Every year my husband takes a trip to see the Blue Jays play with a buddy of his (who, ironically, also just became a twin Dad). And because everything in our household must be even and fair, I also took a trip this year. I really didn’t have anywhere I was stoked to go but I knew if I didn’t book something I wouldn’t go anywhere. So I spontaneously booked a solo trip and off to Vegas I flew. I can hear you saying to yourself “Vegas by yourself? That’s weird” and maybe you’re right but my logic was threefold. One: Its a quick flight and I only had a few days. Two: It was relatively inexpensive compared to other options I considered. And three: I’ve never travelled by myself but I’ve been to Vegas a number of times so I felt comfortable that I would know my way around and not feel overwhelmed with newness. Brad and I got engaged and then married in Vegas. We’ve travelled there a number of times with friends and always had a good time. So, Viva Las Vegas it was.
During my three short days in Sin City I discovered a lot. I share some of these lessons with you now.
- Travelling without kids is a fucking breeze – Are you kidding me? Only being responsible for my carry-on, my passport, my boarding pass, my bladder. It was glorious! Turns out I’m a more confident traveller than I thought I was. A reassuring revelation for the next time we travel as a family.
- Not all hotel rooms are created equal – This trip I stayed at The Flamingo as we have before. Last time we visited we had a Go Suite, complete with a view of the Bellagio fountains and a TV in the bathroom mirror. We were upgraded seemingly at random. I was not so lucky this stay. I had a stellar view of The Cromwell parkade and my room was a solid 2.5 stars. Two queen beds (with pillows the density of rock), a desk, a chair and, lucky me, an open box of condoms in the nightstand drawer. All this simply meant that I didn’t hole-up in my room for three days and actually put myself out there. Not my usual attitude. Had I had a glorious, comfortable room I may have napped my trip away. Regardless of my room condition, I was reminded that I am still petrified of bringing home bed bugs and did the same, thorough bed check as per my usual routine.
Introverts can talk to strangers – On my first night in Vegas, I walked around, took in the sites and quickly realized not much had really changed in ten years. Eventually I heard my tummy growl and I knew I’d have to face my fear of eating alone in a restaurant. Room Service was closed and I couldn’t bare to eat another fast food burger. I summoned my courage and walked into a Mexican restaurant nearby. I sat at the bar. This is something I have never done. My husband, on the other hand, loves sitting at the bar. He can talk to anyone. He’s likeable and approachable. Admittedly he has been sucked into a number of conversations with some weird people but all in all he typically has a pleasant experience. I was going to try and be more like him. I pulled up a stool, ordered some liquid courage and scanned the menu. It wasn’t long after ordering that the bartender struck up a conversation. “What do you do back home?“, he asked. “Are you here for the nursing convention?” I told him I stay home and take care of two toddlers and that I was here alone on vacation. He didn’t buy it for a minute. I spent the next 20 minutes explaining my momcation. I don’t think he ever believed me but before he could continue his interrogation, a man asked if the seat beside me was taken. Inwardly I wanted to scream “YES! BACK OFF!” but I graciously welcomed him to join me. And then I sat there in introverted petrification. I stared at the TV with the intensity of a lion stalking his prey. And then it happened. “What’s good to eat here?” he asked me. I buckled up and prepared for an awkward conversation. “Honestly, I have no idea“, I replied. “I just needed to eat and this place seemed the quietest. My meal is fine I guess“. “I’m in the same boat.” he replied. “I just have to get something in my stomach“. For the next five minutes we exchanged occasional, superficial questions. He was an engineer from upstate NY here on business. He wasn’t interested in the baseball highlights on the TV but was an avid hockey fan. As we ate, my mood lightened. This wasn’t so bad. I certainly wasn’t initiating much conversation but I could hold my own. I finished my last sip of beer and told the bartender I was ready for the check, still somewhat eager to get out of there. Instead, the bartender brought me another beer. I guess I was here for a little while longer. I don’t know if it was the alcohol that made me more comfortable or just the fact that this man was genuinely nice, but I actually started to enjoy myself. For almost an hour we talked about our kids and spouses, our likes and dislikes, politics and the cold Canadian winter. It was lovely. In fact, it was more comfortable than some conversations I’ve had with people I’ve known for years. At the end of the night we introduced ourselves, shook hands and parted ways. I felt surprisingly sad our encounter had ended but proud that I had not retreated into my shell.
- Conventions are big business – Vegas hotels are filled with conference-goers, the majority of them male. Packs of men walking around wearing matching, collared t-shirts with a small company logo embroidered on their left breast pocket. All wear comedically large ID tags
around their necks with names like Bill or Graham printed in bold. All carry the same cheap, black swag bag stuffed with company marketing gimmicks like keychains and pens, brochures and vouchers, most of which will be left behind in a Vegas hotel room, discarded as if they never existed. If you are travelling solo, it is assumed that you are a participants in such a convention. Wait staff try to guess which one you’re attending but without the shirt or the ID tag, they quickly give up, refill your coffee and shuffle off.
- Cap’n’Crunch ice cream exists – And it is more delicious than I ever expected. I enjoyed a scoop before taking a ride on The High Roller one afternoon. As I sat by a fountain licking my delicious dairy treat, I was accosted by pigeons. They are fucking relentless here. In fact one morning while eating in the Wildlife Habitat, a pigeon went so far as to try and steal a breakfast bagel right off my plate while I took a sip of coffee. Back off bird, I’m not done with that! Vegas is full of all species of vultures.
You can find peace amongst chaos – Probably one of my favourite moments came while I was taking advantage of the hotel spa. Sandy, the woman who did my facial and body scrub told me about her kids at home, her son being only four months old. She said she had to come back to work when he was eleven weeks old and that he stays with her mom during the days. She talked about how hard it is to leave him and how the money she earns barely makes it worth it. She lamented how she gets home just in time to feed him and put him to bed and how exhausted she is day in and day out. My heart broke for her. At the end of my treatment I put my hand on her shoulder and told her “you are very good at what you do and I’m confident you are an even better mother. I hope you find the balance you’re looking for“. She started crying. I wanted to hug her. All a mother ever wants to hear is that she’s doing right by her kids. I thought about Sandy and her kids all day and made sure to remind myself how lucky I am to stay home with our kids every day. To watch them grow and learn, succeed and fail. I hope to never take this opportunity for granted.
- There’s nothing better than coming home – Much of my time away was spent thinking about my family and the experiences I hope we share together. I analyzed what needs to change in order for us to have our best life. I reminded myself of the simplicity we want for our kids. I thought a great deal about the relationships I hope we cultivate as a family. I emailed a few people that I admire and asked them what one thing they felt contributed to their family bond. It was enlightening and encouraging. I arrived home to huge hugs and the realization that my entire trip was all worthwhile.