Finding the joy in traveling alone
Words by Mandy Maples
As a mother of two, a full-time artist, and the manager of our household, I was feeling spent, dead tired, and looking for an escape from life for a week or two. I really needed to get lost in a magical moment somewhere; I needed to experience new sounds, colors, and smells outside of my everyday. I needed an adventure. Alone.
I had traveled alone before. I knew how to navigate the interstate and highway systems in the U.S., as well as move through an airport with ease. What I had not done was go on a real adventure completely alone. This would be my first. I was nervous about spending 11 days by myself, but I knew it was just what I needed. I was about to embark on a spiritual journey that would continue to teach me valuable lessons long after my trip had ended.
My solo adventure would be a seven-day stay at a quaint little cabin in Joshua Tree, California, just a few miles from the Joshua Tree National Park’s entrance. It would take me 28 hours to get to my destination by car, my preferred mode of travel for this trip, and another 28 hours to get back home to Alabama. I had prepared for anything and everything on this trip. I loaded my car with snacks, waters, and all the necessary health precautionary items, such as Clorox wipes and face masks. I had downloaded podcasts, playlists, and all the entertainment I would need to get me to my destination without an ounce of boredom. I had planned for automobile malfunctions, trip hiccups, and weather issues. What I had not prepared for was that this trip would provide me a way to work out deep-seated issues, learn how to rely solely on myself, establish new trust in my intuition, and increase my overall well-being in just 11 short days.
This trip alone taught me to truly enjoy my own company.
I was able to connect with myself on a cellular level, something that had never happened to me before. I danced in the car to my favorite songs as I passed through the pink and orange Arizona mountains, I cried thinking about past mistakes as I crossed over the New Mexico border, I thanked the universe for loved ones as I photographed roadrunners in the Mojave Desert, I smiled at sunsets as I drank my coffee from my little porch in Joshua Tree, and I was awed by lightning displays in the desert night sky. I found magic at every turn on my journey. I was like a child again, exploring my world with new eyes.
Not every day was smooth sailing, however. On day three, somewhere in the Mojave Desert, my car got stuck in the sand. Sheer panic ensued. I had no one to rely on but me. I would have to figure this out. And I did figure it out. I got myself out of a scary situation. It was an extremely empowering moment for me. So many times in my life I had relied on others to help me handle life situations rather than simply trusting my own gut. Working out that situation in the desert made me feel triumphant. It was an important lesson in learning that, despite my dubious nature, my instincts and my wisdom were extremely powerful tools. I made a decision right then and there to strengthen and hone those qualities that were already inherent in me, and to make sure that I call on them before calling on others to help me.
Solo travel taught me how to be completely selfish, to take time to do the things I really enjoyed. It taught me how to reconnect with myself and how to go inward. I worked out many issues because I had enough quiet time to do just that. I knew I needed more moments like these back at home. I didn’t have travel companions to distract me, so I was able to meet many new friends on my journey, friends with whom I still keep in touch to this day. Taking this trip by myself made me step out of my comfort zone for the first time in my life. I dealt with tricky trip situations that required me to troubleshoot on my own. I had to rely on myself, and because of that I developed a trust in my own abilities—something with which I had lost touch over the years. This was a huge confidence boost and one that would stay with me for a long time.
Safe and vigilant decision-making should be an important part of anyone’s travel plans, whether alone or with companions. With that said, solo travel doesn’t have to be scary or dangerous. The lessons gleaned and the experiences savored from a solo trip are well worth the precautionary planning.
So, if you are feeling stuck, or just need to get away, there is a destination with your name on it beckoning to be explored. Happy traveling!