Tag Archives: solo female travel

Peak Pics Series: Into Rocky Mountain National Park

This hike will always stand out in my mind. I remember the day before, trying to decide on a place to go, the forecast was supposed to be sunny and in the 50’s, a beautiful March day in Colorado.

When I woke up, I still couldn’t decide so I just…went. I took a shortcut into the park and just started walking.

I thought about the grandeur of walking through the park as opposed to driving through. Your feet hit the earth with each step and your lungs fill with this crisp air, and your vision is flooded. Your eyes can’t seem to focus on any one thing for very long, there’s too much to take in.

I walked through a valley and kept pushing forward, eventually finding myself following a small stream. What struck me was how clear it was, how serene. As I traveled, I stumbled onto the trail for Bear Lake. I remember being excited because I had a set destination now. It had been a couple hours and I was excited to see other people.

I followed this trail for a while, passing Cub Lake and Bear Lake but then coming to a point when I realized I wasn’t wearing the right shoes for this trail anymore. It had become steep and icy and I realized I had gained elevation, more that I thought I had.

I was staring at a canyon wall. It was rather confusing, how had I gotten here and where the heck was I? The next person I saw had snow shoes and walking poles, when I asked how far away I was from Bear Lake, he told me at that point I was closer to Fern Lake and that I should just keep going, so I did.

What was funny about this day, was that I remember how warm it was. Especially how sunny it was, and how much the sun reflects off the snow. Fun fact: I had one of the worst sunburns of my life after this hike.

I kept going, up a winding trail. It started as switchbacks but then seemed to go in a slow circle up a mountain. The frustrating part was the sun was melting the top layer of snow, so I fell in to my knees about every 4 steps. I would just fall through, have to climb out and it just kept happening.

When my patience seemed to be at it’s end, I saw the top of a sign buried by snow. I dug it out and found out that I was .7 miles from Odessa Lake. So I went.

It was unreal. The moment I turned the corner, it took my breath away. I just kept audibly gasping and muttering, “wow.” I had never seen mountains that looked that way, I had never felt like the only person in the world to be experiencing them in that way. I was blown away.

Three jagged, piercing peaks jutted out from the lake that had been frozen over, the sun bouncing off the white and almost spotlighting the mountains above them. I sat on a rock and ate an orange.

I breathed. Deeply. I can still smell that citrus filling the air around me as I sat dwarfed by rocks that had thrust themselves up from the earth millions of years ago. I still feel that small ping of vulnerability, how small we are, how grand they are. I sat there for an hour and a half, unmoving.

When I finally came to, I smiled and for whatever reason, saluted to them.

The hike back was elated, things seemed easier, the air fresher, my legs felt stronger. It was like I had been given a fresh start. Like, I hadn’t just walked 13 miles and had 13 to go, that didn’t matter. I felt so good.

I ended up doing a literal marathon that day, and to this day, I still don’t really know where I went. I don’t know which trail I was on, I do know I was at Fern Lake at one point. Regardless, I felt like I had such a beautiful moment in those mountains, and I wouldn’t have traded that in for anything.

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Peak Pics Series

Hiking, climbing, lungs burning, legs heavy, my breath pillowing out in smoke as the cold air around me wraps me tight. Looking up, I see them. The mountains that call to me in a distant roar, that pulls at the bottom of my chest, like an inner animal that is fighting its way to get out, to be up there.

Living in Colorado, I hiked more days than not. I went as far as I could, as high as I could. I sat at the top where the only sound I could hear was my heartbeat in my ears and the wind twirling and swirling around me. I thought about all aspects of my life, thought about my past and present, about where I was going. I felt so clearheaded.

Hiking, putting one foot in front of the other, climbing up and up and up, made the world make sense. I saw these mountains that couldn’t be tamed in front of me, and I sat alongside them. I sat within them, feeling their pulse in a way that I can never put properly into words.

Life became full of possibilities. Which peak would I climb to next? Which mountain would make my heart sing that day? It became a beautiful symphony of longing and conquering. Wanting and doing.

The more I climbed, the less pictures I took. But it wasn’t always that way.

In the beginning, I was infatuated with getting the perfect shot. Making sure the composition was just right, the lighting was where I wanted it to be, the colors setting each other off in just the right way.

I put them up on social media, showed them off to the world as if to say, “Look what I did!” But more so, “Look at this picture, isn’t my life perfect?”

I was obsessed. I spent more time on my hike thinking about what I wanted to portray than actually looking around me. How could I make sure that everyone who follows me will like it?

Then, my roommate Miranda gave me a disposable camera and I made a promise to myself.

I would only take one picture, and I would take it as soon as I got to the top so I wouldn’t think about it while I was up there. No longer would the obsession be about the perfect picture, but it would be about enjoying the view at the top.

This was in 2016. I had honestly put this disposable camera in the back of my mind, had pretty much forgotten about it until a week ago, when I was cleaning out an old dresser and I found it. I was so excited.

I got them developed and wanted to show them to the world, but I wanted each one to carry their weight of the impact they had on my life. I wanted them to tell the story of each hike, of each peak.

Because these weren’t just pictures of mountains, they were a souvenir of a hike that I had done, that I had struggled through, that I felt my lungs burning, felt my legs getting stronger with each step. They were moments in my life that were important, that will always remind me of that winter.

I’ve traveled many places, I’ve seen so many faces, I’ve experienced so many beautiful things, but this winter, this was the winter that I became who I am today.

What To Pack: A Month in Japan Edition

I decided one day that I needed something, anything to distract me from the seasonal lifestyle. I’ve been jumping job to job to job with no break for over 2 years; mind you, I’m not complaining in the slightest. I work in the most beautiful locations, I meet incredible people and I have some of the most amazing experiences, but I just hadn’t had over a week of in 2 years: I needed a vacation.

I searched for the cheapest flight to anywhere in the world and I managed, somehow, to find a round-trip ticket from LAX to Tokyo for $378. How? I got so very lucky. And once I found that fare, I kept a close eye on it until I was ready to buy. Here are the sites I normally scour to find great deals. I had never really had an interest in traveling to Asia whatsoever, but I can’t turn down that price tag.

So I left my job in Lake Tahoe when my contract ended, and I knew that I would be alone in Japan for a month, what the hell was I going to bring?

My itinerary was a rough outline at best. I had plans on stopping to see two friends and I knew I was flying into Tokyo, but other than that, I had no idea what I would do. With that in mind, I stated doing some research. My friend, Miranda lived in Tokamachi, which is in the Northern region of mainland Japan. As it was November/December, it would be cold, if not snowing. My other friend, Moose, lived outside of Hiroshima in Ube, which is in the Southern region of mainland Japan, a warmer climate.

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So I needed to pack for all seasons. Neat.

I was using my High Sierra Appalachian 75 L bag that I had gotten on a season’s end clearance. I knew it could hold as much as I needed to but I didn’t want to over pack in case I was to find something I wanted to bring home.

In my bag I ended up packing:

  • 3 pairs of pants (2 black leggings, 1 pair of jeans)
  • 5 shirts (1 long sleeved, 1 t shirt, 1 “nice” shirt, 2 tank tops)
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • Toiletries (dry shampoo, mascara, moisturizer, deodorant)
  • So many socks. So many.
  • Eno Hammock with straps (in case money ran low and I needed somewhere to sleep)
  • Leather-bound journal (which I wrote in every single day, really helped me remember small details that I may have otherwise forgotten.)

As I traveled through the country, I tried not to buy too many souvenirs until my last day because I knew I would have to carry everything on my back. It was the perfect weight for me personally, I think at it’s heavies it was 28 pounds, but I knew I could go heavier if I needed to.

Japan is still one of the most diverse and culturally rich places I’ve ever been to and I know that I’ll go back someday, I hope this packing list helped!

Narita, Japan

The most beautiful thing about travel, to me, is that it lends itself to you in such transformative ways. It opens these doors that you didn’t know existed, not only in the literal sense but in your mind and your soul. It allows you to have moments of complete and total clarity, unclouded by the chaos that surrounds you.

I just spent the last month in Japan, traveling the country alone and taking in as much of the sights and sounds and culture as physically possible.

On my first full day in Japan, I was anxious to see. I was anxious to get out and explore, so I asked the front desk where the closest shrine was and they pointed me in the direction of Shinso-Ji Temple in Narita, a 4 minute walk from where I stayed.

Since my body wasn’t used to the time change yet, I was at the temple at around 6:30 in the morning and I recommend going at that time to anyone.

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It is so peaceful and gives off such serenity that I was taken aback. I was alone, walking amongst these buildings and gardens that were hundreds of years old. The mist of the morning was clouding these pagodas that are so brightly colored and rich.

There were so many moments where I would just stop and stare for minutes on end, transfixed by the history and unable to grasp how many thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life had stood where I was standing, in awe of the same unmoving and unchanging building.

As the morning ticked on, I became more aware of people around me, bustling through the park to get to their job or gliding lazily through on a morning stroll, a couple visiting from South Korea who couldn’t seem to stop smiling and a pair of friends from Vietnam who wanted nothing more than to practice their English with me.

About the time I decided to head back to my lodgings, a processions of brightly colored monks made their way through the main gardens, accompanied by a loud drum and a ringing triangle. I obviously followed as we made our way to the main building.

15781550_10155642135623135_6997755831028819612_nThere, they began a ceremony, at least that’s what I’m assuming from what I gathered from context clues. A fire was lit, chanting began, and those watching with me began bowing at specific times. I was overcome with emotion. Here I was, a girl on her first day of travel alone in a country she knows little to nothing about and the universe was rewarding me with this abundantly beautiful showcase of culture and religion.

As I sat silently crying, thanking anything and everything that would listen, I watched as those around me; travelers, couples, children, families, and businessmen alike come together for a brief moment in time. The deafening drum beat became our pulse and the chanting monks transfixed our hearts. And then, with 3 sharp blasts to the giant drum, it was over.

I sat stunned for a few moments, as those around me clamored to get up quickly. I didn’t know where to go from there. It was my first day of travel, alone, and I had witnessed more than I thought I was going to see in an entire month.

How lucky I am.

The Best Places To Grab A Drink In Derry, Ireland

When one thinks of Ireland, they think of rolling green hills, beautiful music and drinking. Whether your poison be whiskey or a pint of your favorite brew; Ireland satisfies all. Derry, Ireland isn’t on the top of everyone’s must see list but it’s on mine.

It’s charm and appeal is second to its numerous options for drinks. Here’s a list of a few of my favorite places and why;

Paedar O’Donnell’s

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This was hands down my favorite spot and I went here at least three times a week. There is a full band every night that plays traditional Irish music and is adorned in flags from all over the world. It’s rustic oak pillars and line of Guinness’ waited to be topped off is a helpful and unnecessary reminder of where you are. You can expect to pay 3 Pounds for a pint of your choice and about 4 or 5 for mixed drinks. If you are going to go anywhere in Derry, go here.

Bound for Boston

For those who like to listen to live music while getting their drink on, this is the place to go. They have live bands every night playing everything from covers to original music by start up bands. Bound for Boston has an extensive selection of beer and the bartenders are more than willing to help you out. The atmosphere is laid back and the crowd is a younger bunch but it also has booths on either side offering a little more privacy if you’d rather enjoy your music alone.

Tinney’s

Tinney’s will always hold a special place in my heart solely for the music. If you love Irish music or just want to hear a collection of locals playing the music they grew up hearing, come to Tinney’s on Tuesdays. The bar is downstairs and has a normal selection of beers and spirits with TV’s playing the football matches on repeat but head upstairs for the music. Starting at 7 they play music for a couple hours and if you’re lucky, other tourists will join in with songs from their country. I had the opportunity to hear a Japanese folk song, a Spanish lullaby and a Kenyan chant. Absolutely incredible.

Ice Wharf

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The Ice Wharf is where I went for a majority of my meals in Ireland; they were inexpensive,  had great food, and even better beer. You could get a hamburger and fries with a pint of Guinness for 3.99. Can’t beat it. They offer a wide selection of foods from the typical meat and potatoes and potatoes and more potatoes that so customary in Ireland to chicken tikka pizza. All of their meals are affordable and the drinks are the same. You can get fish bowls full of liquor for under $10 and pints for under $3.

On a final note, there isn’t really a bad place to get a drink in Ireland. The people are extremely friendly so when in doubt, ask a local.

The Truth Or Untruth About Traveling Alone As A Female

Everyone has their own opinion about female solo travelers. The label isn’t necessary, they shouldn’t travel by themselves at all, they play it too safe, they’re awe-inspiring.

Regardless of personal opinions, I want to talk about a conversation I had with my younger sister and mom. We watched an amazingly well done video by a man and his friend who traveled throughout Central and South America in a Jeep. No hotels, limited food and water, they just went.

As we’re watching the video my sister just says, “I wish we could do that as women.” It struck me. Because for all intensive purposes, we could if we wanted to but on the other hand, there’s something daunting and frightening and too risky about it all.

The idea of getting into a car and just driving sounds appealing to me but once you start to really think about the logistics of it all, it becomes hazy. What happens if the car breaks down? I don’t know how to do any sort of car repair. What happens if I’m in the middle of nowhere and can’t find my way back? And the always asked, What if I get kidnapped or stolen or sold into white slavery?

They’re pretty presumptuous questions to ask but do they have a point?

Do women have a bigger target as travelers or are we just putting that on ourselves? Are we allowing ourselves to be encapsulated by this label?

I don’t know the answer, I’m just intrigued by the whole idea of it all. The only way to end this is by saying, if you feel you’re ready for whatever it is you’re preparing for, then you’re ready.