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  • Writer's pictureAlex Willis

What my first solo trip taught me

Updated: Feb 20, 2019




The travel bug bit me when I was six years old and my grandparents took me with them to the Philippines. Since then, I have been fortunate to have traveled all over the world. And though I’ve taken a few flights to and from by myself, I never truly traveled alone as I always had my family and friends to explore with.


Slowly, I began to notice my friends were increasingly planning trips with their significant others. And while it truly made me happy to see my friends going out and seeing more of the world, I couldn’t help but feel increasingly stuck. I was single as a pringle, my friends' vacation days were booked, and I was left unable to feed my gypsy soul.


I took a step back.


I never needed to be in a relationship to be happy before, so why was I questioning myself now? Why was I so willing to attach my happiness to another person? I realized that if I kept waiting for someone, I would never go anywhere. I would never see or do any of the things I so longed to accomplish.


I was done feeling sorry for myself.


When I had vacation days to use or lose, I knew I needed to get away. Arizona instantly came to mind. Going out west was always a dream, and this was finally my chance.


Immediately, I turned to Google and went wild. I had to go. I booked a flight for the FOLLOWING WEEK (and crossed my fingers that my days off would get approved).


I was excited about seeing and doing all the things, but was also anxious and nervous about being alone. I channeled my nervous energy to putting together an itinerary that was all but planned to the minute.


When I landed in Phoenix, it still hadn’t really hit me. I knew the motions: head to baggage claim, wait for my luggage to appear, then go to the rental car place. I loaded up the Jeep they convinced me to upgrade to, and just sat in the driver’s seat for a moment, almost waiting for someone to tell me what to do.


“I guess I just go now” I thought as I shifted into drive and began the three hour drive to my AirBnB.



As soon as I saw the red rocks appear on the horizon, I couldn’t help but get emotional — I started to cry. I did it. I made it. Holy Sh*t.


This wave of emotion was just the first to hit me. I discovered a great deal about myself during my time alone. I was able to enjoy the moments and reflect in a way I wasn’t able to before. Some things I learned:



I am a MIXED BREED.


Though not entirely new, this came to me in a new way: When a Navajo guide asked me if I was a mixed breed. I never had the “what are you” question phrased in this way before. I was being associated with a once derogatory term, and it filled me with pride.


I love talking about my family and where they came from. It’s their experiences and traditions that have shaped my identity. As a descendant of multiple races, I get to pull from the knowledge of not just one, but many cultures. I am proud of my heritage. I am proud of all the nationalities that make me who I am. I am proud to be a mixed-breed.


Because of my mixed race, I never fit in to one box. Maybe thats why I still can’t be placed in one, and continue to dabble through life…



Sometimes you just gotta eat a plain can of tuna for dinner.


Getting that Jeep upgrade meant my budget was thrown off. I needed to rethink my trip and where I was willing to scrimp to make up the difference. This meant the delicious looking restaurants I planned on visiting would have to go. Not only would I be missing out on the flavors of the region, but now I wouldn’t be able to snap my food.


In this day, “do it for the insta” or “do it for the snap” reign supreme. We are ever more aware of how others perceive us, and are a generation where we are so worried about our image and following that we forget about the reality behind the facade. I know I’m 100% guilty of it.


Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. It has its dull, not so photographic moments, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I shouldn’t compare my life to the carefully curated content that others share, and you shouldn’t either.



Don’t let what you think others may think of you dictate your actions.


Did I mention I was traveling alone? This meant lots of selfies, lots of public selfies.


My first hike didn’t have too many others on the trail, so I could set up and take my photos without being seen. Then I got to more touristy locations, where there were more people around to watch.

I waited patiently for the groups around me to finish their mini photo shoots, hesitant for my turn. I worried about what everyone around me would think and was nervous of the looks that would be coming my way. But I soon realized that if I wanted the photos, I had to suck it up.


As I was setting up my tripod and camera remote, I overheard a girl say “Oh look, she’s about to do something cool.”


I was so worried about people negatively judging me that I never stopped to consider the possibility of being SUPPORTED. From one location to the next, my confidence grew. I was just doing my own thing, taking the photos I wanted to take. Why did it matter what others thought anyways? I wasn’t going to see any of them again.


We shouldn’t let what others may think dictate our actions. If we do, we’ll never get to where we want to go, and heck, we may just end up being supported.



The feeling of true freedom.


I felt free. I was in charge. I got to decide where I wanted to go, when I wanted to get there, and how long I wanted to spend there. I didn’t have to worry about what other people wanted me to do or get frustrated when they didn’t want to do what I wanted. Traveling by myself gave me a sense of freedom I never experienced before. It was exhilarating!



I'm on my own journey and no one else’s.


Cathedral Rock was one of the hardest hikes I’ve done. It started easy enough but the end was a scramble. The last bit to the top was a steep uphill on slick rock. At times I had to wedge my feet into the cracks, and lean into the rock face to balance and push myself up and onwards.


Before this trip I struggled with comparing my life to others. I felt inadequate because the pace of my life wasn’t matching that of the closest people around me. As I reached the top, I felt an overwhelming wave come over me. Maybe it was the mountain’s spiritual vortex. Maybe I had a breakthrough. What I know is that I’m okay. I’ve done something I never thought I could do. I’m becoming who I’m meant to be, and I’m exactly where I need to be. I am on my journey and no one else’s — and it’s an amazing place to be.


 

// Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. //

 


I’ll do this again.


A woman I met in my group during the photo tour of Antelope Canyon was excited for me when she found out I was flying solo. She encouraged me to do so even more, “you won’t be able to stop after this” she reassured me.


This trip took me on the deepest journey inside of myself that I have experienced. I’ve always appreciated the quiet moments, but never took the time to really dig down and reflect. Being vulnerable has always been a challenge for me, anytime a hard situation or conversation would come up, I’d be the first to run away. I’m learning to lean into that discomfort. That IT IS OKAY to feel all the feels, the good AND the bad. I’ve learned that denying myself that means I’m not being honest with myself and that I’m not being honest with those around me.


This part I’m not doing alone. I have some amazing friends in my life who continue to push me. They take me to these difficult places and help me work through my barriers and as a result, become a better human. I cannot thank them enough for that.


 

If you’ve ever thought about traveling alone, do it! I promise you it’s worth it, and you’ll be better for it. If you’re still questioning it, just take a look at my face throughout my trip:



If you want to know more about my trip, check out my posts on Instagram, or even better, reach out! I’d love to chat with ya :)


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2 Comments


demarchisjessica
Feb 22, 2019

I love this and you! So proud of you for taking risks & sharing so vulnerably :) These are amazing lessons and insights girl xo

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jessmatlack
Feb 21, 2019

You are amazing! I'm so proud of you!

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