Have an Experience: Travel Solo

“Things fell through and I can’t go…”

“I couldn’t get time off work…”

“Things are looking a little dangerous there, and I’m having second thoughts…”

Excuses. Everyone has them and we’ve heard every one in the book.  I’ve heard countless times about how a traveler’s plans have been delayed or terminated because of another person involved in the trip. Look, life happens and I completely understand that. The lifestyle of a traveler is not always easy to plan, but it has to be held together by determination. Of course, when you announce plans to camp in the Sahara Desert or backpack through Southeast Asia, everyone who hears will immediately fill the conversation with their intentions of joining your journey. Regardless of these intentions being met or falling short, you must never lose sight of your goal. As an individual with a need to achieve personal satisfaction through exploration of new and different places, you CAN NOT base your ability to do so on anyone but yourself. This is why I am stressing the values and experiences associated with Solo Travel.

Traveling can be one of the most beneficial learning experiences possible for any individual. Speaking from my own experiences and those of my close acquaintances, the more one ventures off to explore, the more satisfied and confident they feel in their everyday life. There certainly are things that one truly cannot learn in a classroom. This untapped wealth of knowledge that one uncovers while traveling is usually the root of the “Travel Bug.” Once you see the world differently for the first time through traveling, the craving to see and learn more only grows, leading to a drive to explore exotic and interesting destinations. I find it absolutely amazing to see the different ways people live whether it is in Sub-Saharan Africa, the islands of Polynesia, or the coast of Greenland. When exploring these distant places, I always strive to completely immerse myself in the local culture. Culture is perhaps one of the most important aspects of life that this world has to offer. There is beauty through individuality in every corner of this planet and every different place has something truly unique to offer to the way of the wanderer.

We all get frustrated with everyday life now and again. Sometimes escaping this repetition is the best medicine a doctor could prescribe. Knowingly or not, you are constantly surrounded by forces that are trying to change the way you think, do, and dream. Whether at school, home, or the office these forces are always present. Society has a way of hinting to you what you should strive for and what is important. Traveling offers a relief from this judgmental prison.  Once you take the step and get out on your own, you will realize that every pressure that has tried to shape you up until this point in your life is gone, and you are left with an empty slate. A fresh story is there waiting to be told in order to make your journey something unique.

Traveling by yourself will teach you things that cannot be otherwise learned. Because you are alone in a very unfamiliar place with no one else to lean on, you must learn to become completely self-sufficient. No one is going to help you. You and only you are responsible for your safety during your time wandering. You will become a problem solver. If you talk to anyone you know who shares a love for traveling, they will assure you that nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. Often, society shields us from ever having to handle things on our own. Parents, teachers, friends, employers, doctors, and neighbors are always there to offer advice and guidance in times of distress. What happens when all of that suddenly disappears, and you have no one to rely on but yourself? What happens when you miss your flight, and there isn’t another one for the rest of the week? What happens when your passport fell out of your pocket on the way to the beach last night? What happens when you get pick-pocketed and are stuck without money? My point is that being able to think on your feet and to be versatile in harsh times are some of the most valuable skills you can have. You will learn, and you will grow to become more responsible and independent than you ever thought possible by traveling solo.

In all of this I am trying to promote taking risks. Do what everyone else doesn’t have the guts to do. Step outside the comfortable box that is normality and have an experience. Also, just because you begin your travels by your lonesome certainly does not mean that they will end this way. In fact, they hardly ever do. No matter how far you go, you will always run into other people traveling toward your destination. You will find that these people are the best and most interesting company one could ask for. Travelers from all corners of the Earth—no matter how different they make appear—share a common love for exploring. They have gone through the same experiences and hardships that you once faced and they love to share their stories, tips, and future plans. Traveling solo gives you the freedom to meet these new and exciting people. You will make life-long friends and have amazing experiences which never would have been possible had you not made the risk of traveling without accompaniment. Keeping up with the people you meet on your adventures can be a valuable resource on your next trip and will fuel your thirst for more traveling.

As different as we all may appear, there is one uniting quality that all humans share: desire to achieve self-actualization, or to reach one’s full potential. Satisfaction in this sense can be achieved in many different ways, and everyone has a different approach. However, some methods have a finite value. For instance, it is possible for you or anyone else to buy the most luxurious and sought after house in any country across the globe. You can fill that house with the finest furniture and park your collection of Italian sports cars in the garage. All of these things come at a monetary value. A price. Can you price the first time you see the sunset behind the Taj Mahal or camp underneath the endless canopy of the Amazon? How much would you pay for the first time you realize just how beautiful this world really is, that there is something unique and special about every corner of the planet and all those who call it home? My point is that you simply can’t put a price tag on a life-changing experience, and that these priceless experiences lead to a happy, healthy, and fulfilled life. So take the risk and start your adventure. Don’t count on anyone but yourself. The adventure is there, you only have to start it and let the rest carve its way out. We only have one life to live, so why not spend every second enjoying it and seeing it all?

A Brotherhood Forged in Bad Fishing – The Plan

By Alex Cagle,

In an earlier article I detailed how fishing cemented Clint’s and my friendship. As we set our sights on late May to early June for a summer fishing trip, we settled on Arkansas, an ideal spot due to close proximity and its two main features: hiking and fishing. We broke up the trip into two parts and each of us oversaw planning one part. Both of us wanted to hike and fish, but we were not equally enamored by each activity. While Clint was more excited about hiking and took charge of that portion, I most looked forward to fishing and planned it accordingly. Clint researched online and found that the best hiking trails in Arkansas are in the Ozarks, near the Buffalo National River. So, he found a beautiful campsite on the river where we would first set up shop.

For my location I knew exactly where I wanted to camp and fish in Arkansas: Lake Ouachita. Damned in 1953, and the Ouachita River created the lakes Ouachita, Hamilton, and Victoria near Hot Springs, Arkansas. I knew I wanted to go to Ouachita because as a kid my family would sometimes vacation there, and I always wanted to camp on an island in the lake. One summer my family camped on an island, but we chose the island poorly. As we unloaded our gear onto the island we inadvertently tracked it through poison ivy, so the next morning both my parents woke up covered head to foot in poison ivy. We canceled our trip early and headed home. However, my desire to camp on an island remained, and Clint was just as gung-ho about the idea as I was, so we had our two locations set.

Next, we fell right into the details of planning. We had already planned when, the end of May, and now we knew where. Our next question, “What do we need?” This trip was going to be my first camping trip with all my own gear as an adult. The only problem was…I had no gear! Clint being the expert camper that he is sent me a list of all the essential items I would need to bring. So I set about either borrowing or buying the stuff I needed. The hardest thing to get was a large camping backpack. I didn’t want to spend money and buy one that I would use very little, but I still needed one. Luckily I was able to borrow one from a friend at church who camps and hikes quite often. One thing I did have to buy was a small cooking set. I found a great deal on Amazon that included a pot, pan, utensils, drawstring bag, cup, and most importantly a head lamp! The headlamp proved to be the deciding factor, so I bought it.

The very last thing that I had to get was food. We intended—note the word “intend” because this will come into play later in the story—to eat the fish we caught while we were fishing. Yet, we didn’t want to leave all our meat to the fish, so I went to the store and loaded up. I bought three bags of jerky, ten bags of instant mashed potatoes, 8 bags of instant rice, and twenty cliff bars. After the trip I would learn that I grossly overestimated how much food I would need for a five-day excursion. Once we had everything bought we were finally ready to leave on our adventure (the suspense for which is now thoroughly killing you).