Do Be Do Be Do – a year of solo travel

James Joyce statue in Dublin, Ireland.

James Joyce statue in Dublin, Ireland.


“To be is to do”—Socrates.

“To do is to be”—Jean-Paul Sartre.

“Do be do be do”—Frank Sinatra.*

From Kurt Vonnegut’s 1982 novel, “Deadeye Dick”.


We refer to ourselves as human beings not human doings.

Yet, it is in the doing that we learn so much about being. It is also in the doing that we can exhaust ourselves. There is so much that can be done.

Oh, to find the balance  between doing and being. Yes, I think Sinatra got it right with Do be do be do. (Yes, it was Vonnegut who changed the spelling from Dooby Dooby Do)

Solo Travel Being and Doing in 2013

Finding the balance between being and doing can be as challenging on the road as it is at home. On a vacation, the goal is to relax. But taking vacation days to travel – well, that can result in the ironic need for a vacation from your vacation. Looking back at my trips of 2013, I find that I was bouncing back and forth between being and doing, sometimes finding the balance and sometimes not.

Kawawaymog Lake, Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada

Having the time to enjoy a sunrise is very much an act of being.

Winter Retreat in Algonquin Park. I was one in a group of eight women – three of us went solo. It was an easy weekend of outdoor fun, great food and time for chatting by the fire. Despite the schedule being set for us, it was also wide open – we were encouraged to participate as we wanted. On this weekend there was a wonderful balance between being and doing.

Dublin, Ireland for the 2013 Hostelworld conference.  This was a short trip – something I did much less of in 2013 as I wanted to reduce the number of flights I took this past year without reducing the amount of travel. In Dublin, I was busy from the time I arrived to the time I left. Socializing and networking, there was a lot of doing there and not a lot of just being so that I could feel the city and myself in it.

Despite not have a bucket list that drives my travels, the Great Wall of China is one sight I've always wanted to see.

Despite not having a bucket list that drives my travels, the Great Wall of China is one sight I’ve always wanted to see.

Touring China and Tibet. In April I spent three weeks on a tour of China and Tibet with Overseas Adventure Travel. We moved at quite a pace – it was a very full schedule so there was a lot of doing during these weeks. However, because it was a tour, the logistics were taken care of for me. Rather than spending my time figuring out what to see and how, I spent my time looking and listening, practicing Mandarin with our tour guide and the rest of the group on the bus each morning, questioning our local guides in each city, trying to understand the huge and complicated country. I opted out of a few evening events to keep my balance of  being and doing.

Stunning Monument Valley buttes.

The magical buttes of Monument Valley.

Road trip in the American Southwest. After picking up a small RV from Cruise America, I started on a road trip from Phoenix to Sedona to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Monument Valley in Utah and Durango to Denver, Colorado. It was a lot of driving which I found quite relaxing. However, I underestimated the distances and was stressed by maneuvering the RV through cities and across the mountain highways. The doing was invigorating but I felt the need for a vacation after that trip.

 A week in Chautauqua. The vacation I needed was right around the corner both geographically and in terms of my available time. My next trip was in mid-July to Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York.  Such a relaxing time being in what is essentially an open university in a small town for a week. And yet so stimulating, attending lectures,  plays and concerts every day. This was a “being” trip with an intellectual component.

The Neptune Fountain is in the Piazza Maggore, the main square of the city.

The Neptune Fountain is in the Piazza Maggiore, the main square of the city.

Three weeks in Bologna, Italy. Ah, slow travel. In Bologna I stayed for three weeks in an apartment set up by the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board. With the the city of Bologna itself, so many villages to visit by train, cities to go to (Venice and Florence are within easy distance by train) and even a road trip, exploring this beautiful part of Italy was a leisurely pleasure.

London / Paris. There is so much to do in these two cities that it is difficult to enjoy them at a slow pace. Yes, these are definitely cities for doing. In addition, the energy of these capital cities is demanding making it difficult to relax. But still, I would definitely suggest them as must-sees.

St. Paul's Cathedral London England

St. Paul’s Cathedral London England



James Joyce
  • Janice Waugh

    I know. I am indeed, lucky!

  • Trisha Andrus

    I’m sure it can be tiring sometime…but LUCKY DUCK!

  • Corinne Vail

    Wow, sounds like a full year and all fun. Hope 2014 is just as fulfilling for you!

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  • contented traveller

    What a brilliant year and great posts to match. Have an excellent 2014 :)

  • Anja Van Der Vorst

    Wow, what a travelling year you had! It all sounds wonderful. I also sometimes experience the contradiction between holidaying and travelling while getting exhausted from it;-)