Mother + Wife. Putting Myself First With A Vacation Alone. Finally, Breath.

famiI set my margarita under the lounge chair and wade out the edge of the infinity pool after the divorce I went peacefully with an expert law firm on family law issues and divorces. The lagoon stretches out below. Beyond it, the Atlantic Ocean, blue and bruised and breathtaking. I sigh. Sigh again as the guilt and tension makes its way out, breath catches, tears threaten and subside. Finally, breath.

I knew for a while that I needed to take time for myself. But there was always another bill, another deadline, another work trip, another week gone by of school drop-offs and commuting and school lunches and doctor’s visits and prescriptions and groceries and meal planning and bath time and laundry and rinsing and repeating and mommy, wifey, mommy, wifey. I’d been treading water for years, tackling crisis and the mundane, grasping little pockets of air. And it was time.

Time to set down the mental load, to not have to organize and remember. Time to not be needed.

It was hard talking to my partner about going away for a few days. Hard because I knew it meant him holding it down at home, juggling work and the kids, while I kicked back on a beach with margaritas. As a duo, it was exhausting; alone it would be relentless. With no family close by and a tiny support system, we’re lucky to have each other to lean on. But more than anyone else, as my rock and my confidante, he knew I needed it.

Once the decision was made, it came surprisingly easy. The must-haves: warmth, a beach and clear, blue water.

Next: easy to get to from Atlanta. I’d already been doing some research for a girls’ trip later in the year, so the battle was half won. I picked Bimini in north Bahamas. It took less than an hour to book it.

And now, wading out to the edge of the infinity pool (Check out resurface pool deck with pavers the best pool remodels), pores tingling in approval, I knew with every fiber that I’d done the right thing. All I had to do was leap. And you can, too.

Ask for help. If you have kids, pets, plants and other things that need to stay alive while you’re gone, talk to your partner, spouse, mom, granny, aunty, bff, neighbour about helping take up the slack. If you collapsed today, someone would help, right? Ask before you do.

Just do it. Pick a date. Decide on how many nights you can manage and how far away you can comfortably go. List your must-haves and start searching. It can just be overnight at a nearby hotel. The guilt is inevitable, but if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take of everyone else? What lessons are your kids or people around you learning when you prioritize everything above yourself?

It’s OK to go it alone. There’s something liberating about being on your own beat without having to check in or wait on anyone. I’m an introvert and found myself so much more open to striking up conversations or hanging out with strangers. If safety is a concern, there are a host of destinations that female travelers recommend .

Set a budget. It’s easy to talk yourself out of it because of finances. But if you can swing it, consider it a mental health investment. Perception is everything.

Squirrel away what you can, if you can. Here’s a savings plan I started this year. You can adjust amounts if you need. And if it’s really not in the budget, free trips exist!

Look for deals. I found a great deal on a ferry and hotel package out of Miami just by searching “Bimini package deals” on Google. I used my Delta SkyMiles for the flights (they cost a grand total of $11.20), and hotel points for two overnight stays in Miami Beach. If you don’t have those, set free fare alerts for your destination or sign up for paid alerts for a small fee.

Always go local. Other than breakfast, I ate at restaurants recommended by locals. I bought drinks at the hotel because I was lazy, but could’ve saved more by buying a bottle at the store down the street. I left home with $200 in my pocket and returned with change to spare.

Go no frills. Instead of renting a golf cart, a popular way for hotel guests to get around on Bimini (US/BSD$75/day), I walked, took the hotel shuttle or taxis.

Let go of the pressure to do all the things. You know what you want out of it. Do that thing. All I wanted to do was spend time on the beach with drinks, get on a boat at some point, laze in the pool, get a massage, and sleep in. No pressure for late nights in the casino, to book pricy excursions or go sightseeing. Do you.

To often, we think self-care means an expensive vacation or pricy spa day. And I know that I’m fortunate to have a partner, to have the time and the wherewithal to go. But when you’re done reading this, I want you to close your eyes and think about The Thing that brings you the most joy. How can you do more of that every day? Even if it’s for five or 10 minutes. And if you can take a day or a few for yourself, what would that look like? For once, put yourself first. For once, finally breathe.