Solo Traveling Adventures Part 1: My Introduction Into the Hobby

Solo traveling. If there’s one thing that I’m getting known for among my readers, as well as friends and family, it would be is my hobby of traveling everywhere I possibly can. However, unlike the usual traveler you may talk to (excluding mandatory travel for business; for leisure only), I very much prefer traveling by myself as to with a party. Don’t get me wrong traveling in a group is fun, but going by yourself presents more challenges, and 100% forces you to get out of your shell… at least a little bit.

If you were to always keep away to yourself whilst solo traveling, you’re not going to get a truly life changing experience. Frequently it will force you to think outside the box; it’s not like there’s that group or friend with you to help watch your back the entire time. It’s only you, but this is what makes it so wonderful! You get to truly figure out what type of person you are and can be.

For instance, something I love doing… although may sound a bit foolish (and can be) is to frequently not book hotels in advance. This does many things for you, though it can go awry of course. The advantage it gives you is a chance to walk or drive around the city, town, etc; you’re visiting to really explore it. This way you’re not picking a hotel in one area and saying, ” I think I’ll mainly check out this area, and possibly a few surrounding sites.”

I did this in Europe and ended up finding a few sweet hotels and hostels to stay the night in. Not to mention places that are generally trekked through less often than a majority of main sites. Hell, a couple nights I slept on the train and would go to the next destination staying up a couple days straight. Traveling solo can get a little rough and isn’t for everyone, but it builds character and brings great experiences to share and learn from. It’s more expensive and you have to budget carefully, but in the end it’s something to be proud of with each new destination you go to.

The first real trip that immensely got me into this hobby was back in April 2014. I embarked on a completely spontaneous 3.5 day adventure to the Pacific North West and explored around downtown Portland, Seaside Or., a bit of Astoria Or., and Long Beach in Washington State. I fully decided to go on this trip literally 3-4 days before the date I left which was a rare 3 day weekend that was given to me. Visiting the ocean once more was determined mere hours before I left work early on that Friday afternoon to get on the road.

So much detail to go into with that trip… oh, but wait… I already have! (link posted at bottom of article in case you missed that tale).Anyways, essentially upon getting back to Utah I felt changed. I had entered a state in which I’ve never been to before, drove around 1900 miles solo which had been the most I’d ever driven period. Something clicked inside my head and show me all sorts of new possibilities. I’ve always loved traveling, but honestly thought that I couldn’t  afford to except with the military, or years down the road. That trip proved to me otherwise.

With articulate budgeting I decided to not concede to any thoughts of not being able to travel, or thinking that this trip had been a one time deal. Not even 5 months later I was at it again! I took on an even bigger challenge by going for around 6 or 7 days and adding a few hundred miles to the trip. I went back to the Pacific North West and made my first stop in Portland. This trip, I was a bit better prepared for and found a few campgrounds that I could stay at in my car a month in advance as I wanted this trip to be a bit more relaxing.

Leaving Portland, I made my way back into Washington State and explored the southern part of the state around the infamous Mt. St. Helens and surrounding forest. Later that day I made my way north to Seattle, onward to my next campground. First off, because something looks good on paper, doesn’t mean that it’ll always work out perfectly. The campground ended up being around 40-45 miles north of Seattle. Ouch! With the crowded traffic that took me aback just a bit. Nonetheless, I sucked it up and made it work. Sure, I may have taken 60-90 minutes out of my sightseeing each day, but I still managed to hit many popular sights in the city by car and much on foot.

I saw the Woodland Zoo, Space Needle (didn’t go to the top), Columbia Center (tallest building in Seattle; I did go to the top here). I went to the Seahawks Stadium as well as the Mariner’s stadium. I saw the old town, Pike’s Market place, the disgusting and interesting gum wall. I wandered around the downtown until late in the AM. The whole visit was great, and one thing was more certain than ever: it helped cement solo traveling into a main focus and hobby of mine. I passed this second test and hence forth would set out for more exciting destinations that I craved to visit.

One tremendous way  that I found easiest to fund my trips is to donate plasma. I highly recommend doing so, if you qualify of course, as it’s a great source of income for vacations and it creates medicine for sick people. I’ve said it already many times and I stand by it. The next major road trip I did was an 8.5 day trip down through Southern Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona where I hit 4 national parks, 4 corners, Albuquerque and various other sites.

In the next editions of this article you’ll get to hear more about the trip mentioned above as well as a minor trip through part of Nevada, and my 2 weeks in Guatemala (although this one wasn’t solo, and was military travel, it’ll still have it’s place). Also, not forget my return to Yellowstone National Park after a 5 years of not visiting; and topping it off with an entire article dedicated solely to my 22 day European adventure back in November.

As mentioned above, here is a link to the article that describes my first solo trip in more detail:

***I would like to leave a side note, the method of not getting hotel reservations isn’t recommended at all if you drive to a large and expensive city and can’t sleep in your car. Likely due to limited places to park, not having seats that can fold, or having simply to much stuff with you. It’s recommended for those who are flying in and traveling light, or going by train. Obviously if you got a lot of money, then you would be covered bringing a car without reservations. It may sound fun, but I don’t want to give anyone ideas in doing something that could end up being quite stupid.***

If you’re interested in more info on solo traveling, feel free to message me or comment and I’d be happy to share some additional tips I find useful. As always thanks for reading! Also, enjoy a small photo gallery with shots from various trips below!

~J. A. Ross

© 01/22/2017

Traveling Solo: Part 1

Sometimes you just want to get away and go on an exciting vacation. But you find yourself in the pickle: nobody else wants to go with you. So why not try a solo trip! I myself am new to traveling solo, but let me tell you that it’s been some of the most fun that I’ve ever had. When you travel solo, there aren’t as many boundaries (unless you’re low on funds).

For instance, my first ever solo road trip was in April of this year. I went to Portland, and Seaside in Oregon; and Long Beach in Washington. This entire trip was completely spontaneous and was a nonstop 3.5 day adventure. I jammed out to music in my car whilst driving, and made various stops just for the hell of it. That may, or may not be something you’d be able to do traveling with others. Depending on the people you’re with of course.

I literally planned this trip while I was sitting at work and got a basic route prepared: I was to follow I-84 to get to the Portland area. You see, I had scored a rare 3 day weekend, and left that Friday night. I got halfway there, and then I decided to spend the night by a pond right off one of the exits of I-84 in Baker City, Oregon.

The same day, I decided, if I’m going this far, that I might as well visit the ocean to. So that’s exactly what I did. After exiting I-84, which begins in Portland; I was thrown right into the bustling city. It was quite interesting navigating to get onto the right highway to the ocean, when not being fully used to this type of traffic.

So I found my way, it was about an 90 mile drive to get to Seaside. The area was gorgeous and I wanted to enjoy my drive. The highway was a fair 55 mph most of the way and granted I even went a little over. But man, I had people passing me going near 75-8 mph through this winding mountain highway. Many people seem to dis-regard nature these days. How could you not want to enjoy driving through the fern covered forest!

I eventually get to Seaside and I’m fully captivated by the area. There’s a large cliff right off the ocean with houses on it and beach by it’s base. It was quite windy so there were good sized waves coming in as well. And of course there were some signs warning of Tsunamis, which was quite creepy. Northern California through Victoria Island, BC, Canada; is prone to getting Tsunamis.

But back on the matter at hand. Here I am at the ocean!  To think that I would’ve normally been at home just watching TV, or some other dull thing. After I got my fill of Seaside, I hit the good old Coastal Highway 101 and made my way to the border of Washington. I was excited because it would be my first time entering this state, and it was a place I’ve wanted to visit a long time.

So I get to Astoria, Oregon; Washington in view across the river and there this massive bridge comes into view. It’s one of the largest in the country at 4.1 miles long. It’s nearly 200 ft. high, and brings you over the mouth of the  Columbia River, where it meets the Pacific Ocean. I end up reaching Long Beach about 25 minutes minutes later and find that it has really earned it’s name. It’s one of the longest beaches in the United States, and one of the largest in the world with nearly 28 miles of straight beach.

After joyously driving around the beach the remainder of the day; doing donuts, going through puddles, etc. I treated myself to a sea food platter at a restaurant. I chatted up with some of the employees and after talking for awhile, I asked to see where a safe place would be to spend the night in my car. They let me sleep overnight in their parking lot to save the hassle of finding another spot.

The next morning, I went back out by the ocean and watched as people prowled the shores in search of razor clams. The clams bury themselves in the ground, and the the people had to use special shovels to capture the clams; placing them in a bucket. After watching this for a bit, I went for another drive along the beach. On this drive, I was able to observe two bald eagles right by the ocean. One was a juvenile, and the other fully grown; sitting by the ocean. It was a very peaceful morning, and I didn’t have to sweat about rushing it, to keep other travelers happy. It was just me, and I actually was preferring it this way.

I later decided to venture out to the bottom of this Washington Peninsula to visit Cape Disappointment (not disappointing in the least of course!). Here I went and saw 2 light houses, and an old fort built by the army. The first one was built in 1856 and had a man from the coast guard stationed, watching over the mouth of the Columbia River. The waters are very dangerous through there, and they had to keep a close eye on ships coming and going.

The second light house was being re-modeled, and it was covered up for the most part. But it was still amazing to see 2 light houses just a few miles apart, as most are scattered throughout the US coastlines at much greater distances. After having decided that I spent enough time on the peninsula, I decided to make the trip back to Portland, roughly 100 miles from my location.

I reached the city by about 5 pm. I had a good 5-6 hours to explore and take photos. Along my wandering I found out about a a great restaurant called Lardo’s after talking to a hotel bellhop. It had a great atmosphere inside. I got a delicious french dip sandwich that had an Asian twist, as well as some fantastic local beer. I then walked the city for a few more hours, taking in my surrounds. It was again quite fun roaming by myself. I didn’t have to wait up for anyone, and I could check out any area I wanted to. Complete freedom.

I found myself climbing the stairs of a 10 story high parking garage near the end of my short time in Portland. It had been raining for the last hour, but this hadn’t stopped me from wanting to see more. As I reached the top, some slight rain was still falling. I was able to take some pictures of the city with a great view; right at the heart of downtown. Having gotten the pictures I needed, and enjoying one last quiet view, I made my way back to ground level. I found my way to my car and got small head start on my drive home.

I spent the night one last time in my car on the side of a road, in a small town 40 miles outside of Portland. I had spent the last half hour trying to find a suitable place to sleep, however I got slightly lost and there were no suitable places. I decided to just settle for the current town I was in. Waking up at 8 am, I began the drive to make the 700 mile trip back to Ogden,Utah. Doing this first solo road trip helped open me up to many more possibilities in life, let alone got helped me more out of my shell.

Part 2 on Traveling Solo coming soon. I will discuss my second solo trip I took back in September to Portland again, as well as going to Seattle for the first time. Thanks for reading!