Thanks to Hurricane Irma (and a host of other unfortunate events this past week - more on that later), I ended up taking a road trip to Washington D.C. from Miami. And I did it solo.
Prior to this, I had never driven more than four hours alone. Thanks to this, I ended up driving ten times that. Aside from Hurricane irma threatening to wash away the city, I had had a mix up with my Ghanaian visa and needed to get a new one ASAP. The quickest way was to go in person to the Embassy in Washington D.C., so that's what I set out to do. i figured I could make a nice little road trip out of the experience, and I have to say that I definitely did just that. Furthermore, I learned that I truly enjoy traveling solo.
The first leg of the trip was the worst. I decided to stop in Atlanta before driving the rest of the way up. I thought, oh it's only 9 hours from Atlanta and then another 10 to D.C. from there. Wrong. Thanks to all the traffic from other evacuees, it ended up taking me 21 HOURS to get to Atlanta from Miami. Keep in mind it's normally a 9 hour drive.
The first 12 hours wasn't terrible. I had an audiobook, good music, and plenty of snacks. But then it got dark. And my eyes got heavy. My estimated time of arrival got later and later and later. By 2am (mind you, I left Miami at 5:30 am the day before), I was seriously delirious. I kept falling asleep at the wheel, I started seeing things! I pulled over, did some jumping jacks, said a prayer, and got back on the road. Finallyyyy I made it to my Airbnb and passed out on the bed instantly.
The next day, I drove to D.C., and that's when all the fun began. I found out that i LOVEEE D.C. If ever there were a place that would make me consider moving back up North and live through cold winters again, it would be D.C. There's just something about the city that speaks to me the way Miami (as much as I love it) never has. i love the strong Black influence there, and all the diverse and beautiful people.Sooo many Ethiopians which means tons of good Ethiopian restaurants and good food. I also love that there is so much to do, from all the free museums, to endless options for food - I especially appreciate how easy it was to eat vegan there.
So why do I love solo travel?:
Whether driving or flying, being alone outside of your normal environment gives you ample time and space to reflect on things.
Having only yourself (and strangers you meet along the way) to rely on, it forces you to be self reliant and more aware of your surroundings. there is a certain feeling of independence you gain.
You get to do what you want, when you want, and how you want!!! This is obviously the best part. For example, I enjoy museums, but I like to enjoy them alone because I can take as long as I want to peruse the different exhibits. I'm one of those people that actually reads the explanations on the placard. Likewise, there are some parts of museums I'm not interested in and when alone, I can simply skip them without worrying if I'm cutting someone else's time short.
Explore how you like. This pretty much is the same as point 3. When in a new place, I like to explore without necessarily having a plan. On my first day in D.C., I literally spent 8 hours just walking and roaming around, stopping when I pleased. Had i been with someone else, I'm sure they would have gotten sick of all the walking.
It forces you out of your comfort zone. This is definitely true. when we travel with friends, family, or partners, we don't really feel the need to branch out as much. However, when alone, you feel more motivated to strike up conversations with strangers. If you're shy, this will definitely push you. This is good, because you may learn something new about a place that you wouldn't have otherwise. Talking with local people gives you a different perspective outside of just the tourist one. One morning, I sat at a cafe when a girl around my age asked if she could share my table since there were no more empty ones left. We ended up sitting there for two hours talking about each others lives and she gave me some tips about how which museums were worth seeing and which were not.
Highlights for me were visiting different cafes and just reading, doing some work on my laptop, and people watching. My favorite two places were Philz Coffee and Busboy and Poets- I went there for breakfast twice and bought a book in their little bookstore portion too.
Also, I really enjoyed the Natural History Museum and the African American Museum. The African American Museum is so huge that I only got through the bottom floor which covers slavery. Walking through it was amazing, heart breaking, and uplifting all at the same time. It will definitely be my first stop the next time I am in D.C.
I realize the idea of traveling alone sounds horrible to some. But for those who have even considered it once, I say go for it! Don't get me wrong, there are cons too. Like getting lonely, or lost, or bored. I still love to travel with friends, family, or my boyfriend. But there is a certain feeling of freedom and power when flying solo too.