Featured image: To honour her love for herself, Nadine L. decided to do everything she’d been afraid to do – including skydiving! / Photo provided by Nadine L.
Women’s Solo Travel Journeys – Love on the Road
As a child, Nadine L. bounced around from foster home to foster home. A ward of the system, there was often simply no space for her, so she’d get placed wherever she could be squeezed in. She was even sent to live in a Juvenile Detention Centre once because that was the only facility with room for her.
“I never really felt like I belonged, that I mattered or was loved – especially loved – and it was something I was always chasing,” she says. “First the love of family, and when that didn’t happen, I switched to love of a partner. I was always looking for love outside.”
She recalls the precise and defining moment that she began to aim at an inexhaustible source of love – herself. It was Valentine’s Day. She was in her early 20s. And it struck her how many times she’d cried when that day rolled around if she didn’t have a partner in her life. How unloved she felt. That year, she snapped.
“I thought: You know what? Valentine’s Day is about love. Well I love ME. So, I took care of me. The next day, I go to the office and all the wives and girlfriends are rapping about what their partners and boyfriends have done, and they looked at me and said: ‘Oh, we’re so sorry Nadine, here we are going on when you have no one.’ And I told them: ‘Oh no worries, ladies! I got everything I wanted. I got my dinner. I got my flowers. I got my chocolate. And I even got my ‘personal’ fireworks. I think that shocked them. They were all much older than me.”
When she was 30, she moved from Montreal to Toronto. And at 35, her long-time best friend threw a surprise birthday party for her. At first, she was puzzled by the pomp and pageantry but then got really excited. She was 35 – what was extra special there to celebrate – the number 35?? But it got her thinking, and the philosophy that now guides her life was born.
“What I realized is that when you’re 80, 85, 90 – you won’t remember your whole life’s worth of birthdays, because that’s a lot of birthdays. But if you focus on the zeros and fives, you get two birthdays to remember per decade. One when you’re entering it, and the other as the ‘hump year.’ It’s a good time to stop and check-in, with another five years to go. Where do I stand? Where do I want to go?” she says. “Every five and zero is a good pointer to celebrate YOU with a bang – and a bang is whatever is meaningful to you and create a beautiful lasting life memory of it. It doesn’t have to be a party all the time with loads of people, balloons and a cake. It could be something completely different. So, I decided that I was going to go on that journey for my 40th.”
“I call it the Next Chapter preparation. I wanted to make myself feel special and realize dreams or bucket list items. I love the idea of doing something on your fives and zeros that you can’t afford to do often. You get four years to prepare, four years to heal, four years to evolve,” she says.
“I married myself because I was becoming a new person. I spent a big chunk of my life feeling unworthy of love. I invited the people that have been meaningful in my life. Those who are part of the build and fabric of my life,” she says. “I’ve seen white parties and decided I wanted my own white party.”
An incredible dinner menu for Nadine’s 45th birthday celebration,
shared with friends and family at The One Eighty in Toronto / Photo provided by Nadine L.
She sent the invitations in April to ensure her event landed in people’s summer calendars. Then she started layering, asking herself: What do I want to do for me? How do I want to make this a big thing? Powerful questions. So, she booked The One Eighty – a swank rooftop restaurant at the top of Toronto’s Manulife Centre – as her party venue. And booked Da Emma in Montreal for her friends and family there to follow after her honeymoon.
Two weeks before the big day, she mailed a letter to her guests as a friendly reminder:
Thank you for attending my 45th birthday celebration. As one of my dearest friends, the most special gift and treasure that I would require from you is the gift of your words of love to me. Your special letter will then be part of my personal 45th Book of Love.
Need some examples or inspiration? If this is the last time we see each other, what would you tell me? What have I added to your life? Any favourite moments you want to share? Any words of wisdom? What do you love about me? Anything that comes to your heart. I hope these examples can help you and inspire you.
Please find special paper to write on. You’re welcome to deposit your lovely envelope in my special box the night of the event. Thank you and enjoy the upcoming festivities.
From the handwritten letters guests provided at her party, she created her own special Book of Love. / Photos provided by Nadine L.
“My Book of Love was created out of this amazing moment. Not only was it filled with love, but it could also serve as uplifting therapy when I feel down. I just take out my book, read it – and I’ve saved $150 not having to sit with a professional ,” Nadine says.
While she stopped short of speaking her own vows, she thinks that the concept of such a contract is an important one to draw with yourself – whether you are marrying yourself or someone else. “You should vow to be there for you, to be your best friend when you’re healthy and when you’re not healthy. You know, rich and poor, the usual. The same vows that you give to someone else? You should first give them to you,” she says.
She surprised her guests by picking up the bill for dinner. The next day, she rented a car and took herself – white going-away outfit and white bikini in tow – to Niagara-on-the-Lake for her honeymoon at The Butler House and was treated like a Queen.
“The owners were a warm and charming gay couple. If I recall, one had an amazing talent in interior decorating and the other was an amazing chef. A perfect combination of talents to create an extraordinary weekend stay with “A breakfast from a Chef “ experience. For the first time in my life, I had an out-of-this-world eight-course delicious breakfast. I went horseback riding. I went hiking. I went fine dining with my own company (it’s often easy to find a seat for one – even last minute!). I went to a spa (that was mainly for couple’s retreat) – and that’s where I decided I was going to read my love letters, while surrounded with couple’s love energy,” she says. “I had saved them, and I wanted to wait for a special moment and read them all at once so I could create an internal explosion of love. When someone has passed away, everyone talks about all the positive aspects about them when they’re lying horizontally. Well, I wanted to hear it and have my explosion of love while I’m still standing vertical. ”
She decided to cap off a weekend of self-indulgence by doing something she’d never done – skydiving. She thought she was going to be a bundle of nerves that morning, but a strange calm had washed over her. “What I’d learned and questioned myself about when I landed was just how many things I’d prevented myself from doing based on my preconceived fear,” she says. “Your 40s are a beautiful time – you’re starting to shed some of the stress, you start to own who you are, or get to know who you are, and are embarking on a journey of forgiving yourself for the things you didn’t do well because you didn’t know better at the time. Like Maya Angelou and Oprah have said: When you know better, you do better.”
The most important lesson Nadine has learned since adopting her Fives-and-Zeros Meaningful Birthday Bash philosophy is that when you experience the act of loving yourself, suddenly you’re no longer walking through life on your own. You now have a best friend walking that path with you. You.
“Most people would say nobody knows you better than yourself. However, it’s not always the case. We don’t take the time to know ourselves and get to know ourselves. We just live life on fast forward. So, organizing something special for yourself every five years allows you to get to know yourself all over again and make you feel special,” she says. “Because you have evolved throughout the years – and your taste or perception of life or your personality might have changed. For example, at 40 I was back raving on speakers and dancing to electronic music like a madwoman and loved every minute of it! I guess it was my midlife crisis. I did the beach music festivals abroad. I did festivals in the woods, the club and parties here. I mean, I’ve done them all and I was out every day all day. After five years of partying, I realized that I couldn’t do this on a weekly basis anymore. I didn’t have the same energy. Again, I needed to get to know and love my new evolved self.”
Nadine L. poses with a gladiator at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy / Photo provided by Nadine L.
So what’s next? For her 50th birthday, she wants to stop, go within and ground herself. So she’s planning a solo soul’s journey to Sedona, renting a car at the airport in Phoenix, and driving into some spectacular countryside. She wants to be able to stop, sit and take it all in while driving along the way. She knows it’s going to be a very spiritual, nourishing, cleansing, and reflective trip.
“I will be visiting sacred lands with a guide, experience a sweat lodge ceremony and many other moments. This is my journey. This is my experience. My evolution. My next chapter.” she says. “It’s important from that 50 mark to have cleansed and resolved childhood issues and to let them go with love and peace. I don’t want to be 70 and still crying about some stuff that happened when I was 10 years old. That means I’ve been carrying this for 60 years. No. I refuse. Life and its moments are precious and should be lived with uplifting purposes and happiness as much as possible.”
Nadine’s tips for memorable Fives and Zeros
- Don’t be afraid to go on a trip by yourself: “Especially for your birthday. Your birthday is a good time to step over that fear and make it happen. Baby steps. Do little things. My first trip by myself was an overnight in Muskoka. Now I’ve done quite a bit of solo travel – Machu Picchu, Amazon Forest, Paris, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Cuba, and more to come.”
- Organize something that has deep meaning for you: “Something that you dreamed about or cherished for a very long time. Bringing life and reality to your dream and special moments will make your heart vibrate of joy – With or without loved ones, depending on the event or the moment. Otherwise, years after years you just do happy birthday, blow the candles out, and your life passes you by.” Organizing that journey for yourself will make you feel special, looked after, and in control of your happiness. There is no better Self-Event Planner than you!
- Celebrate YOU: “A birthday is a good moment to remind you to celebrate you. That you’re here for a reason. That you are worthy of love and happiness. That you are here with a gift, a crazy talent – something you’re passionate about (that will bring joy/service to someone else’s life). Celebrate your heart, kindness, great ideas, promotions, evolution, that you are a Mom, a great leader, intelligent, achievement, and so much more.”
- Get to know yourself between the Fives and Zeros: “You have four years. Ask yourself: How can I work on being happier and getting to know myself? Go on dates with yourself. You know, we keep updating the software of our phones and devices, but how often do you get to update your software? You know, if you don’t, it means that you’re walking around out there as a 30-year-old functioning with 15-year-old ‘software’.”
- Let love show up & feel it: “Don’t depend on the outside to bring you the love you want and need. I’m still learning that every day. A birthday is an opportunity for celebrating your arrival in this world. If you can celebrate an arrival at a new job with a team lunch, I think your arrival into this world is well-deserving of a celebration! I feel so sad when I hear people saying ‘I hate my birthday. I don’t want to celebrate my birthday.’ Perhaps your birthday brings unfortunate memories and my love goes to you if that is the case. The beauty of doing something special every “Zero & Five” of your life, gives you an opportunity to create a new memory and definition of what your birthday can represent – Love of Self. When doing my activities alone, love showed up in being proud of making my dream come true, and most of all in knowing that I was important enough and now capable to make me happy and that love ‘from me to me’ was fulfilling, abundant and satisfying. When doing activities with loved ones, love showed up in simply being open to receiving the caring love from all of them.”
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