When I was a sophomore in college I studied abroad in Wales, mostly because I’d had a bad break up, the kind of break up where you are walking to class on day and you see a friend and you say “Hey what’s up” and she says “I’m going to a meeting about studying abroad in Wales” and you say “That sounds cool.” And she says, half seriously, “You should come!” And you say “Ok” and don’t go to class and instead go to Wales three weeks later for six months (After coming home from the meeting having already signed up for the trip, calling your parents to ask really nicely for a transcontinental plane ticket and and Googling “Where is Wales?”). This is all besides the point, but an explanation of how I ended up at some point in my twentieth year in a hostel that did not have a television, at the base of the tallest mountain in Wales, about to climb it the next day with my German roommate Harald, my American roommate Sarah who had forgotten to bring hiking boots and was carving lines on the bottom of her Uggs with a pocketknife and a British guy named Liam who had been dumped by his girlfriend the previous day and had somehow ended up on our excursion, presumably to climb Mt. Snowdon with us, but it seemed mostly to compile out loud to us a detailed list of all the things he never liked about his ex-girlfriend, anyway. Again, this is all besides the point but I’m setting the scene: we were in a remote, dimly lit hostel, I was reading a chapter about otters in a field guide to British wildlife (again, no TV), and we met a woman from New Zealand who was there by herself. We asked her what she was doing and she told us she’d quit her job a few months before and now she was hiking all over the UK.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I got engaged, and I realized I’d never done anything on my own,” she said. “And before I got married, I had to know if I could.”
I don’t know if it was that I was in a similar situation: I’d impulsively run off to Europe to prove to myself that I could do stuff on my own, or if it was just the excitement of really travelling for the first time, but meeting that woman was this huge moment for me. The idea that the ability to be alone before you are with someone else is the true success of a relationship, that you don’t need it to be you, if anything you need to be able to exist independently in spite of your relationship, has shaped every relationship I’ve had since then: romantic relationship, friendship, relationship with myself.
So when I got engaged I thought a lot about that woman. I thought about maybe doing something similar, except that I’d just finally after two years of trying and a lot of disappointment, I had gotten a good job that I liked and also I’d jumped the gun a little bit and run off to Australia for six months by myself a year and a half before. But I wanted to do something before I got married, and I think everyone should. I've created what I call the singlemoon: a trip you take without your future spouse before you get married, and it has to be something adventurous. I don’t mean a weekend with your bridesmaids in Cabo. Something you’d never do otherwise, that feels a little outrageous and maybe reckless, something you’ve always wanted to do but have thought: no I don’t have the time, or no I don’t have the money, or no, I’ll never really do that.
So anyway, I booked a train ticket from Ann Arbor to Glacier National Park where I’m gonna hang out with grizzly bears for a few days, then take the train again to Seattle where my friend Erica and I are taking a ferry to Alaska, we’re going to camp on the back deck and I’ve heard rumors that sometimes the boat has to stop because there are traffic jams caused by wales. I’m so excited for this singlemoon, I can’t even talk about it without tearing up a little. It’s something someone with a much more interesting Instagram than me would do. It’s not hiking around the mountains of Scotland and Wales for six months, but I don’t have to quit my job and abandon my fiance while he finishes his PhD, which I’ve already done once anyway. And I’m totally gonna touch a glacier. I’m gonna touch it right on it’s moraine.
My point is: singlemoons should be a thing. That lady from New Zealand was right, you should know you can do things on your own before you decide to spend your life with another person. Even if it’s just a two week train/ferry trip across the country, that’s not totally alone because you convinced a friend to come with you on each leg so you don’t get eaten by various types of bears. (Or at least you both do).
Hashtag singlemoon. This is going to look very impressive on my Instagram.