On Getting After It Solo: What I Learned Along The Way

If you told me six months ago that I'd come to head out on my first solo travels last year, even locally, I'd have called you crazy. Before May of 2017, I had never set out driving alone anywhere past my own city even. And now here I am, hopelessly addicted and endlessly scheming the next spicier jaunt. 

When I shared that I was hitting the road alone this past fall on a speedy 6000 km trip through five states, my plans were met with mixed responses. Some were beyond stoked. Some said it was excessive. 

"Is that safe, going alone? Aren't you scared? Won't you get lonely? Where are you going to sleep? Do you even know how to change a tire?" I didn't know much, and I sure as hell didn't know how to change a tire. But I did know with certainty that Google knows basically all the things, so there's that.

While I didn't head off galavanting around the globe on a 6 month trip to foreign countries {this time, anyway}, I reckon there are a few things that are valid across the board, no matter where you go or what you do. 

This is what I learned along the way, mistakes and all.

Know your limit, play within it.

I'm all for pushing comfort zones - but there's a fine line between nudging your nervous self to do something you really truly want to do, and forcing a situation that your body straight up tells you is a terrible idea at best. During my time in Moab, I was deadset on making it down to the Needles district in Canyonlands to go hiking. I hadn't quite thought this scheme through, and left Moab to begin the 2.5+ hour drive down south just as the sun had set. My plan was to find somewhere to sleep along the highway or just outside the park, wake up for sunrise, and start hiking before the heat set in. That was a fail of epic proportions. 

Completely misjudging how much of this drive was, in fact, not on a well-lit highway with rest stops, cars, or any other remotely reassuring things, but an eerily pitch-black lone road into the park without another human in sight for well over an hour, I could feel my anxiety skyrocketing. I kept driving anyway, for miles and miles, attempting to ignore the increasingly panicked voice {likely compounded by lack of sleep} that told me with no uncertainty that I 110% did not want to partake in any of this. Unable to see my surroundings, save for a couple feet of the road ahead lit by my headlights, the thought crossed my mind that I hadn't told anyone where I was going.

After almost an hour driving into the Needles, the combination of exhaustion and anxiety got the best of me. I slammed on my brakes in the middle of the dead-empty road, told myself it was completely okay if I wanted to turn around, pulled a U-ey and got the hell out of there as fast as possible. The second I did, I felt my whole body breathe again and the nervous laughter errupted as I sped out of the park. Was I disappointed that I didn't get to hike the Needles? Sure. But there can be a next time, a better time, one that doesn't involve the onset of a panic attack. Lesson noted.

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On that note, know what it is that you need to feel safe. And also to, you know, enjoy yourself once in a while.

We all have different levels of comfort and experience. What feels terrifyingly impossible for one person is cake and a hell of a good time for another. And that's totally okay. The first night sleeping in my car at a highway rest stop was nervewracking - I may or may not have kept my pocket knife tucked into the car door beside me while I slept {sleep being an over exaggeration, really, seeing as every night spent in my car was composed more of naps in 30-minute increments than anything remotely resembling proper rest}. Some people wouldn't think twice about it. Some, you couldn't pay any amount of money to even consider it.

Acknowledge what you need to do to feel alright about life. Is it sleeping in a well-lit area? At a hotel/Airbnb once in a while? Not driving at night? Not sleeping alone in the backcountry? Maybe capping your daily driving km's at a reasonable point? Pushing your limits in a healthy way is part of the adventure, definitely. Feeling like you’re in mortal danger {whether that is markedly real or not} or hating your life every second of every day isn't a state you want to be in for too long at a time. Travel will test you, but it should also be semi-enjoyable a good deal of the time. As you gain more experience and trust in yourself, your needs may evolve and change.

Or they may not. You may just forever decide that five days at a time of hiking and sweating in the dusty desert heat without showers and running water or a half-decent sleep is where you draw your line. Maybe you're totally cool with trekking alone in the Himalayas for weeks on end. Either way, where you're at is perfectly fine and valid. Respect your basic needs.

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Check in frequently with your safety contact while you're on the move.

If you're roadtripping, the difference of a few hours rippin' means you could have easily passed through two states or into another country by the end of the day, and it's well worth checking in whenever you can so someone knows your approximate whereabouts**. Whenever I found wifi, I’d send a quick note to trusted humans back home as well as friends who were of closest proximity to the state I was in at the time. This also goes for checking in before and after any wilderness outing, hike, climb, or the sort. Let someone know your exact route and estimation of when you'll be back. If no one knows where you went, no one would know to look for you if things were to go awry. 

**If you use Google maps for navigation like I do, I recently learned that you can easily share your trip progress. I haven't used this function yet, but will definitely give it a go next time I'm on the road.

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Speaking of safety, again.. don't forget the first aid gear.

This trickles down from standard hiking advice, but I always bring generous emergency gear {those two bandaids living at the bottom of your bag for the past 5 years don't count}. I brought a fully loaded first aid kit for the car, plus my usual smaller version for my hiking pack. On top of that, I packed a small knife, a few extra gallons of water left in the trunk at all times, spare batteries for my headlamp, emergency blanket + tarp {and the rest of the top 10 essentials}, bear spray, those little warming packets, extra food, a wildlife deterrent horn, and multiple paper maps {yes, people still use those!}, and warmer clothing than I would expect to need. Having the gear is one thing - knowing how to use it is another. Go through your things beforehand to make sure you're familiar with all those bits and could handle yourself in an emergency. Alright, mom moment over.

Don't abandon your common sense, but remember: the world isn't out to get you.

No doubt, there are many places where it's easier and safer to travel solo as a woman than others. I'm speaking mainly from my recent experience travelling in North America, which can be very different from the vast majority of the rest of the world, but I reckon the general sense remains the same wherever you go.

Keep your wits about you, but not to the point where you adopt the excessively wary and suspicious mentality that every stranger is up to no good and is not to be trusted. One of the joys of solo travel is the people you meet along the way.

Be open, stay safe, talk to people around you, absorb stories, share your own. That's the best damn part, really. 

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Plan for rest. Frequently.

I'm just gonna call it like it is: solo travel is often friggin' exhausting.

You know that feeling when you hop on a rope swing and realize mid-air you've sent it way too hard, but are all up in it now and there's no going back? That was me 24 hours into my roadtrip. I'm just gonna go ahead and point out the obvious again that, well, you're alone. It's all on you. I didn't quite realize how exhausting that would be until I was the only person I had to rely on, to troubleshoot, to get un-lost, to figure it out, to fix things that broke, to find somewhere to sleep every night, to negotiate issues, to clock the driving miles, to come up with a backup plan {or thirty-two of 'em} when things went sideways. Draining, whether you notice it at first or not. I didn't account for how tough it could be running at full speed consistently for days on end, and, in hindsight, it's something I wish I had considered. 

Plan to give yourself breaks to recharge and re-coop your energy, both mentally and physically. Looking back, I wish I had chosen a slightly less ambitious driving plan to have allowed for more downtime, and next time I'll be scheduling in rest breaks way more frequently - even if that's just a free afternoon with nothing planned, or a couple hours to read quietly and give my brain a break, or a sleep-in past the crack of dawn every now and then. Both my body and my mind tend to run at a hundred miles a minute on an average day - combine this with the demands of solo travel, and it's a recipe for speedy burn out.

At the end of the day, it's a marathon, not a sprint, travelling - maintain your energy and take care of yourself, so you can finish strong and have a hell of a good time along the way. 

And know this. This is probably the icing on the cake:

The absolute best thing to come out of all this solo galavanting business is the incredible forging of self-trust and ultimate strengthening of your resilience.

As I pulled the car back into the rental lot and dropped the keys to my impressively dirty, sandy, salt-coated Santa Fe, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I survived. Go figure. All those worries I'd had before the trip? Well, half of them actually did happen. And yet it all ended up being totally okay. 

Being on your own, you gotta trust absolutely and wholeheartedly in your ability to figure it out when everything heads south. And it likely will at some point. But you know what? You can handle it.

You can.

And you will. When all else fails, remember: everything is figureoutable.

Go get after it. x

Roadside Diaries: Central Oregon + Diving Into The Deep End

“Hey. I have an idea.”

Man, do my friends ever love it when I chuck that in mid-conversation. They tend to brace themselves a little, already accepting of the fact that that statement is usually followed by some ridiculous scheme I’ve impulsively hatched from mid-air. And you know how much I love adventure scheming. A few weeks back, I had messaged my friend J out of the blue asking if I could come visit him in Bend. He said yes. I was half kidding at the time, but sure enough, as soon as the idea had bubbled up, it took on legs of its own and ran wild. I found myself jetting down to Oregon for a brief stint in the high desert a couple weeks later to run along with it.

So, here’s a fun social experiment: would you commit to spending an entire day with someone you’ve never met in person, or barely know? How about five? A week?

Under normal circumstances, we’re used to getting to know someone slowly over time, in carefully managed settings. It’s safe. Measured. Calculated, even. We ease in a couple hours at a time, wading slowly, able to make an excuse and tap out at the first hint of things heading awry. For the most part, society doesn't really embrace the all-or-nothing, go-big-or-go-home mentality. We get to know one another in controlled environments wherein the other person chooses exactly what to allow us to experience. Nothing more, nothing less, almost akin to cautiously peeling an onion at your own leisurely pace. You can dip your toes in to test the water, and jump ship if things get uncomfortable. Rarely do we smash right into the onion or dive head first into murky waters. 

Spend six days non-stop with a near stranger, away from home and everything else of known comfort, with no exit door in sight, and that’s what you get. A smashed onion, a nose dive, and one hell of a gamble – all in the best possible sense. I can’t believe I’m still using an onion analogy, but here we are.

Some peculiar shade of magic reveals itself when you immerse yourself wholly in someone else’s presence. There’s nowhere to hide. Not at 5AM every morning when the alarm goes off. Not when you both haven’t eaten in 10 hours and have many more kilometres to go before that pizza you've longingly discussed for the last hour. Not when you’re locked in a car together for hours on end, or when the moods set in, or when you’re exhausted, lost, angry, annoyed. You get the beautiful, the good, the bad, the ugly, the imperfect. The human-ness. You get seen - no smoke and mirrors. And that’s where the beauty lies.


The Highlights

Toketee Falls {which is a Chinook word for graceful – much unlike what you might choose to describe how I looked attempting to scramble down a weathered rope to the falls} is a stunner of a waterfall on the North Umpqua River at its confluence with the Clearwater River. Carved from ancient columnar basalt, this place feels a touch like finding yourself in The Land Before Time, minus Little Foot and the squad {unfortunately}. Awe-inspiring would be an understatement.

Next, we took a drive down to Crater Lake. The smoke from the fires clung heavy above the lake, making for a very hazy view, but it was stunning nonetheless. What came as an unexpected surprise were the thousands upon thousands of California Tortoiseshell butterflies fluttering through the thick air before us. Oregon has experienced an unexplained boom in these beautiful little things as of late, and we were surrounded the entire way from Toketee to Crater. I'll leave it at that and glaze over the slightly traumatic fact that a good amount of these little guys ended up splattered against our windshield and bumper. Fun fact: Crater Lake was formed from the collapse of a stratovolcano named Mount Mazama after a massive eruption thousands of years ago. It took around 250 years of rain and snow accumulation to fill the caldera with what is now seen as the lake. Neature is pretty cool.

Smith Rock State Park. Up before the sun every morning, our days kicked off at 5AM to afford us some exploring time before the blistering heat set in. We reached Smith Rock just after first light, golden rays soaking the sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt. Nestled near Redmond and Terrebonne, this park has stellar rock climbing and bouldering and is home to a number of scenic hikes. We spent most of our time here walking along the Crooked River {mainly due to the fact that I’m still the frustrated owner of a sprained foot} and admiring the dizzying cliffs towering above us. I’d love to come back one day and hike Misery Ridge along with a few others, preferably for sunrise. You can scope out all the trail options here

Chasing sunset up Pilot Butte. Both of us were dragging by the time evening rolled around this day, exhausted from the heat and long hours spent in the car, so much so that we nearly skipped sunset. It was a last minute push to get up and out of the house, and we were beyond stoked that we pulled it together and went. A quick drive within city limits or a light hike up along the trail, Pilot Butte is an extinct volcano sporting 360 degree views of the surrounding peaks and hills, with Bend resting tucked in around its base.

OTHER BITS WORTH MENTIONING

+ Sparrow Bakery - for its breakfast sandwiches which we ate repeatedly, and apparently for their ocean rolls, which I didn’t get a chance to try this time around {deep regrets}. It seems they’re amazing enough to warrant being shipped overnight to a different state as a birthday present, so there's that. Please report back if you’ve tried one!

+ Spoken Moto. What was once an old, forgotten mechanic's shop known in its day as the “Pine Shed”, is now a restored cafe and gathering space home to many gorgeous renovated vintage bikes. Motorcycles. Beer. Coffee. We spent a couple hours here hiding from the relentless sun, and I'd easily have stayed all day. Bliss.

+ Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. We took an early morning drive alongside the rising sun to scope out this lovely road and the string of stunning lakes sprinkled around it. A vibrant emerald green Devil's Lake, picturesque Sparks Lake, Elk Lake, and the list goes on. Well worth a visit. 


Here’s the thing. If you look closely, you’ll see the light catch those minute intricacies that weave themselves into the foundation of others and make them who they are. The ones you wouldn’t normally chance upon under normal circumstances of carefully portioned interaction. Maybe it's the way they slip their feet out of their sandals to stand barefoot on the hot pavement any chance they get. Or the way they have, in fact, a hundred different smiles, each reserved for something different. The way they react to a sunrise, or to getting lost, or how they handle unravelling plans and chaos. You’ll see each facet of their personality, their moods, their finesses and subtleties, with no time-outs or space. Want to bond with someone? Like, really get to know them? Travel. Experience something new together. Put yourself into potentially uncomfortable situations just for the hell of it. Stick it out, in all its imperfect flaws. Take a risk and send it full tilt.

Since you're probably wondering by this point, no, we didn't strangle each other in the end.

And yes, we had one hell of a rad time.

x

 

This Is CS Hut Trip

Friday July 22nd. 8:39 AM. 4 missed calls.

“Lana, someone dropped out of Hut Trip last minute. You were next up on our list. I know this is crazy last minute but… could you be at the airport in an hour?”

And here I was in my fleece polar bear jammies thinking I was just gonna have a casual morning at home.

“Sorry, what? You want me to.. umm, what? Can I have, like, 5 minutes to process?”

“I’m forwarding you the emails. You can do it. Let’s go.”

What happened in the next 72 hours was a total whirlwind. This is my attempt at conveying some of it in words.

 Capture: Ivan Calderon

Capture: Ivan Calderon

Alright. Hut Trip, in a nutshell: Chasing Sunrise got 20 of us to show up at the airport, only knowing we were going somewhere on a seaplane for the weekend. Where to? Your guess would’ve been as good as mine. I knew there’d be a hut involved, outdoor shenanigans, a stunning lake as evidenced by the hints of pictures dropped, and a sunrise chase, no doubt. The rest was a mystery, but hey – I’ve always loved surprises. I managed to pack myself within 20 minutes, my apartment a train wreck of dirty dishes and clothing strewn everywhere, trying to get out the door as soon as possible to catch the last plane out.

 Capture: Ally Pintucci

Capture: Ally Pintucci

I rocked up to the airport a total mess of adrenaline and stoke to be greeted by a bunch of lovely looking strangers sitting in the sun, waiting for the next plane. We all sat together for a while, cracked a few beers {yes, it was 10AM, but when you're over weight capacity and have to clear some out.. no good beer left behind, right?}, and started chatting. Soon enough, we were on a plane soaring high above Squamish, with faces keenly pressed against the windows, and landed straight onto Lake Lovely Water in the Tantalus mountains. We looked at each other in total amazement, clearly thinking the same thing. Yes, this was real. Pinch me.

 Capture: Ivan Calderon

Capture: Ivan Calderon

One might say it’s quite the bold gamble to put a group of strangers in a small hut together with no electricity, no running water, and no personal space. But barely an hour into the trip, friendships were already crystalizing out of seeming thin air, later to be solidified under the stars, in mountain valleys, over dock chats.  Something nothing short of pure magic occurs when you take people out of their comfort zone and drop them into a circle of like-minded others who are in the same boat, all thirsty for adventure, and willing to delve into the unknown. They open up. They share wholeheartedly. You get to know someone on a level that we don’t often get to experience each other. One thing was obvious: a certain raw quality of friendship blossoms when you get to share an awe-inspiring moment {or dozens, as was the case that weekend} with someone. It cracks you open, and them too, and suddenly you’re blessed peering through this window that we don’t normally get to see. That, and you’ll quickly learn someone’s true nature by observing how they interact with nature and the world around them, how they cope with surprises {and questionable outhouses}, and ultimately – how out of hand they get in an aggressive game of spoons, as evidenced by our nightly entertainment shenanigans.

 Capture: Ally Pintucci

Capture: Ally Pintucci

 Capture: Ivan Calderon

Capture: Ivan Calderon

Highlights of the weekend:

+ Our hike to Niobe Meadows. We trekked up a waterfall, played around the glaciers, explored, galavanted around the meadows. There may or may not have been some rogue streaking. Snowball fights in July anybody?

 Capture: Ally Pintucci

Capture: Ally Pintucci

+ Good old-fashioned fun by propane lights and headlamps. Card games. Spoons. Kings cup. A confusing game of Settlers of Catan, where I’m pretty sure nobody had the slightest clue what was going on and everybody equally lost. No wi-fi, no electricity, no problem.

+ Nights spent laying under the stars, watching the moon rise, or out for a midnight paddle on the lake.

 Capture: Ivan Calderon

Capture: Ivan Calderon

+ An epic glacier floatie sesh. 20 people in inflatables all roped together into one big raft, beers in hand, jammin’ under the hot sun all afternoon? Heck yes. We went out there as enthusiastic humans, and came back as equally enthusiastic lobsters. #worthit

 Capture: Ally Pintucci

Capture: Ally Pintucci

+ A 4:30AM wakeup for a canoe out to the end of the lake. We linked vessels, passed around coffee, ate the best damn banana bread we’ve ever had in our lives, and watched in complete rapture as the sun spilled over the glacial peaks around us.

 Capture: Ivan Calderon

Capture: Ivan Calderon

 Capture: Ivan Calderon

Capture: Ivan Calderon

+ More hikes, more glaciers, more waterfalls. Also – more beer.

 Capture: Ally Pintucci

Capture: Ally Pintucci

+ The most epic meals made by Fuel Your Fire, shared together over great conversation and the best company.

+ Canoe adventures, all day every day. In fog, in rain, in mist, in sun. And the iciest lake dips we'll ever take.

 Capture: Callum Snape

Capture: Callum Snape

 Capture: Ivan Calderon

Capture: Ivan Calderon

So here’s the thing.

Strip away the gorgeous scenery, the adventures, the activities, strip it right down to its very core, and this is what remains at the center: connection of the purest, most raw form. That’s the lifeblood of the weekend, right there. It’s the kind of connection that comes from like-minded humans coming together to experience awe-inspiring things, new things, mystery things, not having a friggin’ clue what they’ve signed themselves up for but going along with everything thrown at them with the brightest smile. The kind that’s present across shared meals, dish duties, trekking across the lake to grab glacier ice for the beer together, shared sleeping bags when it got ridiculously cold out, looking out for each other in every way a family would. The kind of connection that comes from putting your phone away, shutting away the outer world, and being 110% present with those around you.

The stories you hear, and the ones you share in that space, they’ll change you.

 Capture: Callum Snape

Capture: Callum Snape

There is something so utterly powerful, a certain unbreakable bond, that is forged when you look around a room of people and think – dang, I’ll never quite be able to put this experience into words, and every single one of these rad humans will be the only ones who will ever be able to fully understand because they were right there alongside me. I think it’s safe to say this was one for the books.

 Capture: Ivan Calderon

Capture: Ivan Calderon

The best part? You don’t have to fly into some remote location for three days to have an adventure, to experience life in depth, to do things you’ve never done before. Look around you. We have infinite opportunities to do the crazy, the ridiculous, the different, or simply the downright fun. Grab some friends and vote to do something you’ve never done before. Go to the lake, switch off your phones, and be kids again. Sit under the stars – on a mountain, in your backyard, on your patio, in a field, with someone you love. And just be with them. Those Instagram pictures you keep screenshotting of places you want to go? Make a plan and get amongst it. There’s a whole world out there, outside of the routines we fall into and the responsibilities we take on, and it’s easy to forget that this is accessible to all of us. It doesn’t take much to have your mind blown, if you’re just willing to open yourself up and try.

You can keep your day job and still live a wild life, I promise.

Just say yes. All in, always, right?

This was Hut Trip.


A big thank you to the rad companies that sponsored this event and made the weekend possible: Jansport, Vega, 49th Parallel, Fuel your Fire, Lifestraw, Seair, Granville Island Brewing, and Hitcase.

And to the photographers and videographers that captured the moments so beautifully:

Ivan Calderon - @icalderonphotoIvan Calderon Photo
Ally Pintucci - @allypintucciAlly Pintucci
Callum Snape - @calsnapeCallum Snape Photography
Joel Schat - @joelschat / Joel Schat

.. To our videographer Max Bailey for the epic edit of the weekend..

And, of course, to the incredible crew behind Chasing Sunrise: @chasingsunrise / Chasing Sunrise

Joel Schat also shot a stunning video of our trip {watch it here!} For more photos of the weekend, hop over to the Facebook album here.

2 Steps to Gettin' That Bikini Bod

 
 Capture:  Ally Pintucci

Capture:  Ally Pintucci

1. Have a body. ✅

{Fantastic. You nailed this one already!}

2. Put on a bikini and go live your life. Done. ✅

 

I'm opting out of this whole bikini bod chase this year, because frankly, it's irrelevant to my happiness. I eat well, I work out, I stay active, and none of it has much to do with forcing my body to look a certain way. The goal has always been to feel awesome, and to be healthy enough that I'd never have to say no to anything that gets me stoked. And as long as I'm thriving and strong and having a friggin' great time while I'm at it, that's enough for me.

Push yourself to do better, to BE better, to smash your goals, for SURE - but do it for yourself, yeah? And know the why behind your intentions and what you're putting all that energy towards. Because if the sole reason you're berating the way you look and sloggin' through workouts you hate is to lose a couple pounds in hopes of looking a little more like someone you're not, I can promise you, the end of the tunnel ain't as bright as you think it might be.

One day, you'll look back on all the epic things you've done, and I bet you'll remember the ecstatic life adventures more vividly than you'll remember whether you weighed 5 pounds more or not. So, go on with ya bad self. You've got a life to get after, with or without abs, rolls, tiger stripes, extra pounds, thigh gaps. I hope you make it absolutely outta this world epic and 100% your own.

Sincerely,

That chick that just smashed a family sized bag of tortilla chips minutes before hitting the pool (#bikinidietwhaaat) and couldn't be fussed to suck in her belly more or edit the photo to make it look like she isn't 50 shades of awkward tan. ✌