Admittedly, I’ve always felt a little lost. We aren’t born knowing who we are, and going out into the world on our own, we’re never sure how it's going to shape us. However, after living in the Pacific Northwest for five years, I garnered an appreciation for this planet that the Northern Cascades were happy to provide. For a short time though, I believed this notion that I needed other people to experience things with. The one thing that no one tells you when you’re younger is how hard it can be to connect with people as you get older. Since I didn’t know many people, I unfortunately stayed indoors. I said to myself that I would eventually get around to exploring as soon as I met people to do it with. After waiting and growing more isolated in a bubble of my own creation, I decided something needed to change. There is a stigma around traveling alone that often keeps people from doing the things they enjoy.
On an April morning, I woke up to find that, like many days living in Seattle, it was raining. Rather than turning on the PlayStation or watching Netflix, I threw on my rain jacket, waterproofed my boots, and went hiking. The trail was empty except for the occasional person that had the same idea I did. Amidst the misty skies and cloud covered Douglas Firs, I marched up through the forest until snow covered the landscape, the rain stopped, and thunderous clattering filled the foggy air. As I approached the end of the hike, the thunder grew louder, and as I gazed across the frozen lake an avalanche had started running down the mountain on the far side. I watched (from a safe distance, of course) and found myself in awe of what I was witnessing. If I had stayed at home that day, I would have never had that experience. I still regard that hike as one of my favorite hikes I’ve been on.
Flying solo can be one of the best things you can do for yourself. When I went to Canada for the first time, I'd never been to another country. As I came to the border crossing, I was berated with questions—something I was not prepared for, in the least. I imagined being detained because I took too long to answer. Soon, the border agent waved me by and I started into British Columbia, trying to force my American brain to learn the metric system, so I wasn’t speeding the entire time. I muttered to myself about how far my destination was and haphazardly tried to convert kilometers into miles. Eventually, it became second nature. I realized that I had a greater sense of direction and self reliance than I initially thought I had. It’s given me greater confidence when traveling, and I don’t feel nearly as anxious about getting lost.
I would classify myself as someone who overthinks everything, and unfortunately, that is something that I’ll take to my grave. Whether it's a long road trip or a quick hike, it’s my time to clear my head and understand the thoughts that can seem overwhelming. Traveling alone allows you to take the time for self-reflection and reconciliation. You might be surprised by the questions you ask yourself and the answers you come up with. Over the course of these past few months, I’ve started to reflect on what I want to do with my life (a question with an answer that will continue to evolve the older I get, no doubt) and I’ve started to move away from older interests and ask myself what it is I truly value.
Taking on my role as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation is another solo adventure I find myself on. One of my major goals with this endeavor is to share my appreciation of the outside world with the people of Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County. I also hope to encourage those that feel lost and alone to understand that those feelings are perfectly normal, but to not let them manifest in unhealthy ways. Solo travel can be stigmatized, especially in a society that is in a constant state of connectivity, but don’t let that stop you. There is a massive open world out there, and whether it’s a quick walk through Idlewild Park or a backpacking trip through the Sierra Nevadas, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you might find. Who knows? It could be the greatest decision you ever make.