Travelling Solo: When solitude is sometimes the best medicine

I should have had a map on a dart board, the way I chose my first solo travelling trip. I looked at Google, I looked at my dog. Google, back to dog. I had about a week’s time, and a fairly small budget. I knew I didn’t want all-inclusive. I knew I didn’t want to wallow on a beach – I wanted to be on the move, exploring, taking everything in. I also wanted to challenge myself with my camera – as a full time wedding photographer, my camera only comes out for visits on “work days;” I wanted to document this completely volatile time in my life, from start to beginning.

Solo travel is for everyone. It doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t judge, and it doesn’t wait for you to be “ready” – it wants you to dive in, headfirst. Of course there are the logistically scary parts; the safety concerns of being alone in a new place are absolutely real. Driving in a new place and worrying about getting into an accident, alone. Returning to an AirBnB late at night by yourself, double locking the door and hoping the creaks you hear are simply just the wind blowing against window panes. I won’t even get into the worries of travelling alone as a woman, specifically. But none of these concerns can get in the way of feelings of independence, strength and courage that wash over you when you are travelling alone.

My calling was to the West Coast. It really could have been anywhere, but this small voice said Portland. Don’t even ask me why – it was always on my bucket list, and San Francisco seemed just a bit too far and too expensive. So away I googled. I began to get that feeling when you think something may be just too good to be true, but was happening anyways – was I really doing this? Was I really booking a trip just for me, to plan everything just the way I wanted, like a gift I had been wanting to give myself for a very long time? I had goosebumps each time my cursor clicked on “Confirm.” Before I knew it, flights were booked, AirBnB was confirmed, and I was going to Portland.

Now what?

In a previous life, I had travelled a fair amount. Nowhere too far, but enough trips to have some idea of things to do when visiting new places. But in that other life, another person was granted equal control over choices and decisions, planning and organizing. It was a scary thought to think that I was the one responsible for myself. Suddenly, if I were to be in the middle of my trip and bored, that’s on me. If I run out of gas in the middle of a mountain because my spontaneity took hold without proper planning – that’s really all on me. But the best part of being in charge of your own adventure, is the feeling of ownership and humble acceptance of what will happen, will happen. What goes wrong will be fixed, on my dime and my time. And what goes right will be so fulfilling, the rest won’t matter.

My plan began to shape as a rough outline; nothing set in stone, to allow for a healthy amount of spontaneous and live-in-the-moment opportunities along the way. Bookends were in place in the form of concerts/shows – the internet holds all the power in planning a trip, and finding out some of my favourite artists were in the area at the time was one of the best opportunities – it provided safe, scheduled events that gave me purpose and accountability. Another wonderful piece of internet glory is the ability to look up free tours in new places – there are often an incredible amount of city-funded guided and self-guided tours, with sign ups for start times to give you more check points along your journey. There were a few paid tours I signed up for as well, as I knew I had wanted to see a few specific things but felt it was more worth my time to be guided than stumbling around trying to find these landmarks myself. The nice thing was, after each tour, I ended up travelling back out to these landmarks (waterfalls, bridges, gorges) myself to explore further.

I found this was the best balance for me, in terms of planning a trip – healthy amount of check-ins, to feel as though I had structure and organization. The time in-between gave me a beautiful sense of the unknown – I simply made lists of spots I would like to see, if I could, and when that free time came along, I’d pick a spot and go. I need to give some credit to Pinterest, and bloggers who had created lists of must-see’s for virtually every city around the globe; I sifted through hundreds of must-see’s to create a list of my own, which I drew from when I had unplanned time. It was incredibly freeing to be able to head out on a whim, only myself, a car, and the open road in front of me. That calling to be moving forward came from such a deep, dormant part of me that had needed to be released for a long time; to only listen to myself, and follow that little tingle that says “just go.”

The pivotal moment for me, on my adventure, was dipping my toes into the Pacific ocean. It was April, and my gosh, it was FREEZING. But this didn’t stop me from taking off my shoes, running around the beach (in the rain, might I add) like a lunatic, laughing and crying and feeling every inch of that sand and sea. I had waited my whole life to truly feel something that I had yearned for, that every single moment of the horrendous months before had culminated to this exact moment; my toes in the freezing Pacific, my hands on my camera, and my heart full of want and need all of my own making. The path in front of me was all mine. The future was a blank page and I was simply holding onto the pen, ready to make the next chapter in my own vision.

Solo travel does not discriminate. Solo travel challenges you to dig deep and learn about yourself in a way that no other endeavour could provoke. Bringing yourself to the edge of that water, the edge of that cliff, or the bottom of that gorge; you are walking towards your reflection, grasping hands, and allowing yourself to know it will all be alright in the end. I truly hope that everyone in their lifetime gets to experience what I have, in their own way; telling their story, one adventure at a time. Take that leap; you’ll always land on two feet.

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