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Book Review: “Unbridled” — Like “Eat, Pray, Love,” But Not Annoying May 21, 2013

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews, solo travel.
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McNally, Barbara. Unbridled. A Memoir. Balboa Press, 2013.

I totally want to go to Ireland. I totally want to make sandwiches for underprivileged girls. I totally do not want to take burlesque dancing lessons. I totally want to re-read Unbridled.

What it’s about:

Essentially, the book is about a woman, our narrator, who tries in self-destructive ways to get out of her suburban marriage-with-kids life. No offense to the suburbs, or marriage, or kids, but she feels that somewhere in the whole combo, she lost herself. So she rips herself free into singledom (I won’t tell you how), leaving behind a tangled mess of family and feelings that she regrets but cannot repair, at least not at that time. She embarks on a journey of self-seeking to Ireland and Jamaica which (spoiler alert?) ultimately allows her to return home and reconnect with her daughters.  Then she gets semi-naked and dances at a hospital.

Why It’s Less Annoying than Eat, Pray, Love:

Does story of a quest for personal fulfillment via travel sound familiar? Unless you’ve been living under a literary rock for the past few years, you’ll recognize this book as possibly capitalizing on the whole Eat Pray Love phenomenon.  Now, I happen to hate very much on Eat Pray Love, so I was worried that I would be equally annoyed with this book.  But no. I read it in three sittings (or lie-ings, if you count the bathtub).

First, McNally isn’t spoiled. She doesn’t have a zillion-dollar book contract to fund her journey. She pays and budgets like one does on a real trip. Second, she isn’t vain. Not once do we hear a man gushing about how beautiful she is (although don’t think that means we don’t see a good deal of carefully wrought sex in the book). Third, she acknowledges that she is leaving behind some serious responsibilities, especially her daughters, and this weighs on her. Her love affair–with a falconer on the grounds of an Irish castle nonetheless–isn’t claustrophobic and the culmination of her journey, as if single is ok as long as in the end you couple up. Rather, McNally leaves her lovely falconer after one day and moves on, not without regrets but also happy to be continuing her journey as a free, single woman. All this is totally opposite of EPL. So we can thank the EPL phenomenon for opening up the market to books that are actually–in my opinion–better in many ways than EPL.

“I held the meat gingerly and stretched my arm out like a branch. A very nervous branch.” (88, on feeding a falcon)



STFU Redbook: I’m Single and I’m Going to Vegas! March 24, 2012

Posted by Onely in solo travel, STFU.
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I had always considered Redbook just one step above an inflight magazine. Now I’ve downgraded it to a ranking underneath inflight magazines but above the backs of cereal boxes (except for Kashi cereal boxes; those are still several steps above Redbook).  But Why? Why do we at Onely want Redbook to STFU?

Because this month’s issue has an article titled “Your perfect hotel finder!” which I eagerly picked up while waiting for my dermatologist. (Perfect skin to go with my perfect hotel!)  The article was organized spreadsheet-style, with a column on the left delineating exciting locations: New York!–LA!–Chicago!–Las Vegas! and for each location there was a row of different hotel options: Magic Castle Hotel!–Terranea Resort! And (the dreamiest-sounding) Acqualina Resort and Spa on the Beach!  The hotels options were themselves organized in columns, according to who you were travelling with: If You’re Bringing Your Kids!–If You’re Doing the Couple Thing!–If You’re Travelling Solo!

HAHA just kidding. There was no If You’re Travelling Solo! option. My eyes scanned across the Kids and Couple options looking for a Single Travellers column, but they just kept scanning right right right into the inner fold of the magazine.

That’s right, no Acqualina Spa for me, because I don’t have a kids or chronic sex partner to travel with. Probably I should write Redbook a polite but indignant letter educating them about the increasing solo traveller demographic. But I would rather just go get a wine cooler from my bathtub and sit on my back stoop in an inflatable baby pool, as single people do because there are no hotels for us.


Photo credit: Fotopedia, Mnadi Sheraton Miramar Resort, Egypt

Bad Onely Activities: Packing for My International Move August 22, 2011

Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, solo travel.
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It was a Saturday morning in August, and all my clothes, papers, and miscellaneous junk had been pulled out of my two closets; now they laid heaped in large piles across my living and bedroom floors. My dog stared at me nervously from one of the few remaining free squares of carpet. I was all alone, and I was ready to cry.

Such was the scene three weekend ago in my apartment in Louisville. My mission: finish packing all boxes for sea freight and plane luggage for the upcoming move to Beirut. I had already packed the easy stuff – eight boxes full of books. I had already sold most of my furniture, as well as my car. But tons of work remained. My final departure wasn’t for another month, but the boxes (19 in all) were to be picked up on Tuesday, and I had two domestic trips planned that would keep me away from home for three of the remaining four weeks.

On this particular Saturday, I needed to sort all unpacked items into four piles – one pile for trash or recycling; one pile for charity; one pile for the sea shipment; one pile for use over the next month – and then I needed to stuff everything for shipment or upcoming travel into the aforementioned boxes or bags. Later, I would somehow need to dispose of the hills of trash, recyclable papers, and donatable items. Did I mention I live three flights up and have no car?

I needed to focus, and I needed help. But I was alone, in spite of making it infinitely clear to my closest friends for the weeks prior that this weekend was not only my second-to-last in town, but that it was the final push for packing and I would need their help. After receiving no voluntary offers of help or inquiries about my need the week prior, I posted a desperate – and public – plea for help on my Facebook wall Friday morning. Still having heard nothing, and feeling totally ashamed, I sent an email Friday night, once again reaching out to the six or eight people whom I consider my closest friends here.

Finally, by Saturday morning a few friends had acknowledged my email. But no one could help me, and some ignored the message altogether. I felt overwhelmed, but more significantly, I felt abandoned. I have lived away from immediate family for many years and am pretty independent. Truthfully, I hate asking for help, but of course sometimes it’s necessary, and I have gotten pretty good about asking diplomatically and not taking “no” personally. But facing my mess alone that Saturday morning, I couldn’t help feeling hurt because I had assumed my friends would at least want to keep me company since our time was short.

Maybe I should never have hoped for help with such a personal task. Or perhaps it was too much to expect my friends to understand what it might feel like for me emotionally as I prepare to leave while they remain. Even worse, it’s possible my friends aren’t as close as I thought.

But given that every one of the friends I emailed has never before avoided me and seems to like me very much (!), I am tempted to speculate instead that they may have a hard time imagining what it feels like to move without the help and support “guaranteed” by a spouse or significant other. All the friends I emailed Friday night happen to be in coupled relationships. While I *need* my friends for practical support and consider them family, they don’t need me in quite the same way. If I want to go out to dinner with a companion, I don’t have a ready-to-go partner. If I forget something at the grocery store, I have to go back myself. Some have moved locally several times, and while I’ve helped with the physical move, they’ve never requested packing or logistical help. Plus, there’s a strong Midwestern mindset here: I have few uncoupled friends in Louisville, and fewer still who have experienced long periods of being single. Many are regional ‘insiders,’ having grown up in the South or the Midwest, with families who remain in the area. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (I am a Midwesterner myself) – but I truly feel unusual in that I have been mostly uncoupled for the duration of my four years living here and have no family nearby. So perhaps I suffered that Saturday due to a lack of serious single-person empathy.

The good news is, I accomplished my task that Saturday and even enjoyed an hours’ worth of help Sunday morning from some of the same friends who left me alone Saturday. And I am damn proud of all I’ve done by myself. But I surely wouldn’t classify this as an enriching Onely experience!

– Lisa

Beginnings in Beirut: A (Long-Term) Onely Adventure June 5, 2011

Posted by Onely in Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy, solo travel.
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To Our Copious Readers,

I am thrilled to share with you exciting news: I’m moving to Beirut!

That’s right — I hinted at it a couple of weeks ago, but now it’s Onely official: I’ve accepted an Assistant Professor position at the American University of Beirut and will be moving in early September.

Between applying for jobs, interviewing for a number of them, flying to Beirut to make this decision AND finishing my dissertation (!), these last few months have been a whirlwind of intellectual and emotional activity. I could never have predicted that I would begin my career overseas, much less in Lebanon — but after my visit, I knew I had to go. When else, I wondered, would I ever get an opportunity like this — an opportunity that will allow me to cultivate my love of travel, improve my understanding of other cultures, all while actually pursuing the career for which I’ve been trained? To be honest, I had low expectations — the academic job market is rough, especially in the Humanities, and I assumed I would end up living in Farmville USA for most of my career (no offense to actual Farmville residents). And who knows, that might be true in the long run — it’s only a four-year contract and who knows what will happen after that.

Living overseas is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do but never saw fitting into my life plan… I didn’t study abroad (even though my undergrad school offered a semester in Spain); I never pursued the Peace Corps (though I studied the application occasionally in my early 20s); hell, I hadn’t even ever left the country until a few years after college. Yet every time I’ve traveled overseas, I’ve longed for a more sustained (and sustainable) experience. Instead, time and money always got in the way.

So, needless to say, I feel incredibly lucky right now. And terrified at the same time. But more than anything, I’m certain that whatever the future brings, my Onely attitude will keep me on the right track (and will surely produce some interesting adventures, which I’ll share along the way!).

So I’m curious, Copious Readers, what are the big life decisions you’ve made for which a Onely attitude has been necessary? And what kind of advice do you have for me as I move forward?

— Lisa

Onelers devenons comme fous: Lisa fait Paris (avec la maman!) January 13, 2010

Posted by Onely in Great Onely Activities, Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy, Singles Resource, solo travel.
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Bon Annee, fellow Onelers! As my poor French translation above (hopefully) indicates, I spent the New Year in Paris with my mother, who has never before traveled internationally and who has been dreaming of taking this trip most of her life (well, I *know* my bad French didn’t exactly say all that, but bear with me).

Yes, I AM the luckiest daughter in the world! I traveled alone to the UK in May (see my posts here, here, and here on the experience) and have now begun exploring Europe (it’s not just my mom’s dream!). I was wary of heading alone to a country where I didn’t speak the language (ich spreche ein bischen Deutsch, and even less Russian), so going with my mom was a good first step — especially since she paid for everything 🙂

So, now that I have recuperated from my travels, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on traveling internationally alone versus with someone else: (more…)

Worldwide Onelers: China’s Taiko–Nots. August 3, 2009

Posted by Onely in As If!, Look What Google Barfed Up, Secret Lives of the Happily Single, solo travel.
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According to this BBC news article, Chinese taikonauts have to meet a series of criteria in order to go into space, including:

No Bad Breath!

No Body Odor!

No Scars That May Burst Open!

I understand the close confines of the spacecraft and fully support these criteria, having dated a guy with halitosis (though not, thank god, with exploding scars). But wait, there’s another requirement for taikonauts:

Your Spouse Must Approve!


The World’s Oneliest House July 29, 2009

Posted by Onely in Dating, Food for Thought, Great Onely Activities, I want to..., single and happy, solo travel.
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Point Lookout Lighthouse in Maryland is the world’s oneliest house. It sits on a rocky outcropping that juts into the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. I went there with my paranormal investigations group (a story for another blog at another time), and it’s a truly spooky, isolated location. But that’s not why it’s a onely place. What struck me about the lighthouse was that it had been modified so that two keepers’ families could live there together. A wall was built down the center of the house. The wall turned into a railing that crossed  the front porch and went right down the middle of the short staircase leading from the lawn to the front of the house. The house had two front doors on the porch, one on each side of the railing. The two families could walk up their respective sides of the steps and enter their respective mirror-image houses, dine in their mirror-image dining rooms and sleep in their respective bedrooms, and never cross paths except in one shared alcove to which they each had lockable doors. That alcove accessed the spiral staircase leading to the light tower.  (more…)

Hard-Core Oneler: Dick Proenneke June 12, 2009

Posted by Onely in Great Onelies in Real Time, Great Onely Activities, Profiles, Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy, solo travel, We like. . ..
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DickProennekeCabinWelcome to the Hard-Core Edition of our series, Great Onelers In Real Time. Today’s Hard-Core Oneler is former Navy carpenter Richard Proenneke. In 1968, at the age of 51, he went to the ultra-wild wilderness of Twin Lakes, Alaska and built himself a cabin by hand, with no chain saws or other automated machinery.  He even carved the handles for the tools he used to hew the spruce logs. Then he lived in the cabin for over thirty years.

The mesmerizing video  Alone in the Wilderness by Bob Swerer Productions tells the story of Dick’s first year at Twin Lakes. Dick used a tripod to film himself building his cabin. We see many shots of him from the backside, walking away from the lens with a determined, slightly bow-legged stride, once with a sheep ribcage strapped to his back. He films grizzly bears rolling joyfully  down snowy slopes. He feeds birds by hand. He makes door hinges, for goodness’ sake (I didn’t know you could make door hinges; I thought they grew on the door hinge tree).  (more…)

Traveling Solo, Tips and Tales (Part 3 of 3): Tips! May 21, 2009

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, Great Onely Activities, Secret Lives of the Happily Single, single and happy, Singles Resource, solo travel.
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Hi everyone,

After spending the past two posts enumerating some of the best and worst aspects of traveling alone, I figure it’s about time for some practical advice. So, to stoke your trip-planning imaginings, I am happy to present Part 3 of this three-part series:

Lisa’s Essential Tips for Traveling Solo: (more…)

Traveling Solo, Tips and Tales (Part 2 of 3): Worst Things May 20, 2009

Posted by Onely in single and happy, Singles Resource, solo travel.
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So, although I am genuinely glad to have explored the UK by myself, I must admit that traveling solo internationally definitely presented a few challenges that would have been easier to overcome if I hadn’t been alone. So, never being one afraid to admit that shit really does stink, I present to you Part Two of Three of my solo traveling series:

Lisa’s Worst Things about Traveling Alone: (more…)

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