Usually, when people find out that I’m traveling with just my dog, I get a range of reactions. In summary, they can be grouped into the following categories, coupled with my answers below:
Whoa! that’s super cool and badass, good for you!
- Hey thanks man! It’s been a blast and I’m loving it and I can’t believe I waited this long to live like this — because I am LIVIN (said in Matthew McConaughey Dazed and Confused voice).
Are you crazy? You’re a woman traveling solo, do you have a concealed weapons permit.
- Yes, I’m probably a little crazy. And no. I already accidentally pepper sprayed myself 3 times (you can laugh. I did. It’s embarrassing haha), I would FOR SURE Plaxidentally shoot myself if I had a gun in this tiny van. Also there’s no room. Also, people aren’t what I’m worried about, it’s animals. ALSO, we just met, can we like maybe not get into a debate about gun use?
Run into any psychos or creepy old men?
- Surprisingly, only like twice over the course of 3 months.
- the first time wasn’t really an isolated incident, it was more just that I felt uneasy being around so many men at a fishing camp. I’m sure they were nice people. But the amount of beer cans lying around, coupled with their sheer force in numbers had me feeling not so great so I left and camped somewhere else. I’m really glad that I did and continue to rely on gut feelings when I scope out a site.
- Last night, I was camping in Wyoming and I was exhausted so I went to sleep around 8:30 pm. I woke up at 11 pm to literally, my worst nightmare: large man knocking on my door with his truck high beams coming through the windows. HOLY SHIT. What do I do? The dog’s already barking — do I yell? Do I pepper spray the hell out of him? I peered through the cracked window, pepper spray in hand and said “hello?!” (in a not calm voice at all). Turns out he was a Deputy Sheriff and was patrolling the park. He saw the van, I assume he noticed my Washington plates and came to check it out. He seemed equally surprised when I was indeed a lady, traveling alone with a dog and not a meth head passed out in my van in the park and said “sorry to bother you ma’am, just wanted to make sure you were ok.” Normally, I’m all for people checking in on neighboring campers — but WTF man? At 11 pm? Barging in on the van when I was clearly asleep? I don’t know…something about it just seemed weird. I left early that morning around 4 am. Not sure if I’ll go back there.
- As far as creepy old men, not so much! Sure I’ve run into lots of guys who travel solo (way more than women, not surprisingly), as well as lots of older people and they’ve all been pleasant and polite.
Oh wow, you’re like a total dirt bag.
- Yeah pretty much, and thank you. I kind of love it. Sure, I don’t enjoy that I’m physically dirty a lot of the time but hell, I don’t have an office job where I need to be in real clothes all the time or shower every day. I recycle the same set of work out clothes a lot of days in a row and shower when I camp next to water or when my (super awesome, amazing, wonderful) friends let me bum showers when I couch surf.
- And yes, I’m totally ok with being called a dirtbag because living in the woods with a bunch of other outdoorsy people is really f*ckin fun.
But back to the point of this post? Why is it so great traveling alone? Well, in a word: I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-E. (For musical inspiration, please see link).
Holy moly. Overall, it would seem that humans today don’t like being alone. And I don’t mean like alone on an island, because let’s face it, humans are pack animals and we need interaction. But I mean like, alone with our thoughts for more than 5 minutes. Between twitter/Instagram/email/Facebook/tinder/youtube/EVERYTHING on the internet that lives in our pockets to distract us, it’s really hard to actually unplug. And then when we do, it’s even harder to be by ourselves. I challenge you to do it. Not only is it super peaceful, but it is totally worth living the cliche of “finding yourself” and learning how to be ok with being bored, being tired and cranky, being sad, etc.
Additionally, there’s something to be said about learning how to make friends again. Seriously. We go to school as kids and make school friends, you may join clubs or sports teams to meet people too. Then when you get a job, you meet work friends. In Seattle especially, you make a group of friends and then stick with those same 5 people and complain about how “ugh we never meet anyone.” No shit! It’s because we go out in a tightly woven group, with our own inside jokes and probably dressing the same, and unless another group is super outgoing, no one is going to collide groups spontaneously while you’re out.
Traveling solo on the other hand — not only are you forced to go up to random strangers and do what we were taught to do when we were all 5 “Hi! I’m Brooke, what’s your name?”, but I’ve been shocked at how many people/groups/couples come up to me and strike up conversation. If I’m sitting by myself at camp, or at local brewery or at climbing gym or whatever, it’s pretty obvious that I’m solo. For whatever reason, they seem to have this knowing “the f*ck else are you doing? wanna hang out with us?” look on their face, and we DO end up hanging out. It’s awesome!
Additionally, I have a new favorite way of meeting people: referrals. This is not a new concept, but one that I think people too often ignore. By “referral” I mean: A good friend from high school who I haven’t talked to in a really long time sees on my Instagram that I’m traveling. He says “hey, if you happen to go through Montana, hit up this girl in Big Sky, she is super cool and awesome and we went to college together and she has cool friends.” 6 months ago, I would have said “meh, I don’t want to bother her, or make her feel like she has to entertain me. Or I don’t want to be like that crazy person that actually takes people up on these (what I assume to be) empty offers.” Now? I’m like “hell yeah! I would love to hang out with this (not entirely) random stranger! My friend is a nice human, I bet he has other nice humans in his friend group that are awesome.” *This actually happened. And I’ve now stopped in Montana to see these folks 2x on two different trips.
I’ve also learned to just deal with shit as it happens. Before, if it was too hot out, if my car broke down, if I couldn’t get wifi, I would generally get super cranky and turn into a psycho and look for somewhere to order a bagel and coffee to eat while I stewed in silence and simultaneously called people to help me fix the problem.
Now? Ok yeah I still eat baked goods with a coffee when I’m in a happy/sad/irritated/elated/anytime mood, and will probably still call someone for help, but once you realize that you’re by yourself and a) no one gives a shit if you’re having a crap day and b) no one is coming to help you out, you just figure it out. And that, I would argue, is something we could use a lot more of in the world today.
Yes, there are times when it’s lonely. Yes, there are days when it sucks and I want to go home and shower. But overall, those tiny inconveniences are blips on the radar on what’s been an amazing journey to date.