As those who have been hanging out with me on Twitter or Facebook may know, I recently traveled to Portland, Oregon for weekend filled with chocolate-covered espresso beans, tarot cards, poetry and lemongrass essential oils.
Oh, and hipsters, coffee shops, IPAs and GREENERY.
So, uh, basically I went to heaven for a weekend? One might say that.
While in Portland, I attended Write Yourself into Motion, a meditation and life coaching retreat that masqueraded as a writing workshop, lead by the lovely Alexandra Franzen.
In addition to being fantastically eye-opening and creativity-inducing, the trip represented my very first foray into solo lady travel.
As in, I journeyed to a faraway land that I had never visited before and knew exactly NO ONE there prior to the trip (knew them, like, in a physical sense. Internet doesn’t count.).
Solo travel is something that I decided I wanted to do just over a year ago (when I added it to my Life List). I determined that there was something fiercely independent, terrifying and exhilarating about the idea and since my summer ended up being relatively light on the weddings and other social obligations, in February I declared that NOW was the perfect time to go.
I impulsively bought a ticket to Write Yourself Into Motion, cashed in some credit card miles for a plane ticket, booked my very first Airbnb stay and headed to Portland.
It was everything I could have hoped for and more. I HIGHLY recommend the experience, the city, the workshop, and well, everything about it.
But of course, like all amazing adventures, there were lessons to be learned. Therefore:
Four Lessons I Learned from My First Foray into Solo Travel
1. Double-check your travel arrangements. And then double-check them again.
Story time! The week prior to me leaving for Portland was probably one of the most stressful workweeks yet this summer. I was at the office late, early and often, pushing hard to meet a few deadlines. On top of that, lately I’ve had a terrible tendency to disregard responsibility in favor of summer concerts in gardens and more whiskey than is probably necessary. So in preparation for my trip, I printed my boarding passes hastily on Thursday as I ran out of the office, harried with stress and angst.
My brain saw 7:20am on my ticket, and thought, “Ah, what a lovely time to depart St. Louis! Perfect. I’ll set my alarm for 4:45.” And so it went.
As I proceeded to check my bags at Lambert on Friday morning, the kind Southwest employee quickly informed me that, “Honey, your flight left 15 minutes ago.”
Erm. Okay. WHAT?!
I missed my flight. Instead of the departure time, I read the arrival time. My 6am flight was supposed to land in Vegas at 7:20. And I’m sure it did. But I was not on it.
2. When in doubt, don’t stress out.
So as the above events unfolded, you can probably imagine my reaction.
After mentally berating myself for a good 20 seconds, I calmly gathered my things and proceeded to the desk. I still had 12 hours to somehow magically get myself to Portland, so there MUST be a way, right? Right.
And alas, there was. The kind Southwest people re-routed me to Chicago, and I was on a flight out of St. Louis by 9:30am.
I did not cry, call my mother in a panic, or yell at any undeserving employees. Because really, at the end of the day, the situation wouldn’t have been helped along by me freaking out at all.
Once I safely arrived in Portland at 2:30 that afternoon, I jovially progressed to the baggage claim where I had to remind myself once again, that stressing out would serve me no purpose.
After watching the same 7 bags go by on the baggage claim for 10 minutes, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that while I had managed to make it to Portland… my luggage had not.
Annnd cue the stress reaction once again.
Being that I was not in the position to miraculously procure my lost luggage from mid-air, I once again reminded myself that I would, in fact, survive without my things. At least for a little while.
And all was well once again.
(My bag did eventually arrive… at 3:30am. Top notch customer service, Southwest.)
3. Toss that Stranger Danger out the window, lady.
As I mentioned earlier, I literally knew not one person prior to leaving for Portland. Not. One.
I “virtually” knew of a few awesome people residing in the city (bloggers, heyyyy), but I personally had not ever met any of the humans that I would be encountering on this trip.
However, as I was planning, I decided that it was important to me to actually talk to a few locals and get a feel for what living in Portland actually is like. Therefore, instead of staying in a conventional hotel, I opted for a private room through Airbnb.
Yep, I stayed in someone whom I had never met before’s guest room and even shared a bathroom with them.
It was one of my favorite decisions for the trip.
My Airbnb hosts were awesome. On Saturday night, we traded travel stories, discussed craft beer and got to know one another over Portland IPAs and a cackling fire in their living room.
Stranger Danger does not serve you.
(Though obviously, be safe and smart about where and how you encounter strangers… it’s not like I just walked up to these people’s home and asked if I could stay for a spell…)
Beyond my awesome Airbnb hosts, I had the privilege of meeting 20 new women in my workshop and of meeting up with one of my favorite bloggers, Rachel from Tossing the Script. ‘Twas magical.
And we are all strangers, no longer.
4. It’s surprisingly easy to travel surprisingly cheap.
While I haven’t tallied up the exact numbers for the trip, I’m relatively certain that I easily spent more attending weddings last summer than I did on this trip, which was totally indulgent and self-focused but fantastically rewarding.
Between my workshop ticket, flights and Airbnb stay, I was able to stay well under $1000 (though admittedly, this was helped along by credit card miles – I have the Blue Sky Travel Rewards Card by American Express if you want to get in on that kind of action – I love it.)
While in Portland, my only expenses were coffee (so many shops to try!), cab rides to and from the airport and a few dinners. I walked as much as possible, which really helped cut down on transportation costs.
To save some dough on solo travel, I highly recommend: booking your flights early (and getting a travel rewards card, for real), staying in a cool, walkable neighborhood, checking out Airbnb for super cheap and fun lodging, skipping beverages that aren’t water at meals, and packing a few snacks for awkward eating windows.
As a side bonus, Portland doesn’t have sales tax. I was surprised at how much cheaper things felt as a result!
The number one benefit of my trip was that it reminded me how much I love new adventures. Stepping out of my comfort zone and breaking my routine makes me feel really alive.
And seriously, whenever you can, I encourage you to TREAT YO’SELF.
Get your adventure on every now and then. I’m pretty confident that you won’t regret it.
Annnd 1200 words later, I’m out.
When’s the last time you went on an adventure? Any tips for your fellow travelers?