Traveling Alone

Amanda Dinkel

It’s really not as depressing as it sounds…really! This is currently part of my life philosophy that I’ve taken on in the past ten years or so. I will admit that when I was in high school and college, I had my life on a certain trajectory: college, meet and awesome guy, travel the world, get married, have kids…basically, whatever society will tell me to do as a woman, right?

That’s when life gets in the way. Our lives usually follow their own path, no matter how much we try to control them. Boy, did I ever try to control mine! Thankfully, with age comes a smidgeon of wisdom and I’ve learned a few important things.

  1. I control what I can. My education? My job? Travel? Yep. All things I can control. So, when it comes to those parts of my life, I go all in when I need to. Finding a great guy? As much as I want to control that, I really cannot. It’s all about timing (and figuring out how to date in this day and age!).
  2. I don’t want children. I know. Who am I? What kind of woman am I? You know what kind of woman I am? The one who is honest with herself, that’s who. As a teacher, I get to be part of hundreds of lives and pass along my wisdom to them. That’s my legacy. I don’t need to birth a child in order to do that. I’ve already done that.
  3. I’m not going to wait for some societal-chosen event to do what I want to do. Example: I want to wear a sparkly gown for a big event. Most women think this can only happen on her wedding day. But what about those that weddings just aren’t part of their plans? I’m choosing to celebrate my 40th birthday on a cruise around Hawaii so I can have a glorious reason to dress up and let the festivities be all about me. I’m creating my life events, and honestly, doesn’t that sound more fun? Another example is kind of small. I had always wanted a Kitchen-Aid mixer, but thought that was a “wedding present” appliance. Says who? Every bridal registry. Again, why should I wait for something that might not happen in order to make my own happiness (in the form of chocolate chip cookies, thank you very much)?
  4. I’m not going to be afraid of being alone. That’s what gets me here. I’m currently planning a cross-country road trip this summer in Sven the Jeep. It’s been a dream of mine, and nothing brings me more joy than to accomplish a dream. I won’t wait for anyone to join me, and there is an incredible pleasure that comes with traveling somewhere solo.

That’s what brings me to this post. I have traveled places by myself a handful of times, and I believe that everyone should try it a few times. My most recent experience was going to Nashville a few spring breaks back. And it all started with a search for sunshine…

In 2017, we had a very gray winter. In Michigan we already have a serious vitamin D deficiency, that winter was even more severe. There was a day where we saw sunshine for the first time in weeks. It lasted less than five minutes and I soaked up every second of it. I knew that I needed to see the sun. For spring break, if you stay home in Michigan, it could be 80 degrees and glorious, or it would involve a blizzard. I wanted to guarantee sunshine.

I started my search with the weather app, searching the closest places that were predicting sun that winter. The closest I could find was northern Tennessee. I booked a few days at a hotel just north of Nashville and hoped and prayed for sunshine during my spring break.

My road trip starts with eating lunch at Chick-fil-A, something we didn’t have in Michigan at that time. I always bring road trip food (Utz Pub Mix!), and stop only for gas and Starbucks. I have books on Audible and my road trip mix that tends to have quite a bit of Taylor Swift on it (love me some T. Swift!) to keep me occupied.

What I enjoy most about traveling solo is the basic idea that I go according to what I desire. I don’t have to compromise with another person. I don’t need to check in with them in person. I keep my mom in the loop and update photos on Instagram, but that’s really to prove I’m alive a few times a day. It’s the part that I think scares everyone. “You travel alone? Aren’t you scared?” Even though it can be terrifying (I probably watch way too much Criminal Minds), there is a distinct power in fighting through your fears. I believe that Rick Steves said, “Fear is for people who don’t get out very much,” and usually in response to any sort of attack on people abroad, many question if it’s safe to do so. He would comment that by refusing to travel for those reasons will give those causing the pain and suffering more power than they deserve. Traveling solo is my stubbornness overcoming my fear. It’s giving me more power to go out and visit places I have never been and to do it alone, than to sit at home and wonder “What if?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to go hiking through an unknown forest after dark. I’m still smart. I plan for any possible setbacks, make sure that if I’m headed into an area without cell phone service, I contact as many people as possible before and after (and usually with a quick selfie so they know what I’m wearing, etc.), and keep to daylight hours. So when I traveled to Nashville, I kept to my path, updated my mom and friends when I got to where I needed to be. Then I just had fun and enjoyed my time!

Nashville is a great place to visit alone. Here are some of my recommendations:

  1. Ask locals where to eat. Sure, I started with the suggestions from friends like Husk (yum!) and Biscuit Love (oooooh, good heavens!), but from there, I took suggestions not only on where to eat, but what to do.
  2. Plan a few “Must See/Do” activities. For me, I wanted to hit a winery and a distillery. Everything else was open for spontaneity.
  3. Leave open time in your schedule to be spontaneous. I kept open most of my afternoons to take suggestions from locals or other travelers.
  4. Use your phone. Seriously. Why waste precious time to figure out how to get somewhere when you can just search for it and use the maps?
  5. Talk to people. This is tough for me, since I can be very anti-social. However, I would not have been able to experience some of my favorite places in Nashville if I hadn’t chatted with other travelers, bartenders, or the concierge.
Front porch of Belle Meade
Springtime in Michigan has snow. Springtime in Nashville has blooming flowers!
Part of the Belle Meade Property
Belle Meade Property
Gardens at Belle Meade. You could explore its property as well as take a tour.
The outside of Husk, one of the amazing restaurants in Nashville!
Carnton Plantation had a bloody history part of the Civil War.
The back entrance at Carnton.
Along the river in Nashville.
Found unique shopping experiences in the warehouse that is part of the Corsair Distillery tour. An absolute must if you like whiskey!

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