On Solo Travel and French Kissing


Sure, solo travel has its risks. Getting mugged, beat up, getting lost, feeling lonely, doing something stupid you wouldn’t have done if someone was there to talk you out of it are all possibilities.  

But think of the benefits. On the benefits list I would include again getting lost and doing something stupid you wouldn’t have done if someone was there to talk you out of it, because define “stupid”. One may define a situation of swerving the car off to the side of the road to jump out to chase a moose into the woods for a photo as stupid. In my defense, I grew up in So Cal where wildlife safety was not a topic beyond rattle snakes. Moose etiquette was not in the curriculum so it was not until showing off pics of a moose blurred between trees that the sharp inhales and wide eyes clued me in that moose trampling is a thing. 


How about a photo shoot of a grizzly about twenty feet away napping soundly? Truly, I don’t know what woke him up in the second half of the photos but they look great especially when he turned my direction for full eye contact pics. Stupid? 


Here’s one: photos of a sitka deer. Going in didn’t-realize-how close for just the right angle on a completely fearless sitka deer resulted in one of my all time favorite shots when he/she suddenly turned their head up from grazing and licked the lense of my camera just as the shutter clicked. No one could call this stupid with a harmless little camera licker but may have tried to talk me out of getting so close and caused me to miss the epic shot.


The best part of traveling solo is complete selfishness that is in no way selfish. I find traveling with a partner or group means consciously or subconsciously refraining from imposing my preference and attempting to gain consensus on where to go and what to do. When traveling alone, a scenic drive needs no self consciousness about boring others and means no barrier to the impulse to turn off the main road when a “Historic Town, 15 miles” calls to me. Impulsiveness has no check, for better or worse. 


This impulse turn on to a small side road to Hope, Alaska led to one of the best parts of the day’s exploration. Not only did the side road follow one of the most beautiful views down a strait that flows out to the Gulf of Alaska but made me realize I’d never been outside before. My favorite place in the world is outside. Outside on the patio at home, sitting out on a beach or next to a pool, on a hiking trail through the woods, kayaking on the Siuslaw River, sledding in the snow, strolling through a cemetery on a cloudy day all count. Outside, anywhere outside, is my favorite. The endless mountain chains behind me, the blue sky with white puffy clouds reflecting off of the inlet with whale pods swimming through, with forests and more massive rocky, snow-topped mountains across the water left me feeling that I had never been outside before. It was indescribable. 


On the 15-mile drive down the side road is where I met my moose buddy streaking through the trees away from me and did some off-roading (it was a rental) out to some waterfront campsites where I climbed out onto the rocks to get as close to the view across the strait as I could. The selfie from that spot is still one of my favorites and is my meeting app profile pic to this day, years later. Talk about a great conversation starter! 


At the end of the road, I arrived in the historic town of Hope where the opportunity to see a whole different life was easy access. Another one of those signs that resulted in an impulse turn on my right meant experiencing life in a Sunday afternoon church service. The small wooden church building must have been built in the 1800s as a school house by the looks of it. Of the twenty or so attendees, I was the youngest by about 25 years unless you count the husky who slept under one of the pews. As was the case in distant memory from small churches of my childhood, the newcomers were asked to stand and introduce themselves and the sounds of awe at having an Oregon Californian in attendance was entertaining and a bit unexpected. It surprised me in the moment but I realized quickly that anyone, let alone someone from the “lower 48”, venturing into their town and stumbling across a church service just as it was starting and impulsively attending was probably not a common (or ever) occurrence. 


After the vintage service, which did include a binder of photocopied hymns for each chair as a splurge, I took a stroll through town. I use the term “town” loosely here. The “town” consisted of one block of similarly historic buildings on a wide dirt road that dead-ends at the rocky drop into where the strait widens into the Gulf of Alaska and then on to forever. A couple of wood paneled buildings from the church and past the town bar, was a small restaurant in a home built one hundred-plus years back with a shockingly good menu. Someone with culinary sense must have retired here. As luck would have it, and as is more common for a solo traveler, the pastor of the church with his family and a few other town members invited me to their table to join them for dinner and find out why this out-of-towner had invaded their oft overlooked corner of the map. I was more interested in hearing their story than telling mine. I learned that this was a haven of exiles and/or escapists from Anchorage, the big city or is a step up to bigger city life from the real rural Alaska that boasts of even fewer creature comforts. I learned from them the charm of small town life and benefits and difficulty of living an hour plus from the city (and, therefore, grocery stores and entertainment). 


All around, this impulsive detour to Hope was one of the best exposures to small town Alaska life, natural beauty and even food of the trip. Would this day in Hope, Alaska have happened if I hadn’t been a solo traveler? I have a tendency to pause for a second before making an impulsive turn off the road if there is others’ entertainment to consider. I may not have even been on a destination-less scenic drive in the first place. You never know what adventures you’ll have with or without your travel companions. But don’t dismiss the opportunities for solo travel by getting hung up on the risks over the benefits because it’s not everyday a sitka deer French kisses your camera.  




Comments

  1. I'm very impressed with your detailed description of your adventure! We can have an adventure in Colorado if you ever come to visit. Love, Uncle Vic

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  2. Thank you for sharing your epic adventure. I laughed out loud picturing you dashing through the forest to visually memorialize your woodland friends. You are not alone I should also sign up for the moose etiquette course. I appreciate the time you spent creating, sharing and writing your beautiful story.

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  3. Brie,
    Thanks for the great post; I really enjoyed it. Great description and funny animals,

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  4. What a fun adventure! I can just imagine how tickled the folks of Hope were hearing you introduce yourself at the service. Keep on being “stupid” - it truly seems to be where the magic lies!

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  5. Love this story; and the title! Nonnie enjoyed it as well.

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