You’ll notice the blog has a new look and a domain name of its own: Green Sun Journey. You’ll also notice it hasn’t been updated since July. About that… since June 11 I have been on a solo roadtrip.
I’ve been heavy on travel, light on writing. I have to develop a “battle rhythm” to balance the collection of experiences and their documentation. Spontaneity doesn’t support a writing schedule as well as it opens your path to unexpected turns and vistas of back country. So I’ve driven through immense redwoods, hiked to a glacier, and taken a side road through the Badlands that became clogged with rural South Dakota’s heaviest commuter traffic: a herd of bison and their cinnamon-colored calves.
What can I tell you about wandering through 11 states over three months? I started my solo roadtrip armed only with a National Parks Pass, a list of friends, and a rudimentary idea of sights to see. I learned a lot more than will fit into this post about budgeting, self-discovery, repairing fence posts on a cliff, and making snow angels in July, but that would give you no reason to return. So today I will present some lessons learned on my roadtrip from Texas, through Canada, to California and back.
What went right with my refusal to plan? What went wrong? What would I do differently? Let’s do the cons first so we can end on a high note.
Spontaneous Travel … Cons
- You spend more money, on restaurant dining and especially lodging, but also on face value of tickets that could have been ordered with a discount in advance.
- Your travels may bring you to a popular area on a weekend. Worse, a holiday weekend. Worst, Glacier National Park over Fourth of July, where Going to the Sun Road looked like a smaller version of the 405. Then you spend beaucoup on lodging and commune with traffic rather than Douglas firs.
- You will end up backtracking as you find you’ve bypassed something or someone you want to see. The availability of a friend in Cheyenne, Wyoming, conflicted with the schedule of a friend in Greeley, Colorado. I drove north to Cheyenne then returned to Greeley. You thus spend more money on gas.
- You will miss good things due to conflicting priorities. The missile silo tours had been booked for months by the time I heard of their existence. I wanted to see the 4,000-year-old bristlecone pine trees in the Sierra, but I ran short on time and had to bypass them to meet my 21-month-old nephew in Los Angeles. Priorities!
Spontaneous Travel … Pros
The excitement of the unknown. Jon Krakauer in his book “Into the Wild” described the demise of a young man who hiked by himself, unprepared, into the Alaska back country. A map would have shown Chris McCandless that he could have crossed a river to safety –but he hadn’t taken that map. Krakauer posited that in a world where the white spaces have long been colored, McCandless could get off the map only by leaving it behind. While I certainly don’t recommend going to this extreme, the idea is intriguing: you can get off the map by not reading it. BUT, ENSURE YOU TAKE ALL APPROPRIATE SAFETY MEASURES to include notifying someone of your whereabouts, bring a map, and have enough gas. That being said … go into the (relative) unknown.
- You may be forced out of your comfort zone and realize that you can handle the unexpected. This hones your problem solving capabilities.
- You open yourself to unexpected experiences. When Montana was crowded due to the confluence of my visit with the Fourth of July holiday, I went north to Canada and saw the Canadian Rockies towns of Calgary, Banff, and Radium Hot Springs.
Like almost everything on this green earth, a spontaneous and solo roadtrip has benefits and disadvantages. There is a financial benefit to planning ahead, but not adhering to a set schedule has its own charm. More to follow, as known!