4 things I learned from going solo on my last adventure

In September last year I did something I never thought I would – a solo road trip with my bike around California. It wasn’t some long lost dream of mine to go travel by myself, nor was it a thoroughly planned trip. It was just one of those things that happened and, despite my doubts and fears, I ended up absolutely loving it. For 8 days I rented a car, packed my bike and myself into it, and drove. Through deserts and mountains, from 25-degree sunshine to below freezing and snow, from the ocean to the lakes discovering some amazing bike spots and people along the way. I can honestly say it was one of the best, most carefree and exhilarating weeks of my life. It blew all my doubts, biases and fears out the window and I learned more about myself than I probably will in a couple of years. Here are a few of the road-trip-life-lessons I picked up along the way.

You don’t need to have a plan

In many ways, this whole trip came about really randomly. I was heading over to see my best friend from school, and as I had some spare time I thought it would be cool to see what California had to offer riding-wise. I’d never been in this part of the world before and wanted to take the opportunity to discover it whilst I was here. Naively I thought I’d get a riding buddy to come along but, as it turns out, people can’t just fly over the Atlantic when you want them too… So I had a choice. Either I stay for the extra week at my friend’s house in LA, or get over my fears and go explore California by myself. I chose the latter.

I wasn’t completely without a plan before heading off. I knew a friend that had lived in Lake Tahoe and my boyfriend had contacts in the San Francisco area, so I thought I’d head up that way and see where it’d take me. I kept my plans loose and flexible on purpose. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do during this trip or where or what kind of stuff I wanted to ride. I made note of some places I wanted to go to - Lake Tahoe, Downieville and Santa Cruz – and got in touch with locals so I knew where to go and what to ride.

Keeping my schedule loose was the best thing I could have done, because you can plan your trip in detail yet still miss out on the most important part – local life and people. I literally just went with the flow for a week, heading to places where people could meet me and show me around, and did exactly what I wanted to do. It was amazing. It was freedom like I’d never experienced it before.

You are never lonely on a solo road trip

The idea of going somewhere by myself had always scared me a little: What if I get lost? What if I get attacked? What if I get lonely? There had just always been too many “what if’s” for me to actually go ahead and do it.

Also, going somewhere alone had never really appealed to me that much, as I love sharing moments with other people. I’ve always believed that it’s not as much about the places you go to, but more about the people you go there with. However, going solo I realised that this saying applies even when you travel by yourself, as you end up meeting so many cool people along the way.

Traveling from LA to Lake Tahoe and over to Santa Cruz and back down again I never once felt lonely. I was often with other riders, none of whom I had met before, that I came in contact with through friends or friends-of-friends or simply bumped into on the trails. I had locals show me around their playground, telling me the story of their little bike community, and give me an insight into the bike life in Cali. I had a bunch of riders ask me if I wanted to join them on their ride in Downieville, because I probably looked like a lost puppy at the top of the shuttle drop-off point. I had a mum-of-triplets take time out of her (probably very busy) day to show me around some snowy trails, and I was constantly reminded of how amazing the bike community is. You are never alone if you ride bikes.

You are more social than you think

I’ve never seen myself as a super social person – I love hanging out with people, but I’m definitely not the one that goes up and speaks to randomers. Somehow that doesn’t matter in the bike world; you still end up meeting people. It never feels forced, hard or even weird to go up to someone and ask for advice, directions or just to have a little chat.

I, who thought I’d be sleeping in my car or camping the entire trip, ended up jumping from house to house and from town to town meeting inspiring and cool people from all over who let me stay in their homes. I never once slept in my car; instead complete strangers let me stay in their spare bedrooms, took me on dusty bike rides and had me for dinner in the evenings. Of course I had a little help to start off with, as my ex-Lake Tahoe resident friend put me in contact with some locals, who in turn helped me out by either letting me stay with them or passed me on to someone who could. Nonetheless – we were complete strangers, yet they were not only incredibly helpful, they were also genuinely interested in getting to know me and making sure I had a great time.

It made me think. Media constantly feeds us news about the dangers of this world and tells stories about all the hate and distress that exists. Yet, once you venture out of your comfort zone, it couldn’t be more different - at least not in the world of outdoor addicts and bike riders. I never once felt scared or even wary; people were just genuinely helpful, friendly and warm-hearted. Of course there is hate in the world, but we can’t forget how much love there is out there too. To everyone I met on this trip – thanks for reminding me of that.

It is okay to be alone

I say that I never felt lonely on this trip, and it’s true. I was often with other people and I was probably more social than on any other trip I’ve been on, but obviously on a solo road trip you will also end up being alone. It’s a scary concept. What if I get bored of my own company, or even worse, what if I run into a situation I can’t handle by myself? I had all these fears and scenarios made up in my head before setting off and at times they felt quiet frightening.

Thing is, as soon as I hit the road, they all disappeared. There was no more doubt in my mind and I was never bored of my own company. To the contrary, I realised that I actually like hanging out with myself and that it is refreshing to do exactly what I want to do - everything from listening to my kind of music in the car, to stopping for lunch at the quirky little café exactly when I want too. It was peaceful being alone with my thoughts driving through amazing landscapes, just like it was exciting to discover that I can actually handle most situations that are thrown in front of me.

Traveling solo means that there are no compromises – you just do what you want to do. Most rides I had company, but I did do the one-off solo rides, and they were just the same: peaceful, fun and rewarding. Finding your way through unknown landscapes, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, and simply feeling alive. Everyone should try it.

Go out and get lonely!

Heading off into the Californian sunset last September I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little scared, a little excited and full of weird fears and biases. I came back happy, carefree and with the best tan I’ve had in a long time. It was by far one of the most memorable weeks of my life – not only because of the places I saw or the people I met, but because I did something that scared me a little, and I came back feeling empowered and strong. I think every one deserves to get to know themselves better, to do things just because they want too regardless of what others think, to fully relax and be happy in their own company. Even if it’s just for a day or two, go solo on an adventure and I promise you it’ll be more rewarding than you could ever imagine.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who made my Californian road trip last September such an amazing and memorable experience.