Next month, I’ll be traveling alone for the first time. I was going to go this month, but some technical difficulties derailed those plans. Plus, northern Michigan will be more hospitable in June, especially for sunning on a beach. Traveling solo is daunting for a lot of people, and I have to admit it’s going to test my nerves, but there are some advantages.
One, I get to pick where I want to go, where I want to stay, what I want to do, and how long I want to be there. There’s no dragging along a whiny husband through shops, asking “That looks weird.” “What do you want that for?”, and the infamous, “How much does that cost?” If I want a souvenir purple moose riding a bicycle sitting on my fireplace mantel, I won’t have to listen to it.
You can also go at your own speed, and if you change your mind about what you want to do that day, you can. I’m known to change my mind on a dime, and I’m leisurely on my vacations. I don’t want to visit 900 things on a checklist, just to say I’ve physically been there. What good as that, if I don’t remember any of it? Instead, I’d rather spend time enjoying the surroundings, relaxing, no-stress, calm.
I remember a trip we took to Oregon when I graduated from college. I remember a lot about the graduation ceremony, but the places we visited? Nope. Well, we really didn’t even visit them. Everything was a blur outside the car window because we were almost always on the move. That was my fault, because I chose the spots and the dates. I’ve learned it’s better to pick one or two stays and just chill.
When I was searching for places to stay, I saw a lot of resorts and hotels that looked like ones that we had stayed at in the past. I have a lot of great family memories of such places, but I thought a place like that would feel really awkward. They would be filled with families and couples, and that would just bring back a flood of memories that a newly divorced person doesn’t want to think about.
Instead, I chose places that are totally different from any place I’ve ever stayed, and are great for people traveling by themselves. At least, that’s what I’m hoping.
Normally, I’ve always used Expedia to plan vacations because it was easy to select a flight, hotel, and rental car from one app. But for a road trip, I thought I’d try Airbnb. There are a lot of unique places to stay, from renting an entire home, a single room in somebody’s basement, a tiny house the size of a garden shed, or even sleeping on a houseboat.
I looked at staying on a boat, but the reviews mentioning the smell of mold and spiders didn’t turn me on. Plus, it would be my luck a storm would blow up, and I’d be washed out into the middle of Lake Michigan in a stinky spider-infested boat. So, I stuck with staying on solid ground.
My first stop is in Union Pier, not far from the Indiana Dunes and other beaches. I’ll be staying in what was a store with an upstairs loft. It’s owned by a local artist and features her artwork throughout. There’s even a rooftop patio overlooking the small town. It’s quirky and totally unique, and like no place I’ve ever stayed. It’s not the most budget friendly option, but still reasonable, and I made up for the cost with my second spot in Bellaire, Michigan.
There, I’ll be staying in a room of a 117-year-old Victorian house that’s kind of like a bed and breakfast, without the awkward meeting at a dining room table with strangers. Breakfast is served outside the room in the hallway, so I don’t have to see anyone. And it only costs $75/night, without other outrageous fees.
That’s something I’ve learned about Airbnb. Some charge ridiculous “service” and/or “property” fees. I thought that’s want the rental fee was for. They like to advertise cheap rental prices, but then add a bunch of fees that can sometimes double what you would expect to pay. I weeded out those places.
I’ve always been good about researching the areas I’m planning to visit, but I think it’s extra important when you’ll be alone. Luckily, with the Internet and Google Maps, you can practically visit the place virtually before being there. You can see what’s located nearby, what the streets look like, and just sense the overall general vibe of the area.
And me with my bad sense of direction, I have to spend a lot of time beforehand knowing what direction and how far nearby cities are from where I’m staying, what roads I’ll be traveling on, how far away are the restaurants, a Walmart (can’t live without them), and hospitals or a doc in the box. I’ve been on enough vacations to know you might find yourself in an ER. That two-bed hospital in Colorado I had to go to when I developed altitude sickness comes to mind. Things happen!
I think it’s also important to stay near civilization. Actually, the safest places for a solo traveler to visit are large cities. New York City is ranked as one of the safest. It’s like traveling in a school of fish. You’re not such an obvious and vulnerable target, as you would be out in the middle of nowhere by yourself.
Because of that, I’ll be going where people are, not backpacking in the wilderness in an unfamiliar location.
It’s going to be a little nerve-wracking, but that’s why I’ve been doing little trips by myself to condition myself, and know what to take on a road trip.
One of the reasons I’m going to Michigan is to also test the waters. Would I want to live there? There are more job opportunities for me up that way. But, after looking at home prices in a lot of the areas I’m interested in, the only way I could afford to live there was if I rented a room in somebody’s basement.
How on Earth do people afford housing in other states? $1500/month rent? Seriously? I’m used to Decatur prices, and they’re not close to what you’ll find elsewhere. Decatur, Illinois is about the cheapest place to live in the United States. I like living here, but the job opportunities that pay well are so slim, unless you want to work swing shifts in a hot factory that could blow up at any minute.
That’s why I’m considering becoming a sterile processing traveler. I could pay off debt, and save for retirement. I could travel for a few years and be much more financially secure in the future. And, I don’t have to leave Decatur permanently. We’ll see how my nerves hold up to traveling solo, before I jump on that bandwagon.