Hello... it's me! *cue Adele*
I know it's been quite awhile since you've heard from me on here, but I am BACK!! (and have so much to tell you!)
For the last couple months, I've been in quite a rut - feeling stuck and unsure what my next move should be. I felt uninspired, and lost my motivation / desire to write and generally create. Although for awhile I did stick to publishing one post a week - that trailed off when I felt I wasn't producing valuable content for you guys anymore. Instead of forcing myself to crank stuff out that I wasn't feeling or beating myself up for going off course, I took the time to acknowledge what my body needed - a damn break. I knew I was at the point of really needing to take a leap of faith of some kind. I took it upon myself to do something I've never done before: take a solo trip. It's been something I've been wanting to do since graduating over 2 years ago, and I finally scraped together enough money (and guts) to do it for myself. And I'm SO glad I did - because the experience was LIFE CHANGING.
At the beginning of May, I started planning for a trip to Alaska. I'm fortunate enough to have a cousin who lives there - which made this all 1000x more affordable and possible on a small budget. After doing some research, I found out that there were no direct flights from NJ to Alaska.. so I took the opportunity to "design" my own stops. It was a little bit stressful coordinating all the moving parts (flights, hotels, rides) - but I am SO glad that I turned it into a multi-city trip. I ended up with the itinerary of: San Francisco - Alaska - Seattle - Arizona.
You're probably wondering - "People fly solo all the freakin' time! You didn't even leave the country! What the hell is the big deal, Amy?" Well..
Growing up, I never had the luxury of traveling anywhere. My family never once all got on a plane together to go on a true "family vacation." As crazy as it sounds - to me, the west coast seemed like a far away intangible part of the country that I had no idea when I'd be able to feasibly see (lol). I come from a family who also, generally speaking, prefers to "play it safe" - which can be hard to break away from. There's nothing wrong with the way they want to live their lives (comfortable), but I know that I don't plan to live the rest of my life that way (I prefer to take risks).
Prior to this trip, I had only flown once before (for a wedding.. ironically, the wedding of the same cousin that currently lives in Alaska) - so this was my first time flying alone.
Because of my lack of travel experience going into this big solo trip, I feel like my view on all of this may be a bit different - and maybe even more relatable for some of you who come from a similar background. If I had grown up with a family immersed in travel, maybe a trip like this at this age and at this point in my life - may not have had the same impact. Overall, I think I've developed a good sense for appreciating "the little things" - and so when I finally got to experience some *BIG THINGS* - it was all the more rewarding.
Here's why I think you need to go on a solo trip:
- You get to choose the itinerary! You get to plan your schedule - see things that YOU want to see, eat food YOU wanna eat, do what YOU wanna do. Wake up at the ass crack of dawn for sunrise or stay out way late past sunset - eat ice cream three times in one day or tacos at midnight - see ALLLLL the museums or drive 9 hours in one day to see one of the greatest natural wonders in the world - it's all up to you.
- You push yourself / your boundaries, and get out of your comfort zone - physically, emotionally, mentally. No one else is there to control what you eat, when you sleep, etc. There were several moments during this trip when I knew I needed to put some healthy food in my body and get a good night's sleep! At the end, I guarantee you'll come back with a whole new appreciation for your health, your mind, your body, yourself.
- You get to be alone with your own thoughts to process everything that is happening. I took a journal with me on my trip, and I'm so glad I did - because it allowed me to recount all the little details that I probably otherwise would have forgotten about. Over the last couple of years, I've used journaling as a form of self-therapy - and it's amazing to look back on and see how far I've come / how much I've grown. It'll definitely be fun to read back entries from this trip down the line. I may not have had the same mindset to write had I been surrounded by others the entire trip.
- You will feel more compelled to talk to strangers / meet new people - especially the people at airport(s) / people sitting next to you on the plane. If I was traveling with someone I knew, I probably wouldn't have bonded with Chelsea from Washington over living in the same state our entire lives - probably wouldn't have been able to appreciate the guy who moved his phone charger over for me so I could charge my phone too - probably wouldn't have struck up a conversation about all the things we each did in Alaska with the woman who recently got back surgery.
- You build up your self confidence - especially if you have never done it before. Going into this trip, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. There's no way I could have predicted it would all go the way it did - and that's the beauty of travel. There's so much you can't plan for, and you have to be willing to go with the flow. When all is said and done, it feels damn good to have gotten through it all (even if there were some hiccups along the way) - and you'll return home feeling like you can do anything.
- You return back home with a renewed sense of gratitude for every little thing and everyone in your typical day to day life. When I got back home, I couldn't wait to meet back up with "my people" and tell them about my adventure. I also couldn't focus on anything else until all my 'thank you snail mail' was written and sent off to all the people who helped make this trip so memorable for me. Even the most ordinary things like getting a green tea latte from a familiar Starbucks or browsing magazines at a familiar Barnes and Noble became tenfold more wonderful.
And here's some tips to help you get through it:
- Don't be afraid to ask for help! On my first flight, they asked me to gate check my bag, and I had no idea what that meant, LOL. (I specifically packed a carry on to avoid the anxiety that comes with the potential of losing your stuff in an airport). But I took a breath and asked the guy at the desk what that meant, blabbed about how it was my first time flying solo, and he happily explained to me where to get my bag and why it needed to be checked (because it was a super small plane with hardly any overhead space). Point is - if you're lost or confused, someone can help you figure it out.
- Get to the airport EARLY. I nearly missed my flight from Seattle to Phoenix because I slept through my alarm and it was the most terrifying part of this entire trip. I literally got to the plane 10 minutes before takeoff, lol. From my experience, getting to the airport 2-2.5 hours prior to takeoff seemed to be the best bet. This allows enough time to get through security, use the bathroom, get food, and maybe even browse the airport shops (depending on how fast you get through security). No one wants to hop on a plane sweating bullets, with a full bladder, + hangry AF - so do yourself a favor and get there early. ;)
- Create a map w/ multiple dropped pins in Google maps of all the spots you want to see. Include where you're staying, where you want to eat, all the sights you want to see, etc. It'll be a huge help in planning the most logical / efficient order to tackle things because you'll be able to see how close everything is to one another. I created a different map for each city I stopped in, and now I don't think I'll ever go on another trip without doing this first, haha. If you need a step-by-step guide on how to do that, you can check out this link I found.
- Embrace the opportunity of layovers / stopovers! If you have to stop there anyways, why not get off the plane and spend a little time exploring? Even if you have a couple hours in the airport to spare, it can be fun to see how different it all is from your familiar surroundings. At my layover in Minnesota for example, I thought it was funny that Starbucks was replaced by "Caribou Coffee" haha. I turned this trip into an entirely different experience because of the connecting stops.. had I just gone directly to / from Alaska, this trip would have been waaaaaaay different.
You don't need to go far to bask in the benefits of solo travel (or travel in general). There has been nothing more annoying to me in all of this than people telling me I should have gone further - that I should have left the country or that I needed to in order for it to be the most meaningful experience. This trip was all I could have asked for (and more) - and is just the beginning of the bigger scope of travel I plan to do in the future.
I'm so excited to share with you all the little bits and pieces of this life changing adventure. My goal in all of this is (and always has been) to inspire YOU to take a trip for yourself too - so stay tuned for more posts for each destination in the coming weeks!
PS: If you're thinking of taking a solo trip of your own and have any comments / questions / concerns - feel free to leave them below or email me directly! I'd love to help you take the leap. :)