Why You Should Go On A Solo Road Trip

Tammie Dooley from Solo Road Trip.

This is the first of a two-part series about solo road trips by Tammie. Read part two here: 13 Tips on Planning Your Solo Road Trip.

Monk in Koya-san, Japan

Lone monk in Koya-san, Japan. Photo by jwongyboy.

In the United States, we’re a nation teetering on social burn-out. The multitude of devices designed to bind us together like links in a chain has made it difficult to go to the bathroom and be alone. Articles on efficiency are prolific: how to cut a minute off some task, make your morning shower more efficient, and speed up this or that. And yet I know more discontented people than ever. When the pundits start messing with your morning shower, who wouldn’t be unhappy? It all begs the point, if being continually connected to a large group of people and having your life maximized for efficiency can’t deliver happiness, what’s missing? Some solo time, my friends.

Ester Schaler Buchholz, PhD, an outspoken advocate for solitude, in her 1997 book The Call of Solitude writes: “We live in a society that worships independence yet deeply fears alienation. The earth’s population has doubled since the 1950s and in cities across the world, urban crowding and the new global economy have revolutionized social relationships. Cellular phones now extend the domain of the workplace into every part of our lives; religion no longer provides a place for quiet retreat but instead offers “megachurches” of social and secular amusement; and climbers on top of Mt. McKinley whip out hand–held radios to call home. We are heading toward a time when, according to the New York Times,” portable phones, pagers, and data transmission devices of every sort will keep us terminally in touch.” Yet in another more profound way, we are terminally out of touch. The need for genuine and constructive aloneness has gotten utterly lost, and in the process, so have we.”

Friends can face down a room of professionals in a board room, or the crush of orders coming in for burgers and fries at high noon, but they can’t face the prospect of being alone

Solo road trips (SRT) strike fear in the heart of many. Either the brain conjures up “solitary confinement” and goes downhill from there or the thought of a road trip disgorges memories of the family sedan and their Dad’s mission to see America at 55 mph. But it’s not about getting away, it’s about going somewhere….with yourself. I read an article on solo travel that recommended spending some time on a psychological sofa before heading out on a solo road trip. I beg to differ. The trip IS the psychological sofa. And there’s no astronomical hourly billing attached. It’s liberating, empowering, rejuvenating. Yet as good as that sounds, most people have NEVER taken one. Friends can face down a room of professionals in a board room, or the crush of orders coming in for burgers and fries at high noon, but they can’t face the prospect of being alone.

Let’s debunk a myth right off the bat about solo travel. There are those who believe the only experiences that really matter are those you share with someone else. Pifel! That’s my mother’s favorite exclamatory word and provides a more politically correct substitute for my favorite words: bullshit, crap, crapola, and whatacrock. If you asked these people in a question format “do you believe the only experiences that really matter are….” they would likely say “no.” But my SRTs have become a curiosity, and with that I’ve become a curiosity. So I hear feedback about them and I can tell you a lot of it is negative and without any ability to relate. Why? Because deep down they believe the myth and they can’t relate to those of us who don’t. My husband’s family is so unable to relate to my road trips without him, they can’t even talk about them. Upon my return last fall from 9 days on the open road, a best friend called and said “Okay, it’s just not right you wanting to have all that fun to yourself, and I demand to go with you on the next one.” Judy. Then it wouldn’t be a SOLO road trip. The concept is beyond her; fun should be shared.

To push you over the edge, here’s my list of reasons to make at least one SRT in your life. And really, it should be at least an overnighter.

About the author:

Tammie Dooley’s preferred mode of travel is on foot or by 4WD. All done solo, of course. Her blog, Solo Road Trip, is an attractively designed invitation to follow along on her journeys.

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Discussion »

  • #1Clay Mama

    How beautifully you’ve stated the reasons for getting to know yourself and liking that person! Can’t wait to read Part 2. Give us more.

  • #2J

    Wow, great writing on a great topic. looking forward to part 2. Best of luck.

  • #3Geetu Navani

    Simply brilliant!! Inspirational as well. Looking forward to part 2. Goodluck.

  • #4Stephanie

    Solo trips are a blast, for all of the reasons you just mentioned!

  • #5Lisa

    I get a “High” just listening to you. And the comment made about ‘fun should be shared’ that your friend said….That is true, I appreciate you ‘sharing’ it with us thru your writings and your SRT’s that many of us can’t take but enjoy the thought! Thanks!

  • #6Tammie

    Thank you friends, for your uplifting comments!

  • #7Linda

    Wonderful article and so true! Years ago I took my first and only solo trip. I went to Europe for three weeks with only a backpack and a Eurail Pass. I came face to face with myself, overcame many fears and had a blast. The ability to do whatever the heck I wanted at any moment was both frightening and amazingly liberating. I think it is well past time for me to take another solo trip…or ten!

  • #8Marjie Heier

    Single Mom/Family….Progression

    There is so much truth to what is said here. The very first trip after my divorce, was to a Continuing Medical Education conference in Chatanooga Tennessee in 1996. With 3 kids. Across the United States in a Ford Explorer. And, I don’t think I can count how many times we had to stop before one or the other of all the less cooperative kids was belted in before the car could start again. And, it wasn’t just once….or twice….or…..

    But, it became a way of survival. We rock climbed a bridge, facepainted with natural things (note to self: blueberries are fairly permanent on an 8 year old boys’ face…but then, he seemed to enjoy even THAT!), rode the train, watched movies….What didn’t we do??????

    What were we doing? In the words of a Counselor friend….we were creating new memories…..for each of us…. and a new life…..

    And, at Christmas, we were off again. Their Dad was no longer in our lives, or even in the region, and rather than sit at home, realizing that we would not see him, or rather, THEY would not see him, or be a part of his life that fateful first Christmas, we traveled again.

    And, back then, before TSA, with 3 young kids – 5, 7, and 9, each armed with knitting needles and a huge ball of yarn – back before we could afford, or even think that it was reasonable to have them playing games that much, we marched off to Florida. We spent the last of what money we had that Christmas on peanut butter and jelly; macaroni and cheese; and hot dogs. We didn’t go anywhere but the beach and the heated pool outside our room…but it was just what we needed….new traditions and new memories.

    Each Christmas for many years, we did just that. It was so much easier than face the empty living room, with no dad. Some people would say we had no Christmas in the sand, but it was our new tradition, and we loved it.

    And, after a failed 2nd marriage, the kids wanted so much to go back this year. We went, and I was so very glad. My oldest graduated college this year, with honors, and didn’t have enough PTO accrued to go with us, (but how could I complain, with that for a reason?)….but the rest of us are here now, as I read this….

    And, they created the menu on Facebook, as we tag teamed to each other. And, though its somewhat different now, the menu is hardly different. We searched out the same Ice Cream Shop, which is by now closed, but found a new one, for new memories, and hit the waves to body surf.

    I feel so very lucky, as a mom, and as a person, by now, I am their friend, not so much an authority figure. They have the travel bug…Each of them has been to Europe, knows how to be safe, travel inexpensively, knows how to write and looks like one more will graduate next year (2010).

    I have taken my first SRT, without knowing thats what I was doing, and can’t wait to take my next. And, you can tell from the jillions of photos on Facebook from Colorado, that I agree 100% with what you said!

    You can bet I’ll be reading along!

  • #9Diana Godwin-Sherrill

    I love taking solo road trips! They do give you a real feel of true freedom with the wind incircling you from every direction, music of choice at what ever volume you decide and no distractions to look at what ever you want for however long you desire. I have to take them at least every three months just to clear my head. The time alone to reflect is priceless!

  • #10Milton Wongso

    Thanks for giving the reasons of SRT, although it does not hurt to travel with someone you love, you know, so you can share being “disconnected” together.

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