I haven’t written anything in a WHILE. I’ve been avoiding blogging because the thought of spending hours on an itinerary made me exhausted. I kept finding other things to do even when I blocked out time for blogging about my trip from Seattle to Alaska over the weekend. I legitimately laid on my living room floor for 25 minutes with a blank word document open next to me. And of course, it’s now (11pm on a school night <gotta be at a 7:30 am meeting>) that my mind won’t shut up and I need to get these thoughts on paper. So here’s a scattering of solo road-trip thoughts.
I experienced such an intense array of emotions on the road to Alaska, and I’m still trying to process it all weeks later. Emotions that ranged from absolute empowerment to extreme fear, intense disappointment with humanity to powerful human connections, raging loneliness to the highest level of self-love I’ve ever experienced. Anyway, enough of all the epic descriptors, because truthfully, it’s hard to put into words the magnitude at which I felt these emotions.
Let me start by saying I typically don’t express emotion often or allow myself to truly feel certain emotions regularly. I tell myself I’m better off without them and push the emotions to the side and go on my merry Gemini way distracting myself with a million other things (eye roll).
But everything caught up real quick when I left Seattle. The feelings of recent heartbreak/what-the-hell-am-I-doing-with-my-life hit me like a semi coupled with the realization that I was putting more and more miles away from my strong support network with each minute.
My first stop was my first solo backpacking experience EVER. It was a short hike with decent elevation and I was feeling confident…until I pulled into the parking lot. I remember crossing the road to the trailhead and being so absurdly paranoid about people seeing me start the trail alone. All I could think about is how I made myself an easy target.
As I fell into my groove of hiking, that fear and dread was replaced with a feeling of control and confidence that was SO liberating. When I got my first break in the trees and looked out over the water and mountains, I couldn’t help but yell a very awkward happy-scream-yell into the wind as sweat just poured out of every freaking pore on my body.
I wish I could stop there and say it was the best experience of my life, but the sun set, and my fears rose. It was an especially quiet night. Every noise seemed amplified. I eyed my bear spray as I turned off my head lamp and hit the pillow. The ground was hard and cold. I didn’t bring a very good mat, as I was trying to be minimal.
The mind games started. My brain told me I heard something walking up toward my tent and then stopped just short of it. I stopped breathing. Sweat beaded on my forehead. I eventually fell asleep around 3 am with my head in my sleeping bag to drown out the noise. I woke up for sunrise 2 hours later, packed up my stuff and hiked down. I was alone on the trail and felt a bit defeated after the fear of the night. I was mad at myself for being weak.
Mind Games pt II
The universe decided to keep testing me. A friend that was supposed to do the next overnighter at Garibaldi lake with me bailed. My initial reaction was – okay, there’s no way I’m doing 15 miles on my own. “What about BEARS?!”
I started to rationalize why it was just better if I sleep in my car somewhere, but duh, obviously this was a test for me to keep challenging myself. Practice what you preach right? I’m always ranting about how there’s a stigma for women to travel alone – welp, here’s another opportunity to prove them wrong. UGH. So, I used that to fuel my brain when hauling up switchback after switchback.
Garibaldi Lake was mentally challenging for me, but it pushed past that barrier of fear and gave me the confidence to feel like “I got this.” So much, that I even did a day hike alone in bear country, got stormed on .5 miles from the summit, and ran back down in a downpour yelling lyrics to ‘Phoenix – 1901’ to ‘alert the bears to my unsettling presence’. I got back to my tent and just honestly broke out into a smile. It was annoying that I didn’t get to see Panorama Ridge, but the experience made me love myself for my resilience and positivity despite gross and nerve-wracking conditions (literally saw NOBODY else on the trail).
It rained all night and I slept SO hard.
The rest of my road trip was such a blur of old friends, new friends and some of the most beautiful landscapes my eyes have ever seen. I was delirious from bouncing from sunrise to sunset with very little sleep and found myself craving some more me time, which is something so new to me. I have a bad habit of surrounding myself with people constantly. I seriously cannot recall a day in Seattle in the last 6 months when I was alone for the entire day.
This road trip gave me the time for self-reflection and gave me the mental space to appreciate…me. To appreciate my quirks, my fears, my drive, my ability to connect with strangers, my ability to zone out on a painting for 2+ hours, car karaoke sessions, my face without any makeup for days on end, ratty-sun-bleached-hair, a disgusting amount of dirt under my fingernails, taking WAY too many pictures…
I’m not saying you need to go on a solo adventure to have a life-altering experience. I just want to encourage you all to embrace those fears and then do things that challenge those walls you’ve put up in your mind. When your brain tells you that you can’t, fight back and just do it (Nike?). You won’t regret it.
Thanks for listening.