Portland and Seattle – Two Nights, Two Cities – Part 2

To review, Daniel, Peyton, and I had just left Portland after visiting my friend Richard and getting a taste for some local food. Our next stop: Seattle. We only had one night in the city and nothing planned. Thirty minutes of scouting google maps resulted in a stop at Swan Creek Park for some spontaneous mountain biking. These trails were the best built on the trip—flowy, fast, and downhill. It was bound to happen to one of us, but I never expected to look up from a GoPro to see Daniel get too forward on his bike at the bottom of a slope and then launch into a flip over his handlebars, body and bicycle at once flying through the air and then bouncing across the packed dirt. He was shook up but fine. We rode back to the truck after another couple laps and locked targets on Fremont.

Riley was one of the coolest dudes we met on the trip. A tall guy in his mid-twenties, tan with dark hair, Riley taught acting at a local school in Seattle. He also acted on Disney cruise ships for months at a time. Back up two days now: the guys and I are sitting around a campfire in Oregon trying to decide where to stay in Seattle. None of my Couchsurfing requests had been accepted, and we were leaning towards booking a cheap hotel outside the city. Then, while looking through hotels and hostels on my phone, I received the notification. Riley last minute agreed to host us two days before our arrival.

Now fast forward again. We just left Swan Creek Park and became stuck in miserable Seattle traffic at about 4:30 pm. Riley texted me along the lines of, “Hey do you guys like salmon.” I, of course, said we did. Riley said something like, “Great! I’m cooking dinner so don’t eat before you get here.” Anticipation and hunger made 20 mph traffic seem like standstill, and so what felt like 4 hours later we pulled onto Riley’s street where he met us all with a smile and a hug. He pointed out our parking spot and then showed us inside where Kenai, his new-ish and excitable pup, greeted us happily. Then, we all dug into the best meal we had on the entire trip. Riley made and had waiting seared salmon on a rice pilaf with sautéed veggies and peppers drizzled in a homemade hollandaise sauce. He apparently was a huge fan of Food Network, and by default, so were we.

Still trying to understand how the food was so delicious, we set off to see Fremont on foot, led by our host. Riley took us around Gas Works Park (formerly the Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant), under the bridge with the Fremont Troll, and past the Lenin statue. We ended that night at a barcade (Bar/Arcade) called Add a Ball that housed a ton of vintage games. The low-lit, grungy atmosphere seemed to draw a crowd of nerds and bedraggled misfits who blended perfectly with the surroundings. They seemed at home and welcomed us, too, into their humble abode.

I’ve said it before, but I believe everyone should at some point try Couchsurfing, at least once. It’s an amazing way to experience a city because it’s just like visiting your friend who has lived there long enough to become a local. They know where to go, when to go there, and what’s worth doing. My two hosts have been extremely kind, welcoming, and accommodating. But “host” isn’t a great word for them because after fifteen minutes we’re all friends. You can chat about absolutely nothing, swap travel stories, learn about each other’s background, engage in deep and meaningful conversations, or just hangout rather quietly. No matter what, you will leave with a new friend and a new perspective.

The next morning Riley cooked for everyone again: fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon, squared potatoes. Again, amazing food. We drove to REI, the one where it all began, to pick up some last minute supplies. Wanting a quick lunch and apparently missing the south, we settled on picking up Popeye’s chicken, which we ate in a funeral home parking lot. Yes, a funeral home parking lot. Next to a cemetery. The Cemetery where sits the Jimi Hendrix memorial. Stuffed with fried chicken, we walked over and paid our respects to the legend. Then, slightly anxious but thoroughly overjoyed, we prepared for our flight. The vast wilds of Denali awaited.

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?