The thing about traveling alone is that your companion is your heart. Sometimes that's the only companion you need.
The reason I booked a trip to Sanibel was because I wanted to prove to myself that I could face my fears. It's not that I was necessarily scared of traveling alone; I was excited to see what adventures I could experience on my own. I just needed to be away from home to understand all the changes I was enduring.
Before I booked my trip, I was experiencing a lot of inner turmoil. Tiny panic attacks visited me in moments when I felt self-conscious in a new circumstance. Nausea and nervousness settled in the night before a big party or social event. And a rare disorder called "cyclic vomiting syndrome" was diagnosed to me by my doctor. (Thankfully I'm no longer battling that issue - not only because it's painful, but because who wants to have a disorder with that name?)
At the time, I kept asking myself, "What's wrong with me?" "Why am I dealing with this in my thirties?" and "How do I fix this?"
Now, as I'm coming out on the other side of those challenges, I've changed my pattern of questioning. I ask myself, "What is my anxiety trying to tell me?" "What is my fear preparing me for?" and "How can I sit with my discomfort and love it?"
I understand now that nothing was ever "wrong" with me, but as I grow and expand, I'm shedding old layers that I can't take with me. How can I bring in the new when I'm still holding onto the old?
As hard as this transformation has been, I love that I'm learning radical self-acceptance. As awkward and alienated as I've felt, I've also cultivated love for every part of myself.
I don't think I'd feel this way if it weren't for extreme discomfort. I know not everyone will understand this, but I'm grateful that I now do, because no matter what happens from here on out, however my body responds to great change, I'll trust my process rather than judge or shame it.
And that's something my trip and solitude taught me.
When I woke up the morning after the thunderstorm, I felt in tune with a greater presence. Call it God, the Universe, my higher self, or any other name - I just knew that I was going to be okay. I knew that by showing up for myself when it felt easier to abandon my darkness meant that I was moving in the right direction.
I had a kayaking tour through mangroves booked for the morning, so I quickly threw on yoga pants, a sports bra, sneakers, sunglasses, and a hat (my everyday Sanibel attire) and hopped on my bike to ride the two miles to the bay. I opened the Spotify app on my phone and played Bob Marley and the Wailers to enhance the island vibe of the bike paths that were fecund with palm trees and lush greens.
When I arrived, I parked my bike and walked into the main office building to greet the man at the front desk. "I'm here for the kayaking tour!" I said as sweat gleamed off me.
"Oh no, you've gone too far! Tarpon Bay is a mile south. If you leave now, you just might make it!" he replied as he handed me a brochure for the tour.
I laughed because not only did I manage to mix up the location for the kayaking tour, but I had accidentally booked two hotel rooms instead of one. For two months prior I thought I was staying at a different hotel altogether. (In my defense, both hotels had similar names - The Sanibel Inn and The Sanibel Inn Beach Resort). Also, to be completely transparent, it's very much like me to get lost and have some sort of booking error.
So, I called Tarpon Bay Tours and told them I was on my way and apologized for running late. The man on the phone told me that I had some time as they were explaining safety procedures to the tour group. When I got on my bike, I switched up the music on Spotify and blasted my workout playlist as I tried my best to pretend I was in a spin class so I could speed to the bay. (Side note: it was almost 100 degrees without a cloud in the sky).
When I pulled up, the young man I had spoken to on the phone looked me up and down and said, "Whoa, that was quick! I've never seen someone bike here that fast! Here, sign this waver and you can meet them on the water."
The tour group was already about a quarter mile out on the bay from the shore. I hopped into the kayak and the young man, Trevor, pushed me out and said, "Good luck!"
I replied, "I never did this before!" as I awkwardly maneuvered the paddles through the water. He laughed and yelled, "You got this!"
I struggled a bit at first, but once I got the hang of it I was making full strides toward the tour group who were now fully out in the open bay. As I pulled up behind them, the female tour guide yelled, "Ms. Bertoli, you're here! That was fast!"
With all the mistakes I had managed to make within the first two days of my trip, it's safe to say that I had a way with making up for lost time...