I love to travel and experience new things, as you may have read in my other blog entries. Whether it is a short road trip over a three-day weekend or a two-week trip out of the country, I get energized by going to new places and experiencing new things. What you may or may not know is that many of my trips are solo trips, and there are great bonuses to traveling solo.
I’ve traveled in small groups, large groups, with one other person, and solo. Since I moved to California from Indiana, I have become very comfortable traveling solo. The belief that has allowed me to do so is knowing that I may never get to see or experience these places if I waited for others to have the time, money, energy, and desire to go to the same places I would like to visit. I hear too often how others never get to go on their dream vacation for one reason or another, usually having to do with another person who can’t go with them.
Now I should probably divulge that I am an introvert and it is easier for me to do things alone compared to some of my extrovert friends who have a hard time doing things alone.
One of my favorite solo trips was my road trip across the US, which ultimately led to my move to San Diego. See blog entry How Did a Girl from Indiana end up in San Diego? for more of the story. In planning for this trip, I had a few destinations I knew I wanted to visit over the following two months, but I left much of the itinerary flexible and unplanned. This trip started in June 2009 where I purchased my first GPS. This device was a godsend as I traveled alone as female across the country. My first planned destination on my itinerary was to Victoria, Canada to visit my Canadian friend Sue. I wanted to keep my travel flexible, so I let her know I would arrive sometime in the next week or so. This is where my handy dandy GPS came into play. As I drove across the northern US, anytime I saw a brown landmark sign that seemed of interest I would enter it into my GPS and take the exit to see it.
One of the first unplanned destinations during my travels was the Corn Palace in South Dakota (cornpalace.com). I don’t think this was a place I would ever have intentionally visited before, but due to being open to my options and following the road, I was able to see this interesting place made of corn. Being from Indiana and seeing tons of corn fields growing up, it was neat to see corn used in a creative way. Next, I stopped at Mount Rushmore. While I was here I did wish I was with someone so we could experience this monument together, but I was happy to experience it then since I was already in the area.
Each day, I would drive about eight hours, which included random stops at unique places to visit. To help me stay positive and awake on the road, I would listen to books on CDs and talk to the guy I was dating at the time (let’s call him Red.) I would tell Red about my daily adventures and keep him posted about my location in case there was an accident. Many nights I would sleep for six or seven hours at rest stops. Each night when I stopped, I would text Red the coordinates from my GPS for both my piece of mind and for him to know my location in case someone needed to find me.
After about five days after my trip began, I arrived in Victoria, BC, Canada. It was so cool to know I had driven all the way from Indiana to western Canada. It was also great to have my car so I wasn’t locked in to the length of time I wanted to stay at one place. I stayed in Victoria a few days visiting my friend and seeing the local sites. After visiting Canada, I traveled back to the US to visit a friend in Washington, drop by Las Vegas for a week, and go to my destination in San Diego, CA. The whole trip lasted about a month.
A few years later, I decided to take an international trip solo. I researched international locations that would be safe for solo female travelers and would allow me to use my frequent flyer miles I had earned over the past few years. Ireland came up in the search, and I thought why not? To help plan this trip, I visited AAA where I could get a book on Ireland, bought one on Amazon too, and utilized Trip Advisor to find places to visit and stay. A few weeks later my eleven-day trip to Ireland was planned. Based on my research on Trip Advisor, my books and suggestions from friends, I was all set.
When I arrived at the airport in Ireland and entered my rental car, I was terrified. I hadn’t driven on the other side of the road since I lived in Australia 10+ years ago and was not sure I was up for this. I started the car, entered the Bed and Breakfast’s address into my GPS, and took off. I prayed that I was driving on the correct side of the road and would not crash. My B&B wouldn’t let me check in yet so I decided to go to a local pub for some food and a pint of Guinness (I love Guinness!). Oh, did it taste good. The next two days I toured around Dublin taking bus tours, visiting the Guinness Brewery, seeing churches and local monuments.
The next week I took my rental car and travelled around the island. I would spend one to two nights at each destination depending on how many things there were to see. One of my favorite things to explore in Ireland were the castles and open green rolling hills. It was so peaceful and green. I loved having the freedom of a car to stop off at any destination, just like I did in the US. After traveling to many different cities, I ended my trip in Dublin with a visit to the pub with some locals. This trip was unforgettable. When I travel solo, I force myself to venture out to meet and spend time with the locals. Something I don’t generally do when I travel with others. Spending times which the locals was one of my favorite parts of my trip.
So why do I like to travel solo? You are free to see what you want to see and do what you what you want to do. There are no compromises, no other itineraries (I overheard a couple fighting during my flight to Ireland, regarding their conflicting itineraries), nor do you have to worry about spending ten days in a row (24 four hours a day) with the same person without any alone time.
Where would you like to go that you haven’t? Are you waiting on other people to make your dream trip come true? If you scared to try a long solo trip, take a day trip out of town and see how you feel, you might just love it.