Four Lessons I Learned from My First Foray into Solo Travel


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?



  • Samsam says:

    What an adventure you’ve had! It sounds like solo travel was definitely a good choice. I’m currently finishing up at university but it’s going to be part of my LifeList for sure! (LifeList? Yes – I’m going to put mine together THIS WEEK! Thank you for the inspiration!!!)

    I’m actually a student in Minnesota (originally from Michigan) but I’m spending my summer in Dublin, Ireland – and I knew NO ONE before coming here as well! It’s me, a big group of other interns from all over the world, and our employers who we’d maybe skyped or spoken with on the phone a couple of times before flying over. It’s been an adventure without doubt and has given me loads of great ammo for blogging…I understand the urge to travel!

    I love reading your posts! If you get the chance, come check mine out whilst I’m here in Ireland!

    • Erika says:

      That’s really cool! I hope you’re having a lot of fun in Dublin! 🙂

  • Oh, you’ve made me all wanderlusty (not a real word, don’t care.) I’m actually heading on two family trips this summer, but haven’t really truly been excited about either until this very moment. You are a breath of fresh air!

    • Erika says:

      YAY family trips are awesome! I haven’t gotten to go on one for awhile, but I keep pestering my mom about putting one on the calendar. Have fun!

  • Erika, solo travel is something that makes me feel like such a grown up 🙂 And I love that–despite the many stressful things that might have brought you down–you persevered and were able to look for the learning moments in each experience. That’s what I love so much about travel. It will see you at your best and your worst, but in any case you will always learn something new!

    • Erika says:

      SUCH a grown up! You’re very right about the growing up and learning something new.

  • Ktcyril says:

    Guuuuurl. I am the BIGGEST advocate for traveling by yourself. You learn so much about yourself on those trips and you discover all the things that you can actually handle by yourself. I think one just feels like a better, stronger person from it.

    • Erika says:

      You are so right! I feel like I can do so much more after the experience.

  • Chandler says:

    Such great tips, I love it!! Now if only I could apply that not stressing thing to my daily life!
    Also I want to move to Portland so badly!! I’m beyond jealous of your excursion 🙂

    • Erika says:

      Hahaha I need to learn how to apply the no stress thing to my daily life too, to be honest. This week has been rough! Portland was reallyyyy neat.

  • Jamie Oakes says:

    Portland has a special place in my heart. I escaped (yes, escaped!) Florida to move to Portland. I knew absolutely no one there. I didn’t have a job or a place to live. It was probably the scariest and bravest thing I’ve done, but so glad I did. I’m now in New Zealand, but still miss Portland so much. Nice post!

  • Erin O'Brien says:

    That sounds so fun and adventurous. That’s very brave of you. I really want to go to Portland some day too. Another blogger I follow, Sweet Helen Grace, just got back from Portland too.

  • […] Traveled to PORTLAND for Write Yourself Into Motion. Amazing experience. […]

  • Funny thing, when I travel internationally, I much prefer to travel solo. I usually go abroad to explore a place, to experience and just to spend a little time inside my own head with none of the normal day to day distractions. When I go by myself, I can do all the things I want to do, get up when I want, eat when i want, walk as much as I want, without worrying about anyone else. Might sound selfish, but I get more out of a travel experience abroad when I’m on my own. Plus it forces me to meet new people, and find travel buddies who are doing the same thing so we aren’t on our own for certain excursions like a mountain hike, since it’s just not safe to do that alone. For stateside travel, I do enjoy a good friend trip or a roadtrip with Mark, but I also don’t mind going solo, like when I went to Chicago to run an 8K with Alicia and Eileen, who I only knew previously through the internet. Fun times! So glad you had a great first solo travel experience!

  • […] Four lessons learned from solo travel […]

  • Harri Owen says:

    I have never travelled properly by myself before, but I’m moving to prague soon and I couldn’t be more thrilled/terrified of it!! I like to think of myself being independent, but who knows until I actually get there…!

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