Solocation in Sante Fe

Picture yourself in a place you’ve always wanted to go — and give yourself permission to go alone.

By Lisa Rubenson

If you have the desire, the means, and can carve out the time, why wait? Traveling with others can be great when the stars and schedules align. But it’s easier than you think to go it alone.

“Solocation”
A vacation that you take by yourself to a destination of your own choosing. I didn’t coin the term, but I love it. “Solo” sounds more adventurous than “alone,” and the softness of “-cation” feels restful already like a throw blanket over a lounge chair of letters.

You might think, “that sounds selfish.” But the first rule of solocationing is guilt-free buy-in. When I travel with others, even those I adore, I need alone time. I slip off for walks or offer to go “get supplies” at least once a day. Granted, not everyone is an introvert like me. When we make it a priority to sit in the stillness and savor the world around us, we fill up our oxygen tanks in a way that isn’t always possible when we’re with others.

On a solocation, you call the shots. No judgments, no negotiating. If gelato “happens” for breakfast, it happens. Spend days steeped in the arts and culture, exploring the outdoors or seeing the sights. This is your time — whether you’re enjoying conversations with the locals or curling up in solitude with a stack of books — spend it as you like.

My recent solocation was all of the above. For years I had wanted to go to Santa Fe, but life things and caretaking responsibilities had made it impossible. After experiencing the devastating loss of both my dad and stepdad within six weeks of each other, I decided it was now or never. Life is unpredictable, and we need to carpe all the diems we can.

I was excited about my trip, had found a great deal on a flight and a perfect place to rent in the historic district. What I hadn’t anticipated was the release of emotions I’d feel walking into the Charlotte airport, alone with my thoughts. The sight of distinguished-looking older men with canes or wheelchairs being helped through security set off a wave of grief-storms that had me crying into my scarf all the way to Albuquerque.

Once I stood on New Mexico soil, I felt a shift. The air was cool and dry, and the sky was travel poster blue. The fog of sadness I couldn’t shake at home lifted as I started the drive to Santa Fe. I opened the windows, blasted music I usually pretend not to like in front of my kids, sang and played the air drums all the way to my VRBO.

I only knew that I was supposed to be there, in that city, on that night to experience the arc of the storm. I felt grateful for solitude, yet far from alone.

My casita, aptly named “Casa de Angeles,” was tucked behind a wooden fence with a light blue door and bright flowers everywhere. A print over the desk said, “I have arrived, I am home” and, for the next five days, I was.

It’s hard to stay inside in Santa Fe. You either want to rent a bike and ride through the foothills or explore the centuries-old city on foot. I couldn’t get enough of the art on Canyon Road—the gallerists were happy to talk about their artists’ work, even after they realized I was more of an appreciator than a collector.

The Teahouse Santa Fe was a nice repeat spot for coffee and people watching. A waiter there saw me writing and announced, “we’re all poets,” before reciting one of his own. When you’re solocationing, people seem more apt to reach out.

I spent one day in an area north of Santa Fe called El Santuario de Chimayo, not far from the stunning Santa Fe Opera house and the pueblos of Tesuque and Nambé. The Chimayo campus has drawn spiritual pilgrims for more than 200 years. I wrote a prayer for everyone I loved, and even people I didn’t, and tucked it into a crevice on one of seven stone arches. I felt at home in the collective weight of people’s grief but felt a shared peace there too.

One night, after dinner with local friends in the courtyard of the Santacafé, a storm rolled in. Th e skies were their usual pre-sunset pink below the horizon; above it, ominous gray. It hadn’t started raining yet, so I drove up the hill toward the Cross of the Martyrs. Th is 25-foot white cross looms over the city and honors 21 Franciscan priests who were killed there in 1680.

I was the only one there. The sun was sinking fast, and the only sound was approaching thunder. I walked down the ramp and stood facing the city, letting the rain soak me through, thinking about the people, the history and the spiritual richness I had discovered in the city before me. How many others had stood here thinking similar thoughts?

I ran back to the car and sat there for a long while, unsure of what to make of the moment or anything that existed beyond it. I only knew that I was supposed to be there, in that city, on that night, to experience the arc of that storm. I felt grateful for the solitude, yet far from alone.


WHERE TO GO (SOLO):
Your browser is brimming with ways to make the most of your Santa Fe solocation, but these are my picks—either because I went there myself or they were recommended by locals.

WHERE TO STAY:

High-end: Inn of the Five Graces, La Fonda, Hotel Santa Fe

Maximum solitude: Look online for a privately owned casita to rent.

WHERE TO DRINK AND DINE:

Bistro 315
(great food, wine, patio) 315santafe.com

Downtown Subscription 
(locals go for coffee, newsstand)
376 Garcia Street

Kaune’s 
(specialty foods and groceries; locally owned with great wines)
kaunes.com

Sage Bakehouse
(must-try breads and croissants)
sagebakehouse.com

Santa Fe Farmer’s Market 
(Saturdays year-round) 
santafefarmersmarket.com

Santacafé 
(fine dining in historic home, sit in the courtyard)
santacafe.com

Teahouse Santa Fe 
(specialty teas, coffee, light fare)
teahousesantafe.com

WHERE TO GO (SOLO):
Your browser is brimming with ways to make the most of your Santa Fe solocation, but these are my picks—either because I went there myself or they were recommended by locals.

WHERE TO STAY:

High-end: Inn of the Five Graces, La Fonda, Hotel Santa Fe

Maximum solitude: Look online for a privately owned casita to rent.

WHERE TO DRINK AND DINE:

Bistro 315
(great food, wine, patio) 315santafe.com

Downtown Subscription 
(locals go for coffee, newsstand)
376 Garcia Street

Kaune’s 
(specialty foods and groceries; locally owned with great wines)
kaunes.com

Sage Bakehouse
(must-try breads and croissants)
sagebakehouse.com

Santa Fe Farmer’s Market 
(Saturdays year-round) 
santafefarmersmarket.com

Santacafé 
(fine dining in historic home, sit in the courtyard)
santacafe.com

Teahouse Santa Fe 
(specialty teas, coffee, light fare)
teahousesantafe.com