I'm certain you could tell from my last four posts that I had an amazing road trip through California! In addition, I absolutely LOVED traveling solo! I don't think I would have wanted to do this trip any other way. I learned many things about myself, about the state of California, and about traveling alone. I thought I'd share some of the more pertinent ones for all of you out who may have never traveled solo, but are thinking about it. (My advice: JUST DO IT!)
1. It's Not Lonely!
I know what you're thinking. I'm ALONE. It's going to be so lonely. Au contraire my friends. When exploring a new place there is so much to see and do, there is no time for loneliness. And in all honesty, I feel much more lonely in my day-to-day life than I ever did on the trip! Connect with 'strangers'. Talk to people. Soak it all in. Loneliness is just a state of mind. We are all just solo beings on this big beautiful planet anyway!
2. It's Not Unsafe
I imagine there are countries and parts of the world that you would have to take caution if traveling as a single female, but I honestly don't feel that is a concern with US travel. I do everything in my day-to-day life alone, in a city with one of the highest crime rates in the country. I never feel unsafe here nor did I ever while on the road. Be smart about not carrying or packing a lot of cash or valuables and obviously don't walk through dark alleys in the middle of the night. If you operate on the road just as you do at home, you should be fine. Not everyone is out to get you. In fact, most people love to help others.
3. Airbnb is Your Friend!
I am so glad I used Airbnb to book rooms in people's homes. I wanted an authentic experience and did not want to stay in hotels. Airbnb rooms were a lot cheaper and it also helps with the loneliness factor since you're meeting and staying with other people! When searching for rooms, you can set various filters on Airbnb to find what you're looking for. I only looked for rooms that were under $85 and had lots of 5 star reviews, and these conditions led me to 2 fantastic places with wonderful hosts. I also stayed with friends and family a couple nights which kept costs down too!
4. You Don't Need to Spend a lot of Money
I spent money on only the necessities and kept those costs as much under control as possible. I saved money by staying in Airbnb rooms instead of hotels. I didn't go shopping for unnecessary or expensive trinkets (the only souvenirs I bought were refrigerator magnets). I packed a lot of protein bars so I could eat lunch for free most days. Some of my Airbnb hosts offered breakfast, which I took full advantage of. I ate dinners out most days but didn't go hog wild. And I didn't pay for big ticket attractions. I paid for entrance to national parks and things that were low cost, but amazing experiences nonetheless.
5. Take A LOT of Pictures!
Going along with number 4 here, taking pictures is free, and they make the best souvenirs of all. I knew many of the images and things I saw out there would stay with me, but memories do have a way of fading over time, and pictures help keep them alive. Plus, when you get home you can get prints or do all kinds of artsy things with your photos. Hello, redecorating with images you took!
6. Don't Over Plan
I'm not a planner anyway but I booked everything for this trip less than 30 days out: my flight, my rooms, the car. In terms of activities, there were things I knew I wanted to see for years while thinking about my dream trip to CA. You want wiggle room. Especially on a road trip, part of the adventure is seeing what's around the next bend. Be open. Take suggestions from locals (I did that a lot, especially for places to eat). Make random stops (I did that in Santa Barbara and MAN am I glad I stopped there). Have some ideas but don't stress yourself out over it!
7. Having an iPhone/Smartphone with GPS is a Good Idea
I'm not saying this is essential, but I couldn't have imagined exploring all the places I did using a paper map! I dk how people did that back in the day. I also used the internet on my phone a lot to find places to eat or local attractions. I really couldn't imagine doing a solo/road trip without my iPhone.
8. Don't Over Pack!
I didn't really follow this one. This could be due to the fact that I began packing around 9pm the night before my flight, but nonetheless, I overpacked. I brought a suitcase and a carryon for 2 weeks and just 1 bag would have been better. It was annoying to lug both of these up and down steps every time I stopped someplace new for the night and I ended up wearing the same things every day, just like I do at home. So yeah, don't over pack. If your hoodie unexpectedly gets soaked while bike riding through San Francisco, I'm pretty sure they have stores there that sell hoodies. This logic goes for anything you might need. If you legitimately forget something, just purchase it at your destination.
9. Don't Bring a Selfie Stick.
Just don't. I can't tell you how many selfie sticks I saw on this trip! I thought only 13 year old girls used them. I was wrong. "Well, Jill, how do you expect me to take pictures of myself against these amazing backdrops if I don't bring along my trusty selfie stick?" Ask someone! I asked people everywhere I went to snap a photo of me and every single person said yes. I always returned the favor. It gave me an excuse to talk to people and I met lots of interesting people that way. Also, selfie sticks are WEIRD.
10. It is Empowering!
Doing anything independently is empowering and builds confidence and traveling across the country and through an entire state alone is no exception. I amazed myself sometimes at the things I was able to figure out without anyone's help and it's given me confidence that I can do even greater things! If you are a looking for a way to feel like a rockstar, book a solo trip. Or run a marathon! Runners have a good sense of being able to accomplish things on their own already, so maybe this is why solo travel struck such a chord with me.
11. It Will Make You Want to Start Planning Your Next Solo Trip!
Yep, this was already happening before I even stepped foot back on the east coast. I was daydreaming about my next trip hiking national parks out west. I'm looking at Zion or Arches National Park in Utah or the Grand Canyon and other parks in Arizona. There's so much of this world I've yet to see!
Have you ever traveled solo?
What were some of your biggest takeaways from your trip?
If not, would you?!