5 Things I Love About Traveling Solo

I like a lot of things. I like to cook. I like to create things. I like puppy kisses and rolling in the snow. I like lightning storms. I really like stomping in puddles and stepping on exceptionally crunchy looking leaves, but traveling is, by far, my favorite thing. If I won the lottery and had a gazillion dollars, I would spend my life (for a few years, at least) on the move, staying in cheap hostels, eating questionable street food, hoarding hand sanitizer and Pepto Bismol and living life in the company of the coolest strangers. That previous statement is the living nightmare of most people, my family included.

The overall experience of going to a strange place alone and exploring is a mass of juxtaposing pieces. It makes you be brave and cautious, curious and knowledgeable, independent and unafraid to ask for help, aware of what you know and what you don’t.

People, especially Americans, don’t like the idea of a young woman traveling alone. We’re fragile, with our doubling of X chromosomes. We should always travel in pairs… if not in a group escorted by at least one sturdy, capable man. If we must leave the borders of the ole U S of A, can’t we just go on a cruise?? That is, if we can’t just go to some walled-in resort where there is no chance of us interacting with an actual local.

There are just scores of people lining up outside the frame waiting to harm her.

There are just scores of people lining up outside the frame waiting to harm her.

Traveling alone isn’t for everyone, but (if you asked me) it is something everyone should do at least once. I’d like to tell you what my 5 favorite things about traveling solo are and why they completely changed my life.

  1. I learned just how much I was capable of as an INDIVIDUAL.
    -It is an amazing experience to show up in a new country and go on an organized tour. You don’t have to think, plan or organize… You just get to show up and have your mind blown by stuff. It’s really well worth the experience if that is the only way you will explore. Three years ago, when I took my first trip out of the country that’s exactly what I did, and with my best friend too.  If you had asked me then, “Why don’t you just do it yourself?”, I would have laughed at you. I wouldn’t have even known where to start. Being able to pick flights, the best hostels, research and read the history of places and then show up and navigate a foreign place… that’s pretty cool.
  2. Though there were times that I am lonely, I meet exponentially more people than I do when I travel with a companion.
    -I am an incredibly social person. Hands down. I don’t even like to go to the grocery solo. If having someone to talk to whilst I find the firmest apples is an option, that is what I’m going to pick. Problem is: if you go on a trip with someone, human nature is not to step out of your comfort zone and meet people until you really feel at ease. When Ash (my aforementioned bestie) and I went to tour Great Britain and Ireland, it took us almost half of our trip to start making friends with the other young women on our trip. Once we did, we were thick as thieves and the fun increased EXPONENTIALLY. If we had jumped right in the first night, we wouldn’t have missed so many possible memories. I’ve gotten pretty good at walking into a place and meeting EVERYONE.
  3. I did more.
    -I don’t generally make precise plans when I go somewhere. I make sure I have enough things to do each day to stay pretty busy. If I get hungry, I eat. If I get tired, I rest. If I am on my way to a museum and find a network of alleys with amazing graffiti, I get to do whatever I want and not worry about ‘the plan’. I don’t have to wait for everyone else to get back to the coach, or finish their dinner. I don’t have to leave a city because only one day is allotted on the dossier. I can do whatever I want!
  4. I got lost.
    -So so so so lost. I’ve gotten lost in 4 different countries in the past 12 months and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lost in Berlin, I made two new friends looking for a night club, that turned out to be closed for a private event. Lost in Prague, I found some kind of pecan pastry and an amazing pair of earrings in a boutique off the beaten path… way better than the stuff in the tourist areas. Lost in Toronto, I found a pretty cool person to spend an evening with. Lost in Philadelphia, I found an alley full of mosaics, an amazing vintage reclamation shop and the best cheese steak I’ve ever tasted.
  5. I faced my fears, and walked away more experienced, confident and ready for the next challenge.
    -I am from a relatively small city. No real mass transit to speak of. Taking the tube literally froze me in my tracks in London. Ash and I walked somewhere between 20 and 150 miles the day we had free to explore the city. Why? Because yours truly was too scared to risk getting lost on the subway. When you’re alone, you’ve just got to suck it up. Cabs can be insanely expensive and 10 mile walks are not nearly as pleasant alone.
    I enjoy traveling, especially solo, because every time I get to know myself a little bit better. I actually like new foods… which surprised me. I cry in museums sometimes. I am particularly susceptible to gypsies and pick pockets. I enjoy eating alone and observing other people. Old ladies touch my hair, no matter which country I’m in. I get jittery and nervous every single time I have to take public transit. I have a tendency to adopt this weird, semi-neutral chameleon accent so that people don’t associate me with Honey BooBoo.
    .Traveling solo is not always a bed of roses. Save your worries! I’m going to write out my least favorite things about traveling solo, because sometimes its nice to have someone by your side. Either way, traveling is so much more worth your money than laser hair removal, new furniture or a shiny new car. I don’t think I’m something so cool because I spend every penny of available income on something that is intangible in the long term. Whether or not you have someone to go with you, pack up and go to ONE PLACE. One place you’ve dreamed of. One place where a movie was set, that you couldn’t stop imaging. One place that you may never have the chance to see again. Just go!What are your favorite things about traveling? Do you like to strike out on your own or do you prefer having someone attached to your hip?

My Hopes for 2014.

Why do we make resolutions on or around New Years Eve/Day every year? What is the motivating factor? Why do we all make the same ones?

Don’t believe me?

I want to lose ## pounds this year.
I want to eat healthier (or whatever is fad: low-fat, low-carb, vegetarian, gluten free).
I want to save more money.
I want to de-stress.

If you claim to have never or contemplated one of these, I might be skeptical.

I think at the end of a year we’re forced to examine the last 12 months, and sometimes we tend to focus on what wasn’t perfect, as opposed to what far exceeded our hopes and dreams. I won’t pretend that I don’t wish a single thing had been different about this year or the one before. I mean, I would love to be in a great relationship, living abroad or wondering why my pants just keep getting looser and looser. However, I refuse to let that distract me from what was possibly one of the best years of my life. Seriously! Let’s look at 2013:

-I ‘found myself’ during 12 months of intentionally remaining single, after dating guy after guy after guy (seriously like 16-17 in 2012, varying degrees of seriousness), and losing myself while trying to find validation in a relationship.
-I set foot in 9 countries outside of the ole U.S.A.
-I met over 80 of the most AMAZING people, a handful of whom I will love for  the rest of my life.
-I got a goddaughter!
-Went skydiving.
-Ran two half-marathons
-Tried more new foods than I can count.
-Learned to navigate public transit
-Lost 30 lbs.
-Saw a very toned down version of the Aurora Borealis
-Used powertools
and -Grew a garden.

Just like a person, though, I’m not satisfied. There are a few things that I would like to accomplish in 2014. I am intentionally trying to stay away from standard resolutions, because I don’t want a standard year. I want another earth-shaking, never the same, be telling these stories until I die kind of year. I also want them to be realistic and practical. Here’s what I’ve got:

-To improve my photo skills. I hate showing someone a photo I took of somewhere incredible and having to say, “This picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice… here let me Google some better pictures.”

-To spend (probably unwisely) way too much money on travel.

-To stop distancing myself from people. I am incredibly lazy with my friendships.

-To do more, go more, see more, try more STUFF. I teeter being a borderline shut-in and being so busy doing so much that I forget to breathe, but I want to be consistently active.

-To be able to be happy for people in my life when they get the things that I haven’t, instead of this horrible mixture of sort of happy for them while throwing myself a pity party.

and for fun:

-To master the art of cat eye makeup with liquid liner and, in doing so, that gorgeous, old Hollywood glam. (that one’s going to be tough)

Do you want to see your life change in 2014?  If you are a resolution maker, what did you resolve this year?

Things That Should Make You Jealous Of My Friends…

Okay, so today I’ve been feeling a bit ‘down’ all day long. It’s been something that I can’t shake, but I don’t even know what I’m sad about. I’m not particularly missing any one person or place. So any who, not wanting to be the person who wallows around in my mood, I just decided that I would write about  some things (mostly people, rather) that bring me great joy.

Please allow me to begin with Team Awesome:

Team Awesome at Roosters!

 Team Awesome is a pretty swell group of young ladies, if I do say so myself. We bring all the fun to the places we go and we do what we can to bring joy to other people. Let’s start on the left side of the photo above:
Ashlay- She’s totally the brains… when we walk in somewhere she makes sure we are in the right place at the right time, all the time. She is the planner and the idea-haver.
Whitnay- She is our heart. She is the one who sees other people for who they could be, instead of their status, the color of their skin, or the money in their bank account.
Carray- She is the rarity! She may not be with us all the time, but when she’s there, she’s the one all the girls wanna be and all the guys wanna be next to.
And I guess that leaves me- If I have to classify myself, I’d have to say that I am the brash, ironic silly one. I say the things that everyone else is thinking and sometimes the things that NO ONE is thinking.

In December, we (with Whit doing most of the work) threw a Christmas party at the shelter we volunteered at every Saturday. Gosh, I miss peeling myself out of bed at 4 a.m. every Saturday… Anyway! About the Christmas party:

Daddy read the Christmas stories, 

Ashley led the Christmas carols, Carrie took pictures of people who threatened her, I swatted the wandering hands of men old enough to be my father,

Brandi pointed places and made funny faces,

and Whitney orchestrated a PHENOMENAL event! Now, that definitely makes me smile! There are a few other ‘things’ that can make me smile. These “things” I’ll tell you about tomorrow. It’s about 8:30 and I’ve been sleep deprived since saturday, so I think I’ll go take off my make-up and think about going to bed. I’d like to leave you with my two favorite Florence + the Machine songs. Until tomorrow!