Solo Female Traveller: Table for One

I am what many people call “an independent woman.” I take care of myself (most of the time) and have no qualms about doing stuff on my own. Since I was young, I have preferred to do stuff without help from others.

When I was 20, I decided I would move to Hawai’i. I was encouraged to go and make sure it was a place I could live. So I went on my first big trip by myself. I stayed in a hostel and made friends and did what 20 year olds did. A month after I turned 21, I moved to the Aloha State completely on my own without knowing a soul out there. I managed well enough.

21-in-hi  North Shore, Oahu, 200something, my first visit to Hawai’i

When I was 25, I decided it was time for another move. I would move to Thailand to teach English as a second language. Three days before my 26th birthday, I packed my bags for the 3rd or 4th time and I boarded a plane. The first leg was delayed, causing me to miss the following 3 flights. I arrived in Surat Thani on a lovely monsoony afternoon, greeted by my new roommates the eve of my 26th. My first morning in Thailand was my birthday. During that time, I traveled to the Maldives completely on my own. I couchsurfed for a few nights and then found a nice local atoll to crash on for a few days. I couldn’t afford to stay in a fancy resort (although all inclusive) and it isn’t like many people go to these romantic locations on their own. I saw an opportunity, and I took it. I had a lovely stay at the Dhonvali View on Maafushi. The staff was amazing and set me up on dive trips and other atoll visits, and included all meals for me, set up on the roof overlooking the ocean.

That is the moment I realized the downfall of traveling solo: I would be eating alone. The staff would occasionally join me and chat with me about life and whatever. Sure, it allowed me to gather my thoughts as I ingested some local cuisine and gazed upon the desert waters. But I was eating alone.
In Maldives, when I eating alone, it really wasn’t so bad. I didn’t mind really at the time. But I didn’t quite realize how many meals abroad I would eat in silence.

prison

Not a bad place to be stuck.

maldives-dinner

Rooftop dinner for one.

The latter half of my 20s has/was spent living in Korea. While there, I took a trip to Boracay on my own. I got myself a nice quiet room for the first half of the week and met with a friend for dinners or random travelers for lunch. A fruit shake for breakfast wasn’t a big deal for me on my solo journey.
It was the end of my trip when I booked myself a nicer resort with a fancy pool and buffet that I started experiencing the Maldives sensation, squared. I remember stepping up to the host and the lady greeting me with “Hello, miss. Table for 2?” Confused, I saw behind me was a man. We laughed awkwardly for a moment as his wife walked up and I replied, “Just me. This guy is taken already.” I don’t know if what I saw in her eyes was embarrassment on her part or for me. She sat the other couple first and then proceeded to make me wait while she found a tiny table in an obvious part of the room. It was the table anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows. THE table that doesn’t get seated unless desperate. They put me at the desperate table.
But being the proud and independent woman I am, I held my head high, straightened my posture and ate like a champ. The next day, as she walked me to the same table, I asked to be seated elsewhere.. a little less obvious. My wish was granted and I was put into a corner. Damnit. Whatever, the food was fucking incredible.

This is something I have been enduring for a decade. I know the motions and have learned to take it with a grain of salt… but unfortunately, it’s a bit harder without the tequila and lemon.
Quick flashfoward to today, September 16th in Hoi An, Vietnam. I am on a solo trip in a beach town at a nice hotel & spa. It’s my first breakfast buffet here. I cannot fucking wait. I walk up and I see the dining room is full. There are barely any seats. I tell the hostess “Just me” and she looked confused. “Table for one, please.” Fear or shock, or both?, filled her eyes and she looked around for a table or a place to waste on a single woman. Then she smiles and says “Follow me, please.” So I followed her through the dining room. I kept trying to find that table that I knew she would place me at, but this dining room didn’t have one! Whaaaaaaat? She took me through the dining hall and OUTSIDE TO THE POOL. Where a nice square table set for 2 was set. Next to a crying Asian child. Next to a couple who were soaked from swimming. Next to people in their bathing suits.
She tried to put me outside. Then, as if to embarrass me further, she asked if I was with the gentleman near the door who was waiting for his omelette. Deja. Fucking. Vous. Nope. I replied in my sweetest before-10am venom-dripping voice. I am by myself. I am eating alone. I would like a table with the rest of the guests, thank you very much.
“But miss, there are no tables.” So I went inside and found a long table that had 8 seats. The 4 corners were occupied by 2 separate couples. I walked up and said “Excuse me, is one of these free?” Silent nods. I sat down. “But miss!” said the hostess. I sweetly glared at her and said, “Why yes! I would love a coffee, thank you so much.”

And that is how I started my day.
Solo travelers, especially women, be wary of eating alone. Not because of someone drugging you (although, yes be wary of that), but because assumptions are made and you are better than whatever the assumption is. Find your spot and sit in it. Then proceed to make a mess and eat like a big, leaving bits of jam on the table for them to have to clean up. Actually, try to eat like a lady with a little self-respect.. but definitely leave a bit of jam on the table.

 

It’s Not Fair to Compare

It’s Not Fair to Compare.

 

my input in the form of an article for the new online magazine Tickets To:

New Massage Technique: Serenade?

This is a story from a few years back while I was working out in Hawai’i.

I had been referred to a private client by someone who I know longer remember. This client happened to be VP of a particularly prominent shoe brand. As always, I turned the music on prior to setting up so the client can decide if it was what they wanted to relax to. My choice that session was “standards.” Sweet ballads by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, etc. You know… classics. VP asks me how I came to listen to these old singers and I told him I had no idea. I like the music, it reminds me of days that I never lived (in this life). I told him it inspired me to sing and Ella Fitzgerald was my musical preference.
He made a proposition I have still not had matched. He offered me twice the agreed upon rate, if I would ‘serenade’ him to sleep while I gave a massage. I recall agreeing of course. My first (and only) paid singing gig?!  While massaging? Throw in some ballet and I could be on America’s Got Talent!
Like most of my clients, he was passed out within the first 10 (of 90) minutes. At some point I think I went from singing to humming and he actually awoke and said humming was not part of the contract. Ha!!! Amazing. He was asleep and woke up when I stopped singing. ((Good thing I didn’t get caught having stopped the massage – jk. I would never))

Nice guy in a great big cabin in northern west Maui. I never got a bad vibe from him and he followed through with his end of the bargain. If I could make that a new style of massage..  ahhh c’est la vie.

Noni (pronounced Nah-nee)

My entire career as a massage therapist consisted of jumping from this job to that. But I’ve always been consistent about doing my outcalls. An outcall is having a private client call for a massage session at their location (hotel, home, apartment, business, etc). This is where the more sketchy clients come from. This is the part of the job many people get freaked out about. I have had my share of great private outcall clients and not so great.

FYI: I went by the nickname “Noni” out in Hawai’i (take the last few letters of Shannon and put an i at the end). It wasn’t a common name out there but it wasn’t uncommon either. And it was a lot easier for some locals than “Shannon”.

I stayed in an apartment complex in Hawai’i for a year or so and would post my business cards in the laundry area. Sometimes people would call for inquiries but not many took the bait. One of my clients was a Hawai’ian guy.
He was in construction and worked out often and stayed active. He called me asking for a sports massage. The first couple of massages went smooth. The third one was the charm.
After setting up the table, I excused myself to the restroom. As I always do, I told him to give me a shout when he was ready. I heard “Okay” and stepped out and there he was completely naked by the table. Before I even registered the complete nakedness I went back into the bathroom apologizing profusely. I thought he said “okay!”

I come back out when he confirmed he was on the table under the sheets and again apologized. He said no problem just a minor misunderstanding. The massage was only a 30 minute sports massage. It was going quite normal until it was time to turn over. Like a good therapist I hold the draping in a way to not expose the client in an uncomfortable manner. Somehow he snagged a bit of the sheet on the way up but it did not expose anything. As I sat down near his head to work on his neck/chest, he chose that moment to adjust the sheets to normal – giving me a peek of what I didn’t want to see (for a second time in a day).

I disregarded it and finished the massage. As I finished packing up the table he pulled out a joint and offered it to me. As tempting as it was, I try to keep that part of my professionalism away from recreation. For those who don’t get it.. i said no! (proud of me, mom?)
I charged $45 for the 30 minute sports massage. He said he only had $40. Feeling guilty for the exposure earlier I said don’t worry about it. As I pocketed the money, he muttered something:
Him: “since you blkjlfajsdflkasjdflk noni.”
Me: “huh?”
Him: “laskdjfalskdjflskdjfs noni”
Me: “I still don’t understand you”
Him: “alskjdflajsdlfkjs noni”
Me: “All I hear is you saying my name”
Him: “YOU SAW MINE! SHOW ME YOUR PUNANI!!”
Me: “What? No! That was an honest mistake! I thought you said you were ready! I’m not showing you my junk!”
Him: “I’ll give you another $20”
Me: “i thought you said you didn’t have enough for the massage? well keep your $20. i think you need to find a new therapist”.

And I left. He tried to call for another appointment and I “sweetly” told him that the type of massage he was looking for wasn’t what I offered. As I always did with “confused” clients, I referred him to the back of the Weekly.

 

For those who aren’t familiar with the term “punani” look it up in the urban dictionary.

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