The first time I travelled on my own I was 17. I had been accepted into a student ambassador program along with a group of individuals that I did not know for a three week trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland. There was two home-stays during the three weeks and many other stops along the way. I remember the weeks leading up to the trip. I was so nervous. I had never gone anywhere with out my friends or family. And while I was going with a group of people, it wasn’t like I knew these people at all. I remember crying because I was so scared, how was I going to do this. I was shy, I didn’t know anyone, and I was going to be in multiple foreign countries. While I was there I had the best time. I made friends with the people in my group, I explored museums and some small towns on my own, I had my first taste the possibility of traveling solo.
Cut to present day. It’s just about 20 years later and I travel solo (or with my dogs) the majority of the time. The more I talk to people, the more I realize I’m in the minority of people willing to do this. And the biggest thing stopping people (especially women) from solo travel is fear.
Honestly, traveling solo is always a bit scary. But it’s totally worth it because traveling solo doesn’t mean you will actually always be alone. I have a few examples of what I mean.
Last summer I decided I wanted to spend a month in Washington. So I planned, budgeted, researched, and booked a trip. This trip happened to be with my two dogs, and it was a long one. The day before I left my mom visited to make sure that I had everything, cause that’s what moms do, and just like when I was 17, I had a moment that involved tears because my support system was going to be in a different state. Then the next morning, the dogs and I got in the car and started the trek up north. Prior to leaving I had contacted people I knew threw different adventure dog groups and made tentative and set in stone plans to meet up while I was there. This meant that I had time to spend hiking and exploring on my own, people to hike and camp with, and people to go out with or at least local suggestions of places to go. I went to the Space Needle, on an Underground Tour and a Mariners game on my own. I also enjoyed a summer thanksgiving dinner with a friends family and a bbq at the lake. It was such an amazing balance of solitude and company that I would do it again in a heart beat.
Prior to my Washington trip I took a weekend to drive through Utah and Colorado. Which I’ve done a few more times since the first trip. But this first trip. I stopped in Zion and Bryce National Parks on the way up. I got to spend exactly the right amount of time there, I didn’t have to wait for anyone, or hurry along because it was just me. From there I drove to Dillon, CO and had some moments on the drive. Like almost running out of gas. And working myself up to pure panic at a rest stop because this episode of Criminal Minds just kept running through my head. But I made it to my hotel safely. Nothing bad happened. And I’ve done the drive since then. In Colorado I met up with a friend. We went on a morning hike with the dogs. And then I went on my own way to visit another National Park.
I recently went to London for the weekend, I flew out on my own but I had a friend living there for a few months that I met up with. So while in London I was not on my own. However, if I had been I don’t think I would have done anything different. I took her on a Sherlock Holmes geek “tour” then we walked along the Thames, waiting for a walking tour through the East End. On the walking tour we met another solo traveler who joined our group as we went from one pub to another. The next day we took a tour to Stonehenge and Bath. It was amazing. I enjoyed being able to go to these places with someone. But really, I could have gone on my own. If I felt like it I could have talked to the other tourists on the bus with me. Or I could have soaked it all up on my own.
So here are a few of my travel tips:
1. Leave the fear at home. That doesn’t mean not to be cautious. Pay attention to the areas you stay in, be alert when walking around alone, etc. but don’t let fear keep you from living.
2. Find tours that interest you. Chances are there are other solo travelers taking those same tours and you have a chance to make new friends for the tour, the trip, or longer.
3. Sit at the bar and have a drink. Yes, that does mean someone will probably talk to you. That’s okay. Hopefully it’s someone local and you can learn about something cool to do. My favorite bar experience was watching a baseball game with Frankie at this outdoor bar down in San Diego. I think I talked to 90% of the people at the bar because of Frankie. Which was way outside of my comfort zone. But it was also fantastic.
4. Try new things. I’ve taken paddle boarding lessons, archery lessons, etc. on my own (or with my dogs) these lessons are a great way to be social while traveling by yourself.
5. Just go. Yep. That’s it. Just get out and do it. Yes it’s scary. And exhilarating. And nerve wracking. Honestly, even on a trip where things just didn’t go as planned. I’ve never regretted taking the trip. So really just do it.
If you have questions about traveling solo with or without dogs, let me know.