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OUTDOORS TRIP PLANNING

On Being Prepared: What You Can Learn from Two Dudes I Picked Up in Yosemite

One mid-October day on my road trip, I was headed to Yosemite. It was getting to be late afternoon and I wanted to catch sunset at Glacier Point. I usually have my campsite set up by this time, but in order to catch the sunset, I decided to camp at a site just outside the park, even though it would mean getting in late.

Glacier Point was as incredible as I had imagined, pink and luminous, and by 7pm I had moved on. An hour later it was dark. After stopping to watch the rock climbers on El Capitan, I was making my way East on Tioga road when I saw two guys with their thumbs out. The look on their faces was pretty desperate. They weren’t the typical bearded, backwards hat, pants rolled at the ankles, Chacos and some kind of technical backpack climber dudes you see in Yosemite. No, these guys were pretty clean cut and didn’t have a whole lot of stuff with them. I very, very rarely pick up hitch-hikers when I travel solo, but this seemed like an exception. I pulled over.

When I picked Joe & Yo up, I was blasting Bon Iver eating peanut butter with a spoon. I explained that I didn’t have back seats because I slept in my car, so we’d all have to squeeze in the front. They probably thought I was crazy.

Exasperated, the guys expressed their thanks. Yo tried to give me $20. I laughed.

“Guys, you would have been picked up eventually,” I said.

Still, they responded, “You saved our lives!”

I asked where they were staying. Their campsite was a little bit out of the way, so I asked if they had room for another car. They said yes. Bingo, my campsite for the night.

When we got to camp, I took a better look at Joe and Yo, and of course, laughed about how their names happened to rhyme. They struck me as city boys, and when I asked, they confirmed that yes, they came from San Francisco for a quick camping trip. It was probably around 45 degrees at this point, about 9pm.

I felt a little guilty as I cooked a huge feast and they heated up their cans of soup on a brand-new-tags-still-on MSR Pocket Rocket, which I did assure them, is a great stove. Joe started making a fire. I somewhat resisted the urge to help.

I asked how they got themselves in a situation where they had to be picked up on the side of Tioga Road by some girl with a car bed. Joe pulled out the map they give you when you roll into the park.

“Well, last time I was here, I went this far,” he measured with his fingers. “And so I figured I could go this far.” He laughed a little, probably recognizing that he sounded a little ridiculous. I tried really hard to not to give him my “Holy Shit, That Was Dumb” face.

Joe wasn’t even sure if the whole path they took was on the map.

From what he could guess, it seemed like it had been a 16 mile day, including a summit. And they had done it with a liter of water each, no backcountry map, and definitely no headlamps.

Joe and Yo were lucky, but not only because I picked them up. There are just so many things that could have gone wrong on their hike that day that I was frankly amazed that having to hitch-hike was the worst thing that happened to them!

Here are some of the basics that the guys should have considered, and what you can learn from them.

And this is what that sunset looked like, in case you were wondering.Beautiful and humbling in many ways.


How long is the hike?

And is there elevation gain? Understand what 16 miles feels like. If you’ve never hiked before, that’s gonna be painful… and dangerous. The Visitor’s Center at any National Park will be an excellent resource, and Park Rangers can recommend great hikes. Make it a priority to check in with a Ranger at the Visitor’s Center to ask about conditions and get recommendations for your time in any National Park.

What do we pack?

Once you know what hike you are going on and have an estimate of how long that will take you, consider what you should bring. If this is going to be an all-day event, bring at least two liters of water… more (sometimes even double) if it’s hot. Bring food for the day. Bring synthetic or wool layers, a hat and sunscreen if it’s sunny, and a rain jacket if there is any precipitation whatsoever in the forecast. I was taught to always bring a rain jacket, but I know people that forego it if the weather forecasts a bluebird day. Bring a small first aid kit and a headlamp. You never know when you’ll need it.

Should we tell someone where we are going?

Yes, yes and yes. Let someone know what trail you are headed on, and when they can expect you back.

Overall, know the weather, the time the sun is setting, and your limits. Don’t push it or try to be a superhero– mother nature will always win.


I don’t know a single mountaineer, climber, or hiker who has never been in a situation where they felt underprepared… and often, they thought they had taken every precaution. The message is this: understand what you are getting yourself into and be prepared. Plan for the unexpected so that if and when it happens, you can get yourself out of trouble ASAP.

Know what you are getting yourself into and you will be able to enjoy nature so much more.

Know what you are getting yourself into and you will be able to enjoy nature so much more.

These are the basics. Obviously, they are important. If you’re interested in learning even more about the backcountry, I recommend taking a course– REI, NOLS, and the Sierra Club offer courses, events and outings, just to name a few organizations that offer them. There are also plenty of organizations at the local level that host outings, often free of charge– make it your business to find one. Fuel your passion by arming yourself with knowledge.

Thanks to Yo and Joe for insisting that I make an example of them!

TRAVEL TRIP PLANNING

Full Time Travel: How to Get Started

And this is what that sunset looked like, in case you were wondering.

One of the biggest questions I get goes like this: I’m at a point in my life where I want to travel/blog/do photography, but I am not sure where to start.

The question “Where do I start?” is one that I ask myself on a daily basis.

The first thing is: figure out if you are really ready to do this thing. When I started traveling, many of my friends would tell me I was so lucky and that they were so jealous. The truth is, they could have been doing the same thing, but they always made excuses for themselves: not having time, needing to work in whatever place, needing to stay put, “just can’t.” I could have made those same excuses for myself, but I chose not to.

So if you really want to do this, commit to the idea.

There is no “right way” to make travel and adventure your full-time lifestyle. There’s no step-by-step guide that can 100% guarantee that your travels will be safe, happy and life-changing. Be prepared to learn as you go.

So, where do you start? 

1. Start Saving

Money is a necessary evil. You are going to need to make a few initial purchases: maybe a flight, maybe gear, maybe a visa. Figure out how to save. Money is the number one reason people give me for not being able to travel. If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen, even if it takes you a little longer than someone else to save the same amount.

Really take a hard look at your spending. Eliminate everything you possibly can, down to the dollar. Down to the cent. Do not buy lattes, do not go out to eat, limit nights out with friends. If you are really committed to your new life of travel, do everything you possibly can to put money towards it. Your friends and family might think this is a bit aggressive… and that’s because it is.

Aggressively saving money might make your life less convenient for a while. Trust yourself that you have made this decision, and trust that it will be worth it once you are on your trip.

Worth it.

Worth it.

2. Decide Where To Go

Do some research (and don’t let it stress you out)! There are so many cool places to go. Things to keep in mind: How long do you want to go for? How expensive are these places you are looking at? Is it easy, logistically, to travel to other countries from where you start? Will there be a language barrier? If you are planning on working, is it easy to get jobs in whatever place you’re considering?

I find it helpful to pick two or three places and weigh my options. A dollar will get you way more in Thailand than in Iceland. Australia is more expensive to leave because it is, hello, an island. Budapest is a fascinating city but is an entirely different landscape than the mountains and beaches of New Zealand. Cities? Beaches? Mountains? What are you looking for?

Think about it and narrow down your options.

There are SO many cool places.

There are SO many cool places.

3. Line Something Up

Having an idea of what you’ll be doing for your first week or two is extremely helpful, and will give you some peace of mind in what may be an otherwise unfamiliar situation. This might simply mean booking a hostel for the first few nights, but here are a few other options to think about.

Planning to WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a great idea. WWOOFing means you work on a farm in exchange for lodging and/or food. Often this is a wonderful opportunity that will teach you a lot about the place you are in. If you’re looking for a great learning experience to kick off your travels while having a base for a week or longer, this could be for you. You usually buy a membership for the country you are visiting, which will give you contact information for farms. You’ll then coordinate directly with farms regarding availability.

Another option is doing a Work-Stay or Work-Exchange. Many hostels abroad offer part time jobs in exchange for a free dorm bed. If you know what city you’d like to be in, you can email hostels directly and ask. Work exchanges aren’t only common in hostels or B&Bs, but can also look like a nanny job, or helping folks around the house. Good websites to check out are Help Exchange and Work Away.

Getting a job (like, where you get paid actual money) is also a fantastic option. In some cases, it’s possible to line up a job or internship before you arrive, even a few months in advance. I’ve found a handful of my odd jobs abroad simply by Googling it. In other cases, I prepared a resume before I arrived, then spent a few days seriously job hunting once I got to the country. If you do this, prepare to hustle.

Planning at least the first week or two of your travels is a good idea because it allows you to get your feet wet without being stressed about finding accommodation. You’ll also learn quickly how much you need to plan in order to feel comfortable. Everyone is different!

I took this photo while working in Costa Rica. Really.

I took this photo while working in Costa Rica. Really.

4. Do Your Homework

Come up with a budget and calculate your expenses. There are tons of helpful travel blogs out there that will help you figure out everything from expenses, to what to pack, to what to eat.

Find a few travel blogs you like and make reading them your favorite new hobby. Get as much information as you can– it might come in handy, even if it just inspires you to try something new on your travels. A few travel bloggers that have inspired me are Nomadic Matt, Adventurous Kate, and Alex in Wanderland. Travel bloggers have done it before. They are the experts, and loads of information about their travels is at your fingertips!

As you’re accumulating ideas and inspiration, start thinking about what you’d like to accomplish on your travels and how long you’d like to be gone. If you’re booking a round trip ticket, you already know your timeline. If your trip is open-ended, have an idea of how you are planning to fund yourself, and what you’d like to get out of the experience.

Social media can help you in terms of inspiration and networking. On my most recent trip, I met quite a few people through Instagram, and as a result, did more and had more fun! Reaching out to someone on social media can be a great idea. Of course, always use common sense and be safe when meeting people from the Internet.

I connected with people on Instagram to do this backpacking trip in the North Cascades!

I connected with people on Instagram to do this backpacking trip in the North Cascades last month. It was a hilarious and beautiful trip!

5. Go

If you are waiting for the “right” time, stop. There will never be a right time. The right time is whenever you decide it is. If you decide that the right time is now, then the right time is now. That being said, plan well. Once you have saved enough money, book your ticket. Generally speaking, tickets are cheapest about 3-4 months from the date of travel for international flights. Look this up specifically for the area you are going and you could save yourself some money.

Once you’ve picked a date, feel free to get really, really excited. You’ve taken a huge step!

One foot in front of the other!

One foot in front of the other, ya know?

I lived abroad out of my backpack for three years, and if there is one piece of advice I have for you, it’s this: Just start. Don’t think too hard about it.

There’s no one resource that will guarantee you’ll be happy and fulfill all your goals abroad. And there never will be. The only person who can make that happen is you.

I didn’t wake up one day feeling ready. I just went, even when I didn’t feel like I knew how. I wasn’t an expert. I got my first Smartphone in 2014 and starting putting photos on Instagram. I am a great example of someone who is figuring it out as they go.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “well DUH,” then Congratulations! But most people, including myself, need a push. So here it is.

The best way to get started… is to start.

Questions? I’d love to answer them. Email me.

INSPIRATION JOURNAL ON THE ROAD TRAVEL

Why I Travel Solo

Right now, I am in the middle of a solo road trip. I have seen friends along the way, and they’ve even joined me for a few days here and there. But for the majority of this trip, I’m by myself.

I have traveled solo a few times before.

The first time was in Europe. I was 21 and very intrigued by the idea of traveling solo. I thought it looked so cool and so badass. I wanted to be that girl. I remember being so nervous. It felt like a huge scary thing, but I booked tickets and forced myself to swallow my hesitations.

I couldn’t enjoy it. I was still struggling so hard with anxiety, and I hadn’t given myself any training wheels. I hadn’t given myself any cushion or safety net. I would dread the time that wasn’t scheduled– I found it difficult to go through my day without a plan, and found it even harder to make that plan for myself.

The next time I traveled solo was in Thailand. I was 24 and had just broken up with my boyfriend of two years. This time, I was prepared. I knew I would have to overcome my anxiety. I knew I would struggle with being lonely. And I also knew there would be an emotional piece to the whole thing. Because I was prepared, that trip was so good for me.

A year and a half after the Thailand trip, I decided to head out by myself again.

I did not decide to travel solo with the intention to have a fun, carefree vacation, to get cool photos, or to look like a badass. I did not decide to travel solo because I think it’s the “best” way to do it.

Here’s why I did decide to travel solo.

jtree

Self-Awareness

So much comes up when you spend all of your time by yourself. You laugh, you cry, you feel great, you feel hopeless. For me, I experience all of that in a span of approximately five minutes.

Sometimes it’s really hard to not have another person to vent to, or someone to distract me from whatever is going on in my head or heart. But what I have come to love, is that I’ve gotten really good at identifying my feelings and working through them, whatever they are. Even the messy ones. Even those feelings that, at home, I’d avoid by distracting myself with issues that seem more urgent.

Here, by myself, driving or hiking, I’m alone with my thoughts. The only option: truly listen to them and work through it all.

selfawareness

Decision Making

I’m a pretty indecisive person. I usually don’t really care what to eat for lunch or what to do this afternoon. Being on a road trip solo forces me to be decisive and to get stuff done.

When I had a boyfriend, I would rely on him constantly to take care of things. I knew that if I didn’t make a plan, he would. If I didn’t go food shopping, he would. I never worried or stressed about things because he was the back-up plan. He had things pretty dialed-in and organized.

Traveling alone, I am solely responsible for my safety and comfort. If I don’t go food shopping, I’m gonna be hungry. If I don’t research a place to camp for the night, I’m gonna be uncomfortable. If I don’t decide what to do on any given day, I’m gonna be sitting twiddling my thumbs without direction.

Solo travel forces me to make deliberate decisions.

carjtree

Communication

I have always struggled with anxiety and still deal with it now.

Because I’m by myself, I am the only one who can communicate my needs. There may be times when I need to ask a neighbor at a campground to borrow something, or I might need to approach someone to ask for directions, or I might need to ask for a wifi password. Maybe this seems extreme, but all of that would have made me unbelievably anxious a few years ago.

In situations where previously I would have relied on someone else, now I only rely on myself. Because I have to. Because I have put myself in this situation.

solojtree

In short, I travel solo to learn. It’s often uncomfortable and rarely easy. But I have always come out of it stronger and wiser.

Solo travel will always be a part of my life. It will always be a way to learn. Will I always travel solo? Do I “prefer” it? Of course not. Solo travel is a completely different experience than traveling with someone else. There is a time and place for it, and it might not be appropriate for everyone.

Solo travel has taught me how to trust my gut and listen to myself, but it’s also taught me how to be resilient. It’s taught me about time management, menu planning and finances. It’s taught me about balance and happiness.

So that’s why I’m doing it.

I don’t hope this inspires you to try solo travel. I hope it inspires you to do something that teaches you about yourself, whatever that is.

ON THE ROAD OUTDOORS SUV CAMPING TRAVEL

How to Turn Your SUV into a Camper

This conversion is specific to my 2009 Honda CR-V, but principles can be applied to any vehicle.

I want a van. I’m about to head out on a road trip for the next six weeks, and having a van would be perfect. But I don’t have a van. I have an SUV. A Honda CR-V, to be exact.

I really like the idea of being able to have a comfortable bed pretty much anywhere, so I decided to build one in the back of my car. Here is a step-by-step guide to turning your SUV into a camper.

STEP 1

Do you need to take out the back seats? If your back seats fold down flat, skip this step.

If you’re like me, you’ll first watch some YouTube videos on how to remove the back seats from your car. Procure a socket wrench or other tools you might need.

Clean your car. Take everything out. All of the things to the garage! Take the seats out of your car and put them somewhere. The only tool I needed was a socket wrench, and taking out the seats took me all of 15 minutes. Have a victory beer. Or don’t, but I did.

No seats no problem!

No seats no problem!

STEP 2

Time to start thinking about your design. My design is a plywood platform in three parts, using 4x4s for legs. I placed the middle legs slightly off center to accommodate a storage bin. Because the floor of my car is uneven, measuring was a bit more complicated than if your car’s floor is completely flat.

Things to consider: How big do you want it to be? Do you want to be able to remove the platform easily? How will you be storing gear? Do you want to access storage from the back and/or sides?

Measure out the dimensions for the wood you are going to need. Having a friend help you with this comes in really handy. Go to Home Depot or equivalent with the measurements and have them cut it. Buy screws if you don’t have them. I used 3/4″ drywall screws.

STEP 3

Assemble the platform.

For me, it was definitely crucial to have someone help get everything in the car (thank you Henry!). We put all the pieces in the car (propped up) and tried to visualize what it would look like nailed together. It became clear that it made sense to actually put everything together inside the car, rather than taking it out and trying to put the pieces back in once assembled.

Platform assembled! Victory. Next, I put another piece of plywood near the front seats, attached with a hinge. This is an easy way to extend the length of your platform when you move the front seats forward. When you want to drive, just flip it back and move the seats.

how the hinge works

how the hinge works

STEP 4

Before you go any further, vacuum any sawdust and crap out of your car. Next, you can start planning storage and bedding.

I first put a mover’s blanket down on the platform. Alternatively, you can buy carpet and even staple it to the plywood. I wasn’t feeling picky about it.

For bedding, I bought two foam mattress toppers (think egg crates) that were on sale and put them on top of eachother. I then covered them with a full size fitted sheet to keep them in place. Sheets, blankets and pillows are up to you, but I wanted to be the coziest person in the world, so I went big on this.

One great thing about having a platform bed is the storage space underneath. Under the platform, I am keeping all of my gear, clothes, food, cooking stuff, a folding table, a camp chair, a cooler and too many pairs of shoes. Figure out a system that is both easy and organized, and one that works for you.

STEP 5

You’re probably going to want some kind of window covering. Curtains are a good option. Instead, I used Reflectix (buy at any home improvement store, comes in a big roll) and cut it to size. This means no curtains swinging around, and no velcro or tape needed. I am really happy with how these turned out– nobody can see in my car, plus the insulation will keep me a bit warmer.

Maybe I can put my car on Airbnb.

Maybe I can put my car on Airbnb now?

How much did it cost?

  • $56 for wood and hardware
  • $21 for Reflectix
  • $53 for foam
  • $71 for bedding and pillows

So in total, this project cost me $201, plus the cost of a cooler, folding table, and some storage bins. If you already have some extra bedding you like, I bet you could easily do this for $120 or less.

What are the dimensions of the platform?

When the hinge is extended, total length is 72″ and width is 41″. Height is 15″ from the very back of the car.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I’m heading out today to start my road trip and I’m super excited! I’m supposed to stay at a friend’s house tonight, but I honestly might just park in her driveway so I can sleep in my new camper.

Questions? Let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: Do you have an SUV or car to camper conversion you would like me to feature on my blog? Shoot me an email at info@erinoutdoors.com. I would love to hear from you!

OUTDOORS TRAVEL TRIP PLANNING

My Favorite Hikes in the World

snowdon1

I haven’t been to the whole world. But I’ve been to some of it, and what I have seen is wildly gorgeous and inspiring.

Here are some of the most memorable hikes I’ve ever done.

TONGARIRO CROSSING, NZ

I’m still not really sure how this place exists. It’s SO gorgeous– the terrain is simply stunning and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Golden volcanic landscape and turquoise lakes = ALL OF THE YES. Wait for a clear day… you’re gonna want to see this. The part you really don’t want to miss is in the middle of the hike, about 6.5 miles in, so whether you choose to do the Crossing one way or as an out-and-back, plan for lunch at Emerald Lakes. Expect 3000ft of elevation gain, losing about that much on the way back (more if you go one way).

Length: 12 miles, out-and-back to Emerald Lakes possible. Allow 6-8 hours.
Difficulty: Challenging
When to go: Best December-February. Check conditions before you go.

YANGDI TO XINGPING, LI RIVER, CHINA

Huge limestone karst rising on either side of a peaceful river. DREAMY. As with most things I have observed by traveling in China, you just kinda figure this one out. You have to cross the river a few times (this means pay a bamboo raft dude). Go with zero expectations and a ton of flexibility and you’ll be stoked. Once you get to Xingping, there’s a trail to Lao Zhai Shan, a karst peak with a stunning view. It’s a lot of stairs, so allow an extra hour, but it’s worth it. If you can’t find it, just ask locals and point up.

Length: 6.2 miles. Allow 5-6 hours.
Difficulty: Easy peasy. Lao Zhai Shan is challenging, but you’ve gone up stairs before.
When to go: Best April-October. Check conditions before you go.
Here’s some helpful info.

K’ESUGI RIDGE TRAIL, DENALI STATE PARK, ALASKA, USA

What I have seen of Alaska is incredible, and this hike is no exception. This trail runs across from Mt. McKinley, giving you the best eye candy ever on a clear day. The ridge itself is pretty, but it’s the view of the Denali range that gets this hike on my list. You could do a short section of this trail as a day hike, but I recommend spending 2-3 days here to maximize your chances of seeing McKinley. If you only have one car, you’ll need to organize a ride back to where you started (or hitchhike). Make sure you are well informed about camping in bear country!

Length: 9-22 miles, depending on which trailheads you use. Could be a solid day-hike or a multi-day trip.
Difficulty: Goin’ up is challenging. Moderate once you’re on the ridge.
When to go: Summer. Check conditions before you go.

WALK OF THE GODS (SENTIERO DEGLI DEI), ITALY

In my opinion, this is THE way to see the Amalfi coast. This walk is extremely scenic and gives you spectacular cliff-side views and a sense of Mediterranean landscape. Simply put, it’s gorgeous. Pack a picnic and take the bus to Bomerano in the morning. From there, follow the white and red signs all the way to Nocelle in Positano. This is more of a walk and less of a hike, as you’ll have great views of cliffside towns. Expect jello legs from the MANY stairs you’ll encounter as you get closer to Positano.

Length: 5 miles. Allow 4 hours.
Difficulty: Mozey status.
When to go: Best May-June or September-October.
Here’s some helpful info.

MT. SNOWDON, WALES, UK

This hike is GREEN, rocky and gorgeous. It’s in Wales, so it’s cloudy. A lot. However, if and when the clouds do break, the landscape is spectacular. There are lots of trail options, and even a train you can ride up or down, so don’t expect to be doing this hike alone. If you’re looking for a challenge, I recommend Crib Goch on your way up and one of the more gradual trails on the way down. Crib Goch is very challenging with sheer drops on either side of you, so only go if you know what you’re in for.

Length: 7-9 miles round trip. Lots of options for trails and difficulty. Allow 6-8 hours.
Difficulty: Anywhere from literally sitting to a very difficult rock scramble.
When to go: Best in summer. Check conditions before you go.
Here’s some helpful info.

On any hike, always be prepared for the conditions and always Idiot Check yourself. What does that mean? It means you should make sure you have all the gear, water, food and skills you need for any adventure in the outdoors. Being prepared means you can spend your time having a ton of fun instead of being worried.

What trails are on your list?

INSPIRATION TRAVEL

Deep Thoughts from the Road: My First Time

sagres1

My first time out of the country was at age 21. I always knew I wanted to travel. But I had no idea what that meant.

I decided to move to Portugal by myself for six months. I had organized an internship though one of my professors, but it wasn’t through a university with other students. It was just me.

I landed in Portugal with every expectation of becoming the most worldly person I knew. I expected this transformation to occur pretty immediately after arrival. I hope you are laughing, because obviously, that isn’t what happened.

What greeted me in Portugal was a large mountain of fear, anxiety, loneliness, and self-doubt. Friends and family would tell me how lucky I was and how jealous they were, and I wondered why I wasn’t being magically transformed by the amazing power of travel I had heard about. I was slowly coming to the realization that I had just moved to another country. By myself, with no friends, without speaking the language. Maybe I was a little over ambitious, I thought. I had never actually entertained the possibility that maybe I wouldn’t LIKE travel! I decided I should probably give it some time.

I decided that it would get better. It HAD to! How else would I achieve the beautiful, boho, worldly vision of myself that I had become so attached to?

DEEP THOUGHT #1: Travel takes initiative

Funny thing… if I stayed inside all weekend by myself and ate pasta and watched Portuguese TV, things were not going to get better. If I continued to do that, I was going to stay lonely. Unfortunately there was no fun European nightclub fairy in my life that was going to come to the rescue, make me look great and set me up with super fun girlfriends and a sexy date. If I wanted things to get better, I had to make them better. I had to be my own get-out-of-bed fairy. Living in a foreign country when you struggle with a ton of anxiety is not buckets of fun! It actually really freaking scary. But I got myself out of bed. And slowly, things got better. I met people. I let go of what I thought I should be doing. I ate delicious pastries. I drank a lot of wine.

DEEP THOUGHT #2: Your travel experiences are yours

My friends and family had zero clue what my life was like in Portugal. Not from talking to me, and not from Facebook, and not from reading a guidebook or anything like that. I have a hunch that when you are sitting at a desk job or working on papers, that it’s pretty easy to do the whole grass-is-greener thing. And everyone said… WOW, I was in Portugal, and how exotic is that, and how wonderful it must be riding around the old cobblestone city on the back of a handsome man’s motorbike eating a croissant. Nahhhht!

Your travel experiences, the good and the bad, are YOURS. Nobody can understand what you felt surrounded by a school of fish off the coast of Thailand. Nobody knows what magic was going on inside of you at sunset, as the candles were lit around a golden pagoda, or what it was like sitting in front of the Trevi fountain at night. There have been so many amazing and infinite moments I have shared with people and places all over the world—moments of wonder, joy, and despair. I treasure these moments deeply and completely, and I know that nobody could ever begin to understand them.

DEEP THOUGHT #3: Nobody really cares

Prior to my trip to Portugal I thought everyone that knew me was a dedicated audience member of The Erin Show. Every day was a show starring me, and everything embarrassing that I ever said or did at a party would be remembered for all of eternity by all of the most handsome men in the world. And this concerned me quite a lot. What were they saying about me?! I hoped it was nothing bad.

When I moved to Portugal I learned that I was normal. I learned that I was just like everyone else and that The Erin Show was really only playing in my own head. I learned that the trophies given to me throughout my childhood were also given to everyone else. My first time traveling taught me that there are a lot of people in this world. A lot. And a lot of them travel. Yes, my trip was important. But it was only important to me.

Maybe it sounds like I’m being pretty hard on myself, but really… I am writing this with a huge smile on my face. The ability to make fun of myself is one of my greatest and most treasured abilities.

My first time traveling, like my first time in the wilderness, taught me so much.

The world showed me that there are learning opportunities everywhere, every day. And I’m always down to learn.

INSPIRATION TRAVEL

What Solo Travel Taught Me

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After breaking up with my ex boyfriend almost a year ago, I decided to go it alone in Thailand for a few weeks.

My first solo trip had been in Europe three years earlier, and was a complete disaster. I was bored, confused and extremely anxious the whole time. So I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the Thailand trip, but I booked the tickets anyway with the hopeful mindset that it would be good for me.

AND WAS IT EVER.

Those three weeks in Thailand were mind-blowingly beneficial. To start off, Thailand is not a hard place to travel logistically, so it was a good choice. The tourist trail is beaten pretty far into the ground, and I admittedly didn’t stray too far from it, given the whole heartbreak deal.

Anyway. Last night I went through my journal from the trip. This is what I learned.

1. I AM CAPABLE
During my relationship, I let my boyfriend do a lot of things for me. Mainly, I allowed him to do things for me when I was feeling too anxious to do them myself. On my solo trip, I was smacked in the face with many bricks of anxiety. I had no choice but to move past them, so I did. It was not easy, but I put my anxiety to the side and decided to stop letting it control me. Nice to meet you, freedom!

2. I AM AWESOME AND WORTHY OF LOVE
I felt unloved and misunderstood in my relationship. Traveling alone allowed me lots of time to think, appreciate myself, and to notice the parts of myself that I had quieted or faded. I celebrated my accomplishments more. I danced. I ate lots of mango sticky rice.

3. I AM DRIVING THE SHIP
For years I worried what the next step would be for me and constantly asked myself what the right thing to do was. This trip allowed me to take a step back and realize that I am the one making those decisions, and I am the one defining what right is or isn’t.

It’s a ship. Get it?

4. I CAN STOP CARING WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK
This was a sore subject for me and controlled my life for a long time. What other people think about me is something that doesn’t serve me. It doesn’t improve me. It makes me critical, turns my anxiety up to level 5000, and encourages me to be judgmental. I hate all of those things. Ummm, BYE.

5. I CAN HAVE FUN ALL THE TIME
I know I have a lot of feelings. But once the feelings are adequately felt and are given enough attention, there is no reason I shouldn’t be happy. I gained so much awareness by asking myself why I wasn’t having fun on the first few days of my Thailand trip. I came up with the answers and gave them attention.

What I’m learning now is that being alone has been the best gift I could have given myself. Allowing myself the time and space to simply think and be has been an invaluable learning experience.

I think I’ll keep doing it.