It's hard to believe that it's been seven years since I told my boss that I was resigning to wander around the country with my dog. 2008 wasn't the best year to decide to quit, but it was a turning point for me and looking back, it was the best decision I made for myself.
Was it scary? Of course! At that time, I didn't have an iPhone, or more importantly, I didn't have a purpose. I have to say that the first year was the loneliest. I didn't know what I was doing, there wasn't a support network of other travelers, and in general, I questioned the journey every step of the way. I had a paper map that I used to travel with and that would always lead to some interesting places along the way. I didn't have Facebook, Instagram, or the comfort of a van. Every destination was a new experience with its own set of challenges. I wish I could tell you that I loved every moment of it but the truth is, I wasn't happy. I don't blame the trip, it was me. I wasn't happy in general so that feeling traveled with me to every destination. It didn't matter how beautiful or interesting a place was, I wasn't paying attention to it.
It's amazing how things have changed. Not only with how I feel, but with the traveling community in general. It's so much easier to find a network of like minded people to get support from if that's what you are looking for. It's also easier to find places to escape to and feel safe. Even with all of the changes in technology, I am glad that I started when I did. Not having a social network of people or a clear idea of where I was headed was what I needed at the time, even though at times it felt like torture.
I get a lot of emails from women (and some men) who want to know how to prepare to be on the road. It's a challenge for me to tell someone exactly what to expect, how much money to save, or what to bring. I think the most important thing to take with you is an open mind and the flexibility to change direction. How much will it cost? It depends on how long you want to be out for, where you decide to sleep, what you eat, and how far you travel. I know it's not fun to do your own math but it really is up to you to figure out what you might need. My general answer is take twice the amount of money you need and half as much clothes and "stuff."
I am not trying to scare or discourage you. In fact, I think it's something you should plan on doing for yourself at some point in your life. Taking time to be alone and to travel are essential... the best investment you could ever make. I am reflecting on a few things since being asked to describe some memorable experiences on the road for a magazine. Once I wrote about a few memorable (yet frightening at times) events, I was asked to revise it and reflect more on the "fun" times and "exciting" adventures. I think it's important to recall those times but I think I would be doing a disservice to readers if I didn't also include the realities of being on the road as a single women. The fact is, you need to trust your instincts and be assertive. Don't be afraid to talk to strangers and don't be afraid to NOT talk to people when you feel uncomfortable. As much as I am afraid of bears, it's other humans I need to be the most aware of. Just because you are a woman, you are in no way obligated to be "nice." Saying NO when you feel like it is essential. Sounds easy enough, right? Being safe is more important than being liked. Trust me.
Yes, the trip can be like the car commercial showing lots of smiles and hair blowing in the wind while holding an american flag, but remember that it won't always be that way and that's the beauty of it. All good stories have some sort of discomfort or challenge attached to it. Remember that when things go wrong. When I was robbed, I thought to myself...this is going to be the best story ever! You know what, I remember and get excited about "the story" way more than I miss my stuff that was taken from me.
Thinking of being on the road? Do it. Be open and adventurous. Think of all of the stories and memories you will collect. Remember that a perfect time does not exist.