Why You Should Go On A Solo Road Trip

This is what “alone but not lonely” looks like.

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I’m back from my top secret adventure!

And I’m happy to report that my bucket list is officially one item shorter. I just spent the last 5 days fulfilling my dream of (drum roll, please…) going on a mini road trip and camping adventure all by myself!

The night before hitting the road, I discussed my plan with some girlfriends over Thai food. They couldn’t understand the appeal of taking a lonely 10-hour drive just to camp out in the North Carolina woods alone. “Haven’t you seen the movie Deliverance?” asked one concerned friend.

I assured everyone that I would not be assaulted by toothless, gun-toting, banjo-playing hillbillies. (But I’d certainly report back with ALL the exciting details if a handsome mountain man captured me and made my wildest fantasies come true!)

Before moving forward, let me address your first question: What exactly is this “handsome mountain man” fantasy of which you speak??

On second thought, let’s skip that question and move onto one that won’t give my mother-in-law a heart attack: What’s so special about a solo road trip?

Going on an adventure by yourself is way different from your average family or group vacation. It’s not just about fun– it’s about empowerment, courage and personal growth. It’s about coming home with a satisfaction in knowing that you can make it on your own, if you ever needed to. It’s about allowing solitude and silence to whisper wisdom into your heart. It’s about finding out what you’re made of.

Didn’t sleep the night before my 10-hour drive. (Not smart.) Here’s my “stay awake coffee break” reflection.

Solo road trips are especially appealing to those who have suffered a difficult and life-changing emotional period in life, like I have. Between 2005-2008, there was a storm inside of me. I wanted to run away from my own life. I wanted to let go of old truths and discover new ones.  I wanted to hit the road, chase the dawn, meet new people, and listen to their stories instead of constantly replaying the tragedies of mine.

Back then, the original vision for my road trip involved driving across the entire country in a Jeep Wrangler with the top down, wind blowing in my hair, music blasting, and the quintessential bad-ass solo road trip outfit: cargo pants, white tank top, and aviator sunglasses. (HOT, right?!)

But here in 2012, I’m in a much healthier and happier emotional place in my life. My road trip no longer needed to serve the purpose of helping me escape the past. Instead, it was about preparing for a braver future. I planned to do this by:

  • doing some physically uncomfortable stuff to test my own mental toughness.
  • overcoming a long-time phobia or two.
  • researching topics that I suspect will have a critical impact on my work as an activist.

Given all of this, driving to any random place on the map wouldn’t suffice. My long trek had to lead me to the perfect destination — a place that would enable me to reach all my personal goals. So I decided on North Carolina’s Wild Goose Festival, which is best described as “the intersection between justice, spirituality and art.” In other words, it had Kim written all over it.

No, I didn’t make it all the way to the Pacific Ocean in cargo pants and a rented Jeep. But the Wild Goose Festival ended up being the perfect solo adventure for my particular needs. Here’s how my solo trip helped me reach my goals:

Goal #1: Do physically uncomfortable stuff to test my own mental toughness.

I hate camping. I’m a homebody and germaphobe. I also have an uncanny talent for attracting mosquitoes and sacrificing my blood for their survival so that no one else has to. (I am a mosquito martyr — or at least that’s what I tell myself when I want to feel altruistic and not just itchy.)

But I pushed through the discomfort. I made it happen:

Also, there’s something incredibly empowering about wearing no make-up, smelling gross, having dirt under your nails, feeling drained under the hot summer sun, and STILL feeling glorious:

Goal #2: Overcome a phobia or two.

If you run into me on the street, give me a high-five. Why? Because during my solo camping trip I survived what were once two of my worst nightmares:

  • sleeping in the dark woods alone. (Have you ever seen The Blair Witch Project? Exactly.)
  • dropping a deuce in a porta potty. (True story: During a four-day family camping trip, I infamously held in my poop THE ENTIRE TIME just to avoid using a public bathroom. FOUR DAYS! Hell yeah, it hurt. But those are the kinds of crazy things we do when fear rules our lives.)

Me, staring down Evil.

Goal #3: Research social justice topics.

The Wild Goose Festival was 4 days of outdoor lectures, workshops, discussions, music performances, and arts & crafts activities– all centered around social justice,  environmental issues, and spiritual wellness. I was in heaven!

I was honored to meet a few big-name activists whose work I have been studying for the last year. As you may remember, I’m a big supporter of making an effort to meet your personal heroes, so this experience was pee-in-my-pants HUGE!

One of the most important experiences I had at the festival was hanging out and talking with military veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. As mentioned in my 2011 Annual Review, this was one of my big goals for the year. The combat vets I spoke with had seen war and military culture from the inside out, and they opened up to me in a way that so few vets are willing or able to do. For this I am grateful.

Throughout the festival I was exposed to some of the smartest ideas and the most compassionate people around. This is what you encounter when you hit the road alone, in an adventurous and brave search for meaning, wisdom, and knowledge.

Final Thoughts

The solo road trip is an empowering and nourishing way to find your balls after losing your emotional center. It taught me that I can accomplish and survive just about anything if I am brave enough to try. I learned that I can be alone without feeling lonely. And I learned that there are a million new and exciting things to learn if you are willing to travel outside your comfort zone.

I want to end with lyrics to a song I wrote back in 2008 about the epic solo road trip I had been fantasizing about. The chorus contains one of my favorite life lessons: It’s not too late to be who we might have been. And a solo adventure is one way to prove it to yourself.

All I need is on my back
Got my copy of Kerouac
Let me wander off the path for a while
I’ve got a thing or two to learn
I’ve got a history to burn
I won’t settle for your word this time

Need a break from the city life
Gonna try on the Dusty Wild
Dare the pillars of my mind to stay strong
Find a bar with a lonely face
He’s got a list of his worst mistakes
But old man, I’ll remember your name when I’m gone

Time, be on my side
Time, be a friend
Tell me it’s not too late to be who we might have been

Cigarettes and truck stop coffee
I know it’s just not me
But I need to be someone else for a while
What’s the stuff my heart is made from?
Take away the beat of the bass drum
Who am I marching for when I am the prize?

Time, be on my side
Time, be a friend
Tell me it’s not too late to be who we might have been

Your Turn: Have you ever traveled alone? If you have, what was it like? If you haven’t, have I convinced you to give it a try? ;)

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20 Responses to Why You Should Go On A Solo Road Trip

  1. Bee says:

    I am hoping to go on a roadtrip in August or September. I want to drive from Pennsylvania to California. I have barely any plan, my only expectation is to make it out west and dip my toes in the ocean. I want to see some trees and mountains along the way too. That is all.

    • Kimberly says:

      Hi, Bee. I hope you do end up following through with this idea. A cross country road trip with few plans and expectations is a recipe for a memorable adventure!

  2. Ariane says:

    This is really inspiring! I really want to do a road trip solo..I just need to find the time and have guts!!

  3. Ray says:

    Nice song BTW. I agree that one comes back with a clear mind. I did mine in 08 Just jumped on a plane Last destination was Luganska Ukraine. Small town way south for 2 weeks, No language also. enjoyed every minute of it. But was glad to be home.

    • Kimberly says:

      Very cool, Ray! Your experience sounds a lot more adventurous than my 10 hr drive and solo camping trip, but you’re right, in the end you come back with a clear mind and a sense of accomplishment.

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  5. Hannah says:

    Awh you have absolutely convinced me to go on a road trip by myself! If only I could pick a destination as worthwhile as yours… I loved your song by the way, totally sounds like its on the soundtrack to some road trip/self discovery movie

    • Kimberly says:

      Yay, a convert! ;) I’m sure a perfect location/ opportunity will pop up for your first solo road trip. You’ll know it when you see it.

      And thanks for your kind words about my song! You pretty much nailed what I was going for– I wrote it after watching a film called Into The Wild, which is pretty much a solo trip/ self discovery movie.

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  11. Moz says:

    Looking forward to it very much!

  12. Sheryl says:

    Solo road trip? You’ve just given me one more reason to learn to drive. (Which should totally be on my bucket list, but for some reason I haven’t put it there.)

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      I know a few people who don’t know how to drive for whatever reason. (They live in a city with good mass transportation, they have 3 people in their house who can drive them around, etc.) But as I grow older I find that mobility offers options, and options widen my opportunities for happiness. Hope you’re able to go on a solo road trip of your own some day!

      • Sheryl says:

        Yeah, up until now the fact that I drive has been a non-issue for the most part. But we just officially moved out of a city with amazing public transportation into one with a terrible bus system … so that may need to change soon.

  13. Moz says:

    I highly recommend ‘A Journey of One’s Own’ by Thalia Zepatos if you plan to do more of this. I bought it years ago and it is full of wonderful wisdom for women planning solo trips, as well of lots of great writing.

    She did, however, suggest one very stupid thing that when I wrote to her I told her I thought was massively stupid. She recommends hitch hiking.

    THIS IS TOTAL BOLLOCKS. DO NOT HITCH HIKE, ANYWHERE, ANY TIME. Unless you are Richard Kimble in The Fugitive and have to.

    But back to you :) Well done on facing your fears. I guess I don’t think about it much because I do everything solo, really – but travelling to certain places alone is scary, for sure.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Oooh nooo. There will be no hitch hiking for me. And I don’t pick up hitch hikers either. When Brian and I were driving through the Redwood Forest during our honeymoon, there was a young couple trying to flag us down for a ride. We considered it for a second. (“But they’re both blond…and blonds are never the villains in Disney movies!”) But we’ve also seen other kinds of movies — the kind that involve sick and twisted serial killer cannibals living in the woods. So yeah, we played it safe. The couple ended up getting a ride from a family with a van, who apparently had not seen the same movies we have.

      I’ll check out the book you recommended before I try solo travel again. See you in December when Brian and I are checking off the next item on our bucket list! :)

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