Lessons You Can Only Learn From Doing A Solo Road Trip

averie woodard

“It’s ok to be lost. But know that you need to find yourself and you may not be who you were before or who you thought you were.” This is among the best advice I’ve ever gotten. It was from a good friend as I was dealing with a particularly rough breakup. Within a month of this breakup I also lost my job. I was feeling lost and hopeless. With this advice in mind I set out on a 1,300-mile trip to “find myself.”

It’s ok not to have a plan.

My trip involved no planning. I had no timeline, no real destination, and no reservations for hotels or anything. I threw a tent and some clothes in my backseat and headed west. This was the most uncharacteristic part of my trip. I always have everything planned out, right down to the minute usually. I expected this plan-less trip to be incredibly stressful, but since the trip was last minute I would just have to deal with.

Instead of being completely stressed out, I had the opportunity to make pit stops I had no idea existed. I stopped and spent five hours marveling at the scenery in Theodore Roosevelt National park, I got lost for an afternoon walking through a dinosaur museum, and I saw an incredible battle site from the 1800’s. I would have missed all of these things if I had planned this trip like I usually do. Instead, since I had no timeline, I was able to stop and enjoy things I had never even heard of before.

What I learned is that it’s actually less stress to not have everything mapped out. Life is unpredictable and planning everything is like trying to fight the universe. Plus, when everything is planned, you miss out on amazing things you didn’t predict.

It’s ok to be alone.

Did I mention that I went on this unplanned trip completely alone? This was the first road trip more than a hundred miles or so that I had taken by myself. Not only would I be driving for days by myself, but I would also be responsible for finding a place to sleep, either in my car or in my tent, by myself and then setting everything up and being completely and utterly alone. This was a pretty scary idea, but after the month I had just had, I felt like I needed time by myself to figure out what my next step in life was going to be.

Being alone was actually one of the best parts of the trip. Of course it would have been great to share the sites and experiences with someone else, but I learned that experiencing things by yourself is completely different. I went at my own pace and learned a lot about myself because I was able to not have to deal with what other people wanted or thought.

I learned that being alone is ok. Not just single, but completely alone. There’s nothing wrong with just being by yourself. I don’t need to rely on anyone for me to be happy. If I want to do something, I don’t need anyone’s approval or permission or company.

I am enough.

After going through a rough breakup everyone struggles with trying to answer questions like “what could I have done differently” or “maybe I just wasn’t good enough.” My breakup was no different. The main motivation behind this trip was these feelings. I needed to get away from where I had always been and try something different.

I drove across the country, through places I had never been before, by myself. I spent all this time alone with my own thoughts and feelings. In that time I went through just about every emotion you can think of, some more than once. I had a lot of time to think about who I am as a person, and I came to the conclusion that my worth has nothing to do with anyone else or their opinion of me.

I learned that I am a good person. I am smart and capable. Anyone who wants to be a part of my life is lucky and more than welcome to get to know me. Anyone who can’t see my value loses out. Them deciding not to be a part of my life takes nothing away from me and it doesn’t make me any less amazing.

The majority of people are good people.

Along my trip I met a lot of people. From the couple I met in Theodore Roosevelt National Park who were enjoying retirement by visiting all the national parks to the young guy in Seattle trying to decide on the best camping gear for him and his girlfriend. I met people from all walks of life. I talked to so many different people and after awhile I realized that they all had one thing in common, they were all good people. Everyone I talked to was funny and kind and dealing with their own battles in life.

We lose sight of the fact that other people are struggling too and focus so much on our own problems. It’s easy to view everyone else as rude or inconsiderate, but if you can remember that everyone is dealing with life just like you are, you can help become a better person yourself.

99% of the people I met were incredible, interesting people just trying to get through life the same as I am. Everyone has value and contributes something.

All the heartache and pain is for a reason.

Going through something painful can often seem so pointless. Whether it’s a breakup or a friend moving away or the loss of a loved you, we often ask ourselves why we have to go through this. We can’t possibly imagine a situation in which us feeling so broken and hopeless could be good for anything. I definitely felt like this going into my trip. I was hurting and confused and couldn’t understand why things were happening the way they were.

After spending my trip reflecting on everything that had happened I realized that there was a reason. I may not be able to see it now, but where I was, in my relationship and my job, was not where I was supposed to end up. I had felt like everything was perfect and like I had finally figured things out, but really I was just in a situation that I needed to go through so that one day I will be ready for where I end up.

I learned that I may have gotten my heart broke and had my life crumble around me, but that’s because I still had things to learn. I wasn’t where I was meant to be. And year, it still hurts, by at least now I can acknowledge that it’s not meaningless pain.

My 1,300-mile trip by myself seemed crazy and scary at first, but I learned a lot. I may still be lost, but there’s nothing wrong with that because most of all I learned that I’m going to be ok.

(Also, I learned not to let shitty people from your past ruin good fucking music.) TC mark

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