I just returned from a 12,000 mile, 4-month long road trip. Alone.
Some of the perks of traveling alone include:
-Doing whatever you want.
-Eating whenever you want.
-Being able to pause.
If you're anything like me, you're constantly consumed with other people having a good time. When I'm traveling with someone, I'll sacrifice what I want to do to keep them happy.
I mean, I know that this sounds selfish, but I'm 23 and I need to be a little selfish before I get married and spend the rest of my life with someone. I've learned so much about myself even after four months, which is why you need to do a road trip all alone.
You need to feel that loneliness, because only then will you be able to face any inner demons that you might have. A twelve-hour drive kind of forces you to think. It's just you and the road.
Trust me, when I was out in the middle of Montana, navigating my way through beautiful countryside, I had time to think. I had time to appreciate the little things, too, like talking to a gas station attendant after seeing nobody for days.
Just do the damn thing.
My first night on the road trip I felt deep despair. I wasn't happy at all. I was in New Orleans, far from my home, and I knew nobody in this city. My gosh, traveling alone at that moment felt like the worst decision I could've ever made.
But I got through it.
I started smiling at people, and asking them how their day was. Sometimes they would start a conversation with me! Believe it or not, I made a few friends in New Orleans. By the fourth or fifth day in that crazy city, I felt at peace in the middle of a storm.
I was out there, but I was making the most of it. And isn't that a metaphor for life?
I ran into problems on the road that I had to overcome. At one point I had to drop $1,000 that I really couldn't afford to spend on a new brake system for my car. When I came into the shop to test drive it, the brakes still didn't work. I blew a major gasket, and I ended up having to stay with my friend in Phoenix for another week. These things happen.
In Austin I met a guy from the UK who needed to get out to San Diego. I agreed to drive him out that way, and in exchange I had a companion for the week.
Spend time traveling by yourself.
Make your own decisions, listen to your heart, start to be spontaneous. Allow yourself to get lost. Gain a new perspective.
The solo road trip is all about you, but it's not always about being alone. It's about making your own decisions, and asking yourself why you made those decisions. You're just learning.
I always say that throwing yourself into an uncomfortable situation brings growth. That's why I stayed in crappy hostels in bad parts of the city. That's why I was angry that my boss screwed me out of $600, but in a weird way was thankful for it. In those dire situations, I became who I am today.
I learned that life isn't going to be fair, or easy, or breathtaking all of the time. But I found through my trip that we can chart our own course through life, because I literally and figuratively did that for four months. And that's the most valuable lesson of them all.
Nobody is steering the car but you! You turn on the ignition, you type in the address to the GPS, and you're the one who decides when a view is just too beautiful to keep driving.
You are in control. The road does its best to throw you off track by introducing obstacles and problems along the way, but if you're dedicated to it then you'll make it to your destination one way or another.
I think if you're traveling with someone else you'll get these lessons, but just not as potent of a dose. You have someone to lean on if you run into problems out there, but when you're alone it's just you.
That's why you need to do it. Don't ask any questions; get in your car and go. You'll be surprised at what happens. You'll rediscover what it means to be alive. You'll crush any obstacles that stand in your way, and when you get back you'll be forever changed.
That's why you need to travel alone.