Is Solo Road Tripping Right For You?
I may not be an expert but after completing 6 solo road trips in 3 years, I feel like I can at least discuss the topic with some experience. With every trip I've taken, many friends have said, I am brave for going alone. I don't look at it as bravery, but I also do not make light of the possibility that many may not feel comfortable with it. As another friend of mine so eloquently put it, "being on a solo road trip causes you to be in your own head, which can be scary." She is right! Some of my most life changing thoughts came while on road trips but also, past, present and future failures will creep into your mind on a long stretch of road and you have to figure out how to deal with those thoughts.
The up side to that, is you will realize how strong you are when there is no one to turn to, no one to listen, and no one to tell you what to do next. Solo road trips can be one of the most liberating positive experiences you will ever have and I truly believe everyone should take the journey at least once in their lifetime.
But before you take the plunge into solo traveling specifically road trips, I challenge you to consider a few questions that I've complied based on my experiences and how solo travel differs from trips taken with family or friends. (Some are more geared toward women since that is my natural perspective)
- Do you enjoy driving? This is an obvious one that doesn't need a lot of explanation! In total with all of my road trips I have spent more than 200 hours driving. Alone. No relief drivers to help me get to my destinations. So if you complain about a 30 minute commute to your job each day because you hate being stuck in the car, this might be a good determining factor on whether you want to take a solo road trip.
- Do you mind dining at restaurants alone? If the thought of sitting down at a table for one in an unfamiliar place to have a bite scares you, solo road tripping may not be for you. One can only live off of fast food and snacks for so long.
- Can you live without a cell phone signal? If you are like most of us, cell phones have become a hand accessory worn 24/7. The willingness to unplug is crucial on a road trip. For one, you are driving a lot and texting while driving does kill! Two, most likely you will go through areas on your route with no towers. On one of my trips, I was without cell phone or radio signals for over 3 hours. Complete silence and only paper maps for directions.
- Does breaking down on the side of the road scare you? Fortunately this hasn't happened to me, but it could happen! I try to be prepared for all situations and have thought about this a lot when I travel. What steps would I take? What if I broke down in a no cell phone signal area? Can I change a flat tire by myself? (yes) These are things to consider. Always plan for the unexpected to keep the anxiety at a minimum. If just by reading it and thinking about it makes your heart race, then either reconsider going solo OR plan the trip appropriately so that you aren't driving at night or in areas that are isolated or unsafe.
- How are you with alone time? Many say they enjoy their alone time, but what about 24/7 for however many days? If you need to be around familiar faces and do not fare well with solitude, you may not enjoy this incredible aspect of solo travel. Chances are, you will meet people along your way, but there is a plethora of time spent in your own company. This is the part I value the most about solo traveling. It allows me to recharge, get to know myself better, and I find myself thinking clearer than ever without the distractions of other voices.
- Do you like to plan or are you a fly by the seats kind of person? Either can work on a road trip but most of the time it's a combination of both. I like to plan a route knowing I'll detour along the way. I also like to plan several "must see" stops, a few "if I have time to see" stops, and other interesting stuff that becomes "maybe see" stops. Don't plan down to the hour because it's good to leave some flexibility in your schedule for something along the roadside or a suggested local hot spot you didn't know about. So you must be comfortable with making and changing plans.
- How are you with cleanliness? Let's face it, you may or may not sleep in your car, but you will be living out of it for days and who wants to spend their time feeding their OCD while on vacation? Plan accordingly to give it a good detailing before you leave and when you get back home and promise yourself you won't get annoyed with the crumbs left on the floor from the Chex Mix that satisfied your salty craving an hour ago! Also public restrooms - you will be using a lot of them so bring hand sanitizer and seat covers if needed! (By the way, I hate public restrooms so this was something I had to quickly overcome)
- Home bodies beware. If you aren't an explorer of your own hometown, road trips may not be much fun. Taking interstates can be boring, exploring back roads and alternative routes is where the adventure lies! In order to experience, you must wander.
- Do you journal? If not. Start. Sometimes it's your only outlet for your experiences and thoughts. There is no one to share with you what you are seeing. One of my favorite things is to find incredible views, sit down and journal what I am feeling, experiencing, and the sites that I've witnessed. I often look back on the previous road trip before heading out for another to remind me of the journey I've already taken.
These are just a few of the things to consider if you want to venture out solo. If none of this sounds good, call a friend to schedule your next trip. If your answer was yes to all of the above... then what are you waiting for? Get on the road!
I will leave you with one more general tip for solo traveling. Get really good at selfies and photography in general to capture every moment you can. Take pictures of the signs of the places you go to remind yourself where you've been... sometimes you take in so much that little details will escape you on the day you arrive back home and there is no one to spark those memories.
Until next time,
Cover photo: Iron Mountain Rd. Black Hills, SD