Circa Spring 2018;
before I packed my bags for longterm solo travel.
A little Background
I have been traveling for as long as I can remember- in the form of typical vacationing. My grandparents always took my sister and I on at least 1 big trip each year. These vacations always included a beach and some culture- whether it be in a 3rd world country: Honduras and Mexico or Well-developed ones: Grand Cayman islands, Hawaii (US)… etc. My grandparents loved to educate us about the places we went. We’d go to memorials and museums or see how locals lived, going beyond the tourist traps. We even got to take public transportation, this was (and still is) one of my favorite ways to get around new places! Even when we were not on an extravagant vacation, if we were with our grandparents, we were exploring. They often would take us to theatrical shows, museums, famous historical landmarks, and even hiking when we were home. (I grew up right outside of DC, they lived on the other side). Thus, it has been ingrained in me to explore and learn.
Oh yeah! It might be improtant to mention– I moved A LOT! Being the new girl was my norm. My family moved on average every 2 years. I went to 5 elementary schools, 2 middle and 1 high school. I made it a point to stay at my 4-year university all 4 years. I was adamant about NOT transferring because I wanted to stay in one place, even if that meant: 1 dorm, 1 apartment, and 1 condo… I think this prepared me for solo travel, too. It wasn’t easy moving all the time but it has made it easier to travel. Discovering new places while finding comfort in new spaces is easy-ish for me. Meeting new people comes naturally to me, too!
The start of my solo journey
My grandparents stopped taking me on trips when I went to college. I continued to travel with friends throughout college and beyond. I never traveled solo until 2018 (I was 28) and it changed everything. I wasn’t always willing to go on my own, I was quite intimidated. Even when I was traveling with friends in other countries it seemed scary. The older I got, the harder it was to find people to travel with. My friends were getting married, having kids or just didn’t have the desires to go. I couldn’t not go, I felt trapped! Suddenly I built up the courage… overnight, really. I woke up one morning and I was just ready. Then I started planning, quit my job (this took more courage), and spent my last few weeks with friends. I had to give notice to my apartment building- not knowing where I’d plant my feet when I finished. I sold some things, gave my friends what they wanted, donated a ton, and stored the essentials. I packed 3 suitcases and 1 cooler, loaded my car and drove. There were so many places I wanted to go. I started where I was most comfortable, not the most exciting destination. I started with my home country. It wasn’t the place I was most excited for but it ended up being essential to this journey.
Every day I would go to work (09:00-18:00), gym, eat, and PLAN. I read National Geographic books cover to cover and would cross-refrence the web to plan my detailed iteneraries. This helped me get comfortable. I’d stay up late in my living room planning until I couldn’t stay up any longer- pictured above.
Finishing the 50 states
I felt it was safest, and in my best interest, to finish the 50 states first. I had already been up and down the east coast plenty of times, I’d been to Alaska and Hawaii, and a few others- CA, IL, KS, LA, MO, OH, TN, TX, WV. Internationally, I’d been to: Europe, Central America/ Caribbean, and Mexico. During those trips a lot of the people I met (locals and other toursits) always asked me questions about America. For starters they think it’s smaller than it is. I tell them I live in Maryland, near DC. They say they know where it is- some say they’ve even been. Then they ask me what I think about The Grand Canyon. Ummm… thats practically another country (perspectively). I’d never been. So I completed all 50 states by early December 2018, right before my 29th birthday.
First international solo trip
Then I took a trip to Iceland and Germany for 3 weeks to explore the Christmas Markets. Iceland is the safest country in the World (great solo choice). In Germany, I went to Berlin- a melting pot of people making it easy to blend in as well as communicate. Because I was alone, I didn’t go out at night- they are known for the club scene but I wasn’t ready to venture that far out of my comfort zone. I don’t even go clubbing at home.
Going from a few weeks to months
I honestly thought I would fall in love with Berlin and even move there. This was another reason I wanted to finish the 50 states. The funny thing is, I fell in love with America instead. Mostly with states I never once thought twice about. This threw a wrench in my plans. I figured I would sell my car and move to Europe and continue traveling from there. Now, reality has set in, I would eventually settle back down in the states- but where? I knew I had to budget my savings and use this opportunity to go somewhere it would be harder to get to later. For me this was Asia and Australia. I planned my trip to begin in April and conclude in September. I mapped everything out generically- based on weather. I made a detailed 6 weeks itenerary- if you try to plan more than that something is likely to change or you might even miss out on an experience you didn’t know about. [I eventually learned to plan within the same week- allowing for opportunities I might not have otherwise had.]
I’m a planner-
this helped me learn to go with the flow.
Anyway, my plans were ready to go and then Australia denied my Visa- No, I don’t know why. I called the embassy there, after a long time on hold and a big phone charge, I was told to go to DC because they didn’t know why I’d been denied either. It was during the Cherry Blossom festival- so a DC parking nightmare and I was leaving for Thailand in 4 days. Plans were quickly changed (nothing was booked for Aus without approval of my Visa) and I still haven’t been to Australia. In the end, 4 months wouldn’t have been enough time if I spent 1 month in Australia. I’ll get there eventually… I already have my itenerary and accomodations picked!
Finally, buying a 1 way ticket
Instead, I had just enough time (is there ever truly ‘enough’ time?) to explore 8 countries in SE Asia (+1, S. Korea). I arrived back in the states at the end of August and hit the road again after 5 days of being home. I was taking another roadtrip across the country. I needed to get to Dana Point for a retreat I had scheduled prior to my trip (I’ll post about this) and I needed to scope out a few options for a new hometown. Part of this trip was solo, then there was the retreat, a vanlife journey with a friend, and I finished driving back through Canada solo again. During all this time my laptop was in storage so I am posting all of this in hindsight; Most of the entries here were written in the moment, some are memory.
Use the dropdown menu to find my entries under: American Roadtrip 2018 & Asia 2019. I am currently posting an entry from each trip weekly.