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?

Coastal Camping in Oregon

After a morning mountain biking through Northern California’s mighty Redwoods, the guys and I embarked on one of our most anticipated sections of the entire road trip. High hopes for the roads, beaches, and adventures awaiting us on the Oregon coast rattled around in our heads. Giant, rocky sea stacks; vibrant sunsets; and soft, rich sand beckoned.

The first essential factor to success on the Oregon coast was finding a camping spot on the beach. There are numerous state parks along the Pacific Coast that offer nice camping, but we wanted that rugged feeling only achievable by pitching our tents along some wild, secluded stretch of beach. Because we were driving a massive truck, stealth camping wasn’t exactly an option, so we researched coastal camping before the trip. It’s rumored to be fairly easy to plop down on the beach for a few nights in Oregon due to their public beaches law. However, we discovered the fine print actually makes this difficult to properly accomplish.

To abide by Oregon’s laws, the campsite should be one mile from the city limits of any town and out of site from any building. It’s also illegal to camp in state parks outside of the developed campgrounds. The Oregon coast is a pretty popular area so finding a place outside of state parks and away from towns with no visible houses proved nearly impossible.

Still, after driving for the entire afternoon, intensely probing google maps, and making several U-turns, we found the perfect spot! A gravel pull-off from the highway revealed a small trail down a steep, red-clay bluff to a wide beach stretching about 100 yards to the breaking waves of the ocean. The nearest town, Ophir, was about a mile and a half away. We took some liberties regarding buildings by making camp right under the bluff, so that no houses could be seen. Fifty feet closer to the waterline we could see at least 3 houses in the hills behind us.

We settled in for an extremely windy night with a small fire, camp supper, and some fresh green tea. Then, the Pacific Ocean offered up possibly the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. For almost an hour, Peyton and I sat on logs at the top of a steep incline leading into the sea and watched the sun slowly sink beyond the horizon. Waves as tall as men crashed into the shore before us, and playful gulls soared overhead.

Such a view is hard to beat, but I wish I had better words to describe the star-specked sky that followed the sunset. Miles from any large light source, I sat outside in the night alone with my cameras and tried to capture what I saw. A more experienced night photographer would have done better, but my photos at least remind me of that sublime moment when a multitude of twinkling stars illuminated our tents against the sand and shimmered off wispy grasses that swayed in a strong land breeze rushing back to meet the sea.

The next day I slammed back to earth with the realization that I locked the keys in the truck the night before. A quick call to AAA and 45 minutes of hoping the locksmith could find us had us on our way. That day we visited the beautiful Cannon Beach and took a detour to a hidden gem accessed only by some winding backroads. The name of the place escapes me, but the beach sprawled out between two cliffs baring tall evergreens and featured a massive sea stack just off-center. We watched the tide roll out for a while before focusing our attention on finding a place to sleep that night. Having already discovered that finding beach camping was not so easy, we settled for a nice developed campground a few miles inland that had vacancies, showers, and laundry machines. We spent a chill night with a warm fire and plenty of conversation. The next day we would drive to Portland, a top contender for my favorite city on the road trip.