the parameters of the restaurant for dinner fit for royalty; bringing a breakfast basket filled with pastries and locally-sourced fruits to my room every morning, or even offering a glass of prosecco to pair with dazzling sunset views after a day at the beach, Adrian provided a true sense of homely hospitality and care with this solo guest.

Solo Travel Is The Ultimate Form Of Self-Care

Creativity became the second realization that ran its course throughout this vacation. As the first brand new hotel in St. Thomas in over two decades, Pink Palm has had its own dance with history. It stands as the architectural descendant of the famed Smith’s Fancy, which was known in the 1940s and 1950s as the destination of choice for those in the fashion, art music and film industries. My room was a reflection of those imaginative moments in time, inspirationally accented with beautiful pieces of art; alfresco pathways winding throughout the acre-long property and tropical themed wallpaper offering a mellow ode to its Caribbean environment. For me, the visual inventiveness was a home away from home – curating surroundings familiar enough to foster a sense of inviting but with modern creative elements that activated all of my senses for this perfect tropical oasis.

In a moment of clarity, I unwittingly discovered the third epiphany during a luxurious catamaran experience with The Lady Lynsey and Cruzbay Watersports. I casually removed my shoes, boarded the boat and affably greeted staff who were eager to host an intimate Sunset Sail experience with approximately 20 other guests.

Solo Travel Is The Ultimate Form Of Self-Care

Passengers came from all walks of life: a pre-nuptial group of bridesmaids excited to celebrate the soon-to-be bride; a smitten girlfriend celebrating her boyfriend’s birthday; a cluster of young women on the ultimate girls’ trip; an elderly couple enjoying their retirement era – and then me, the solo traveler. But, in various exchanges of pleasantries, I found congeniality among strangers. The young couple celebrating the birthday happily secured my personal belongings as I explored the generous spread of hors d’oeuvres below deck for light eats; the bridal party invited me to take tequila shots to celebrate life and toast champagne to new beginnings, and the retired duo complimented me on my Andrea Iyamah swimsuit as they marveled at the mystery of the deep blue sea.

It was an unlikely synergy among people who had never met, but still shared in one unspoken, common interest: the power of human connections. As the sun set brilliantly over the Caribbean Sea, those were magnetic moments that had returned as a timely cue to appreciate the raw beauty of kindness.

Well-known astrophysicist and writer Neil deGrasse Tyson once said on Twitter that “We are prisoners of the present, in perpetual transition from an inaccessible past to an unknowable future.” He’s right. And while life experiences that bring about grief can make villains and victors of those who fight to find their voice, the reality that we don’t often want to face is that the world will continue to turn.

The key, therefore, comes in finding the balance of living by developing habits to better manage health as wealth. I have unearthed my key in travel, and this recent trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands was a much-needed reminder of this fact. In many ways, self-care becomes a pathway to set ourselves free. It does not instruct grief to permanently leave our space – nor does it have the power to do so. Much like the best hotel experience, it does, however, have the power to tell joy that she has every right to stay.

Tenille Clarke is an avid storyteller, seasoned publicist and cultural enthusiast from Trinidad and Tobago who often pens about her ongoing love affair with travel, entertainment and culture through a Caribbean lens. Follow her digital journey @tenilleclarke1 on Instagram and Twitter.

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