I sit here in Detroit, Michigan in the cutest little breakfast place, Folk Detroit, on my fourth solo road trip. This may not be significant to most, but three years ago, I used to be too scared to eat alone at a restaurant. If this is you, you need to go SOLO ROADTRIPPIN!! Going on a trip by yourself forces you out of your comfort zone, allows you to get acclimated to being by yourself, gives you time to reflect and set goals, and it's where true growth happens. Plus, you will get over your fear of eating alone VERY QUICKLY.
Stop waiting for your life to begin
Do you love to travel but find yourself waiting to get a significant other to travel with, waiting for your friends to coordinate their schedules, or family members to take time off of work? This was me. I wanted to travel so badly, but was waiting for my traveling life to begin. Then finally I said, forget it, I am done waiting for people to make me happy (really applies to anything in life!). So I hit the road by myself. I still love traveling with others, but it's SO different than going alone.
Three years ago, I found myself with an extra week off that none of my friends or family had off and I got in the car and typed in "North Carolina". I hadn't planned where I was going or where I was staying. I hit 12 cities in 10 days and saw the entire Southeast. Then I did a solo road trip to Nashville to see if I would want to move there. Then I went to Portland for the Nutritional Therapy Conference and ended up renting a car and heading up to Seattle to explore. I allow myself time to see friends and family on the trip if I can, but for 90% of the time, it's good to be alone.
Recently, my full-time job gave us off an extra week this year and I found myself wishing to make plans with friends and family, but it just didn't work out this time. So I decided to hit the road again. This time I went to Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Ontario, New York, and Ohio. So as I'm traveling, I decided to write down some lessons learned about my experience with solo travel.
Lessons Learned From the Road
You will hit some lows in the trip (but it's worth the highs)
There will inevitably come a time in the trip where you regret every life choice you've ever made. HA! JK... but you will probably get lonely at some point (usually checking into a hotel alone at midnight after a long time on the road) and you will say to yourself "what the hell am I doing?" This happens to me EVERY time and I should just expect it now. This time, I was in the middle of nowhere Indiana, I was exhausted, and I was getting a migraine. All I wanted to do was throw in the towel and go home. I was questioning why I was even traveling alone and regretting the decisions I made. Not to mention I was crying on the side of the road when two police officers came up to see if I was okay. When this happens, just don't make any rash decisions. Get some rest and tomorrow will be a new day. If you have multiple days like this... it's okay to go home too. Maybe you're just not feeling it this time. I'm glad I stuck it out because I had 6 more awesome days by myself.
Plan but don’t plan too much:
After reflecting on my full-blown meltdown in the middle of the cornfields in Indiana, I realized I needed to plan more. The reason I was feeling uncomfortable was because I had no plan and wasn't sure where I was sleeping that night. I kept changing my mind whether I was going to Michigan or Chicago. Make a plan and stick to it but also allow yourself time to veer off course to see interesting things along the way.
Always have your hotel booked by 3 pm that day.
Nothing is worse than not knowing where you're going to stay at 10 pm at night and all the hotels are crappy and expensive. This has happened to me on two of my road trips. Once in New Buffalo, Michigan and once in Beaufort, South Carolina. Since this tends to be a pattern for me, I gave myself a new rule: always have your hotel booked by 3 pm. This gives me a plan but also allows me to enjoy wherever I am at the moment and to veer off course.
Always gas up before sundown every day
This is for safety reasons but also you can then get up the next morning and hit the road.
Do some research on healthy restaurants & bring plenty of healthy snacks
The point of solo travel is to explore new restaurants that are fun and healthy! If you don't do some research, you'll be forced to get fast food when you're starving on the road. By doing some research, I was able to try a Paleo diner, a paleo cafe, and a few cute restaurants along the way that were able to meet my dietary needs.
Live in the moment
This is hard for me. Some parts of the trip aren't that glamourous and you will inevitably get frustrated. When this happens, I enjoy the simple things: listening to a podcast (my NEW favorite is RACHEL HOLLIS), a good playlist, windows down, wind in the hair, driving through an old historic town, or stopping to take a picture. So enjoy wherever you are on the trip. It's still better than sitting home and watching the same old tv show!
Use Atlas Obscura
If you're like me, I love discovering the hidden gems off the beaten path. Atlas Obscura is a great website that shows you where all of the non-touristy things are on your route. It can make a 3 hour long trip in the middle of cornfields more exciting!
Allow yourself time to just be
On the first few days of any trip, I'm super anxious. I want to get to the next spot, I want to make sure I'm seeing everything the city has to offer, or I'm always planning my next move. By the end of the trip, I settle down and embrace the new normal. I don't get caught up if I "spent too long" in one spot and it's easier for me to just enjoy sitting in a park with a book. I struggle with this but it's important to stay still on a solo road trip too. You don't always have to rush off to the next spot. In fact, you don't even have to go far at all.
Have you taken a solo road trip? Let me know your tips & tricks! Also stay tuned for a blog on tips to stay healthy while traveling.