Ah, how refreshing it is to be back in the city with a whole new perspective on life. A couple weeks back I returned from my first solo trip and boy was it a mental and physical journey. Both challenging and exciting and new. I took solo travel to heart and did everything on my own. Some people solo travel and stay at a hotel, or under a safe roof but I wanted to rough it up cause that's just how I go on in life. If I do something, I go bold. So here is my story. Here is my current take on solo traveling, how I survived it, or how I am recuperating from it.
I got home from work Friday night, finished packing up my belongings and took a nap because I was going to hit the road at 1am for a 4-5 hr drive ahead of me from Los Angeles to Valley of Fire in Nevada. I got woken up by a text from a stranger which is a whole interesting story in itself and It was only 9pm. So, I decided to change my planned schedule to leave at 11:30pm instead. And off I went. Driving through the night with ETA of 4am. But around 2:30am I started to crash and some brilliant being thought of the idea of a "rest stop" app across the USA which was my savior to finding the next rest stop to take a nap before I dozed off. So I slept at this rest stop for an hour, got back on the road and my body still needed more sleep, so I slept at another stop for an hour and it screwed up with my whole schedule. I arrived to Valley of Fire State Park at 7:30am instead of 6am. All the campgrounds were full because they are first come first serve. No reservations. The planner in me was pissed. I had all this gear I packed up with no campground to sleep at. But I couldn't let anything upset me from the beauty around me, so I powered through and said "Vanessa, start exploring in the meantime, everything will work out." So I did. It would be an understatement to say this place was beautiful. It was this burst of colors, of surprises. I would be driving through the curvy road and bam! A new completely different scenic route would appear. One moment I'm surrounded by fire red rocks and the next is a painted landscape of so many colors you can't keep count. It's these images that stick with your head forever. No camera can capture the magnificence of nature. We can try, but always remember to take a deep breath and let it soak into your mind. A mental photograph to keep till you grow old.
I was the only one on the road. This single road that lead to the beyond. That lead to so many choices. So the sun had just risen and I was already exploring the park. From the White Domes, to the Rainbow Vista. It all kept me busy and distracted with the possibility that I might not have anywhere to sleep at night. 9am rolled around and the visitor center was open. And their advice was to drive around the campground throughout the day and hope a spot opens up because everything was already full. I rushed over to the secluded Arch Rock Campground and drove through and to my luck, I found a spot! Surrounded by rocks with little caves to crawl into. I was so relieved and excited to set up on my own, I was surrounded by RV's and families. And I set up my small one person tent and my belongings. It was still bright and early and I had the whole day ahead of me. I had driven from CA to NV, hiked 2 trails, set up my camping spot and it was only 10am. So I lounged for a bit. Climbed the rocks, played Sigur Ros and closed my eyes and let the sun comfort me with it's warmth. I was in a blissful state. I was alone and I was ok with that and that already was a big accomplishment for me. I watched the children climb past me, I watched people set up their intricate campgrounds and I sat alone as I devoured my blueberries. But then I was off on the road again, to go discover every part of the park. I experienced it all on my own, with the full freedom to do it at my own pace. The day went on, the sun got hotter and I got more confident. I hiked 4 trails, saw the Fire Wave, The Elephant Rock, the Vistas, the Domes etc. I saw it all. I was pooped and went back to my campground. It was only 4pm and I had pretty much done it all. I passed out in the desert heat dripping in sweat. I had dealt with the up and downs of my journey but I was too blissful to let it carry me down into negativity.
When you travel alone you make your own decisions, you plan everything alone. If a mistake is made, you are the only one to blame. I foolishly left my food in the tent and it was warm and had gone bad by the time I had gotten back, I had cookies and water left. I laid in the heat as I smelled my neighbors Barbecues filling the air. And at this moment I knew I had made a mistake. Tired from over exhausting myself from the days shenanigans and no fuel to feed myself with. But I couldn't let this one hiccup ruin the peace I had developed throughout the day. I woke up Sunday morning exhausted from too much sleep and the sun was about to come out. So I grabbed my camera gear and climbed to the top of the tallest rocks to watch the sunset. The sun slowly came out as it shined over the land. And I was one of 2 people awake in the whole campground. There is this feeling that comes over at moments like this. It's not happiness, it's not sadness, it's not peace, its joy. It's feeling that just makes you grateful for where you are, its not a fading emotion, it stays there because whether things are bad or good, you remain joyous. You remain optimistic, you remain calm. I laid there at the top of the rocks and came to a conclusion of what this trip meant to me. I had become so consumed with the need of having company, of never doing anything alone that I had forgotten what it was like to be alone. I was scared of being in solitude. And this was a giant step for me to clear my slate, deal with unresolved issues, come to realizations in nature, on my own. Not escaping to nature with friends as a distraction. This was a journey within myself. A much needed push into a life I will begin to lead now. A life that doesn't rely on co-dependency. A life that is lead by a woman strong enough to do things on her own. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I was meant to do something grand, I have always been a dreamer. And I would fantasize about my days as an adult, achieving my dreams, changing the world, changing the norm all through my art. But I lost that spirit and passion for the art along the way. As I grew older it began to be more about making money and having responsibilities rather than the art. It became more about using my down time to indulge in romantic relationships when I could have been brewing my creations. I lost myself and I needed to find myself again. This trip did it. I needed to find that child again. That little Vanessa who was so confident and faithful that she was meant for great things. And the older Vanessa grew on the dependency that another human being could make me great. No one can make you great, you were meant to be great on your own.
Solo travel is my new found love. I feel like the more solo trips I embark on, the more I will discover. Being alone with your thoughts is helpful. Or at least it was for me. Living in the city, in all the chaos, being on the run at work getting questions from multiple people etc your mind begins to just jumble up in one big mess. I'm constantly over-stimulated with people and thoughts and energies and being an extrovert, I absorb all that whether I want to or not. But one thing I will leave you with, one thing that stuck with my most on this trip was that I was ok. I was alone and I was ok. You can find happiness in solitude. Peace. You don't need anything or anyone to make you feel whole. I know that's a constant thought in everyone's head and we more often than not get consumed with that "need" It's not healthy, but we don't realize the damage we are doing to ourselves with those wants. Get your head clear, get out there, escape, become whole again on your own. I promise, you will feel a million times more rich than anything or anyone will ever make you feel. I don't think I would be at this point of acceptance, at this level of happiness if it wasn't for this trip. I came to discover a lot in myself and about myself. I thank the women who inspired me to embark on this adventure, because I got a lot more from it than I had anticipated and I wouldn't take it back. I am grateful for it all. Grateful for the women who gave me strength, for the independent strong woman in me that finally woke up and got her shit together to go into a new chapter. It was all worth it. The sweat, the heat, the mental and physical challenges. I am a new woman now. Ready to take on the world! I urge you to do the same!