A Solo Adventure: How To Have Fun Traveling Alone

Adventure.  It’s word with about as many cliché quotes attached to it as dream.  For example:    

“Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.”
“To live is the rarest thing in the world.  Most people exist.  That is all.”
“You’re always only one decision away from a totally different life.”
“Fill your life with adventures, nothing things.  Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.”

And lastly, because… we’re Unbound… and we have stereotypes: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Admittedly, some of them are pretty clever and they’re not necessarily wrong.  The problems start when the definition gets fuzzy and people’s expectations, consequently, get… let’s just say complicated.  If adventures are supposed to be epic journeys, what are those of us with busy lives (and a low income) supposed to do?  Add on top of that the idea of having an adventure alone and it’s practically laughable.  And maybe a bit depressing.  One last note before we dig into this: you don’t have to be a travel bug, extroverted, or an adrenaline junkie to implement these ideas.  This post is brought to you by a Nervous Nellie who wouldn’t go to the store for six months after she got her driver’s license ‘cause she was scared of the register situation.  (The card swiping, employee interaction, endless possibilities of screwing up and/or getting arrested.)  For those of you prone to catastrophizing, you might get this, maybe. That’s just a little fun fact about me which hopefully puts my tips into perspective.  This may actually be a Solo Adventurer’s Guide - For Dummies.

Step 1: Define “Adventure”

The handy-dandy dictionary defines adventure as: “an unusual or exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity”.  Sounds pretty accurate except I’d add, “…that results in personal growth”.  Otherwise, like a dog spinning in circles, technically you’re moving but you’re not really going anywhere.

Step 2: Pinpoint the Fears

Fear #1: “I’m gonna die!””  Possibly, depending on what you’re thinking of doing.  Though, the more likely translation (also Fear #2) is: “I’m gonna be humiliated and completely lose control of the situation and feel like an idiot by the end!” which is also a possibility.  Fear #3: “I just really wish I had someone.”   That someone could be a friend, a significant other, a family member, etc.  (Etc. covers extraterrestrial beings, in case that’s your thing.) 

Step 3: Defuse the Fears

Answering Fear #1 “I’m gonna die.”:  If that’s a significant chance, maybe either A) Don’t go on the adventure.  B) Wait until you can bring someone with you (who’s ideally a retired navy seal).  C) Tweak the idea to minimize chances of death.  And always D) Let someone know what you’re doing.  Preferably a parent, specifically that parent who’s spent 85% of their time trying to keep you alive and is amazed you made it past five. Answering Fear #2 “I’m gonna be humiliated.”: That’s where the "solo" part comes in handy.  Also, stories that involve some degree of humiliation usually have the best dinner party potential.  Look for the humor in those situations - it’s there and often takes the shape of irony. Answering Fear #3 “I just really wish I had someone.”: From me to you, I get it.  Trust me, I get it.  My closest friends right now are all long distance (as far as Lebanon) and I don’t spend my Saturdays strolling down the street hand in hand with someone, but I think God calls us not to use our solo statuses as an excuse for inertia.  Wise people will tell you to leverage it and… I know it’s annoying… but they’re right. 

Step 4: Remember the Truths

Truth #1: You don’t have to drive halfway across the country to have an adventure.  You don’t even have to leave your driveway. I heard a fantastic quote once that went something like: “If you really want an adventure, hop over your neighbor’s fence.  Chances are that’s more challenging - and disruptive to your life - than crossing the ocean.”  If you do so, though, maybe bring cookies.  And check to see whether or not they have a dog. Truth #2: You can never out-plan complications.  Even the army has a saying: “Plans never withstand contact with the enemy.”  If you can’t out-plan, then head out the door with the certainty that the best option is to have an impromptu mindset.  Turn those moments of hilarity into great stories.   A quick example: I was driving towards Grand Rapids, Michigan one afternoon by myself, heading to a house I’d never been to, owned by friends of my parents I’d never met and right as I get to the outskirts of the city (on the highway) my GPS cuts out.  Then a strong thunderstorm breaks overhead - not kidding - and the window fogs up.  So I have to turn the heat up to like 95 degrees to be able to see (because that’s important when you’re driving), and I’m trying to call my parents' friends but my phone also doesn’t have signal. I ended up surviving, in case you were worried, but it was a solid hour and a half of “quickly and effectively mastering complicated information.” (Hence my strong recommendation that you add an impromptu mindset to your packing list.) Truth #3: You’ve got nothing to lose.  Really.  (In terms of humiliation, potential failure, etc.)  Try not to die, because it will be pretty hard to apply hindsight analysis and get anything out of it in this life, but as for avoiding adventure to avoid failure… failure is gonna find you, so you may as well play a proactive role in the process.  You learn the most through failure though, if you can drill down into it and dissect the lessons embedded there.