“Though we travel the world to find the beautiful, we travel with it or we find it not.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Unable to sleep for the hundredth time, I called Catalina Express at 6:00 AM and bought the last ticket bound for Catalina Island on Saturday morning. I left at 5:30 AM for the harbor, boarded and arrived Avalon at 8:00 AM with my brown satchel and phone that died minutes later.

My motives for solo getaways is to liberate myself,  strengthen myself,  be better in problem solving independently, and discover beautiful things, places, and people. Growing up, I believed fulfilling dreams quickly = success = beauty. Now, I’m done with being pissed at myself for not fulfilling my dreams by 25. I aspired to have a cookbook published,  a few recipes featured on Foodnetwork, knock out a few ARE exams, and marry a solid handsome gentleman by 25. I aspired to bust babies out by 32 and hand them brown paper bag lunches every morning at the door and prepare heartwarming comfort dinners for my husband and kids to come home to. I’ve been invited  as a single individual to 14 weddings within the past 3 years, and now, I’ve accepted the fact that my dreams weren’t/won’t be fulfilled because of how naiive, stubborn, and impatient I’ve been with them. Surely I’m still determined to fulfill my dreams. Yet I forgot that many pursuits demand a period of solitude, patience, and reflection.

One thing I really love about traveling solo is that I can do whatever the hell I want, whenever. This includes a pretzel caramel stracciatella gelato in a thick, buttery waffle cone for breakfast (and chugging large iced coffees with extra espresso shots) on a Saturday morning in mid-September.

I spent the rest of my morning walking along the harbor, sketching and painting on a bench, sliding through pockets of downtown alleys to check out boutique shops and skim articles of various architecture/interiors/fashion/trashy girl magazines. By noon, I went up inland, encountered a few water buffalo, appropriately devoured some juicy, tender buffalo tacos at the peak, got lost, found a talented musician playing and singing one of my favorite songs, “Israel Kamakawiwo’ole-Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” on the ukelele. My heart sank and I almost cried as the beautiful performance ended.

On my way to Descanso Beach Club, I walked underneath the arcades of the Catalina casino, sunk onto the sand with a refreshing mojito slush while reading the latest issue of Bon Appetit. A drunk, sunburnt white dude stumbled into me as he pounded his party straw hat over my hat. He started talking to me in broken English while I was eating oysters and I couldn’t stop laughing. We fooled around and discussed stealthy acts of what we could do to cause the restaurant more problems. It’s really fun meeting other strange locals and/or travelers. A tease here and there. Not expecting more/less. A polite nod, smile, and laugh. Aside from whatever personal stories/experiences that fall into our conversations, the only personal information I give to strangers who ask, is my first name. I enjoy sharing stories with some encouragement / thought to ponder about – nothing more.

Then I was surrounded by blondes in bikinis and sailor hats shouting and spanking each other in a train lineup around a bar to an EDM version of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, old chubby wrinkly sunburnt shirtless men and Latino girlfriends stroking their tattoo arms. Although it was really cute and amusing, I realized how alone and out of place I was socially and culturally. In Japan, none of these (nor me being by myself) would be proudly exposed, because these generally aren’t considered beautiful. Then I wondered what really is beautiful? For my thesis in architecture school, I investigated the definition of beauty by discussing the art of Mary Cassatt, Degas, and Angelo Merendino. I concluded that beauty is timeless, not bound by gender roles nor cultural standards. Beauty is always emotionally evocative, timeless, and always motivates you to do something out of ordinary. Now I furthermore believe It requires strength, to stand boldly, with or without support.

By sunset, I painted by the shore for T and continued to walk around the harbor, play some arcade games with hot cocoa, and while I sat and waited exhausted on the sand for the last yacht to take me back home, I read my favorite excerpt of my favorite poem again:
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

-The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot