Solo Female Road Trip Q&A (with dog tips!)

Since my first 33 day cross-country solo trip after a bad break-up, traveling alone has been one of my favorite ways to adventure. I’ve slept in gas station rest stops, remote forest campsites,  cheap motels, KOAs off the highway–you name it, I’ve stayed there alone. Most recently, I hit the road to tick off my last 8 states on my quest to hitting all 50–my first solo trip with a dog in tow. You all had a lot of questions about traveling solo, so I wanted to create a resource to answer ’em all.

Before I dive into the nitty gritty of solo trips, dealing with anxiety + safety, finding places to stay, and more, I want to address my privilege as a solo female traveler. I am a queer Latinx, but I am totally white-and-straight-passing–and that creates an ability to travel with a level of inherent ease that is not a given for solo women of color. That said, if any non-white women have specific advice for solo travel for WOC, please leave a comment and I will add it to this guide as a resource.

The #1 question: How do you deal with safety?

I received this question in every iteration possible, especially in regards to overnight stays alone and hiking alone. There are many steps I take to prioritize safety when I travel, but the most important idea is: I always trust my gut. It doesn’t happen often, but when I get a bad feeling, I boogie, no questions asked. It doesn’t happen often, but if my gut tells me to go (which is very different from my general this-is-scary anxiety, which I’ll address later), I go. While Spaghetti and I were hiking on a paved path at Sleeping Bear Dunes, we heard a pop! pop! pop! in the near distance, and I remembered that it’s hunting season. We weren’t wearing any bright colors, and I felt uncomfortable, so we left.

I make a habit out of being hyper observant. At a trailhead, I scan all the cars in the parking lot and totally judge them based on bumper stickers, etc. On the trail, I keep mental notes on the folks I pass and sometimes tag along behind other groups to feel an added sense of security. In cities, I avoid dark streets, and prefer to be in my hotel at night. When I camp, I prefer to do so in places where I have cell service–or I’ll bring a satellite phone in case of emergency (most in case of car trouble vs. ‘safety’). Also when camping or sleeping in my car, I always have my car keys within reach and a clear path to the driver’s seat so I can hop in and speed off if I need to.

I turn on ‘Find My Friends’ on my iPhone and allow both parents and my partner to see where I am at all times. This makes them feel better, and it makes me feel better too. And when it comes to social media, I only post content that shares my location after I’ve left that place.

Get yourself some pepper spray. I also always carry a Buck knife my dad gave me many years ago on my first solo trip, and often sleep with it under my pillow. I chatted with a few women who have taken self-defense classes, and I highly recommend that path if you want to cultivate confidence in your ability to protect yourself. As for guns, yes, I did once consider getting one before my four-month solo road trip–but quickly realized that guns make me uncomfortable and I didn’t have confidence that I’d be able to use one to effectively defend myself.

Related: Whats the scariest part of traveling solo as a woman?

Men.

An uncomfortable subject to address because I am not asking to be harassed when I wear make up, nor is any woman who chooses to wear whatever she pleases, but: I also often don’t wear make-up while traveling alone. Men tend to see any solo female traveler as an invitation for suggestive comments, so I often find myself not presenting myself the way I want to be while traveling solo, purely in an attempt to deter men who apparently cannot control themselves in the presence of women. Men, do better so I can comfortably wear my eyeliner and leggings while traveling solo kthanks.

Do you decide where you’re going to stay ahead of time, or do you wing it?

Both. I spend a lot of time on Google Maps figuring out the drive times to various distances, scope out options for where to stay in each spot, then I’ll either settle on a destination for the day, or just start to wing it. I always try to keep it flexible so I can go with the flow depending on how tired I am, how much time I spend at pit stops, etc. Giving yourself options and knowing that you have ’em helps cultivate that solo traveler confidence.

What are you travel essentials?

I want to do a dedicated post on my must-have road trip essentials, but briefly:

  • A paper map. Technology will fail you, so I always road trip with my trusty road atlas.
  • My use-less-plastic kit: a giant Hydroflask water bottle, a Hydroflask growler that is always full of water for back up, reusable utensils + straw, a tupperwear for leftovers when eating out, and a few different sized zip-lock bags that I wash + reuse.
  • My go-to Ursa Major skin care kit: their balm, face wash, and wipes for when I can’t wash my face.
  • My ‘tech’ kit where I keep: all my device cables + plugs, my Garmin watch, a collection of Goal Zero mini chargers, etc.
  • An iPhone tri-pod so I can take selfies. No shame.
  • Blankets, all the blankets. And a full-size pillow.
  • Whatever creature comforts will make you feel more comfortable and confident on the road. It’s a road trip, so you don’t have to pack light. If it makes you feel better, bring it.

How do you keep entertained on long rides? How do you stay awake?

I love driving solo–I used to want to be a semi-truck driver. As long as there’s light out, I can drive forever. I listen to podcasts, livestream my local NPR station from home, jam to the trashy Miami music I don’t usually get to listen to, and use the time to reflect.

I find that once I hit a groove of driving, the time flies quickly. I also stop whenever I want to, and try to break up long stretches with short hikes. When I stop for gas or to pee, I always do a little lap around the car doing knee-highs and shaking my arms above my head like a wild person to keep the blood flowing.

As for staying awake: I have realized that I don’t do well driving at night, primarily because I’m night-blind and can’t see super well in the dark. So, I don’t drive at night. The beauty of solo travel is, you’re running on your own agenda, so you can stop whenever you want. When I get tired on the road, I stop.

How do you stay organized?

I don’t. The chaos tends to spread quickly on a road trip, so I use a pitstop a day to reel it in and clean up the mess. I use a lot of Topo Designs travel bags in various sizes and try to have a place where everything belongs.

what’s the hardest part of traveling solo?

It’s expensive. Traveling with a partner means  gas is split, park entry fees are split, hotel rooms are split, everything is a bit more affordable. When I’m solo, all the costs are mine to bear. Since I stayed in hotels each night of this trip due to the snow and winter conditions, I made peace with the reality that it was going to be way more expensive than my usual camping + dirtbaggin’ trips.

Do you get lonely? How do you get over missing your partner? 

Solo travel is lonely, but I love it for that. I am an introvert, and thrive on alone time. Lean into that idea, and fully embrace the spirit of solitude. Knowing that it’s for a finite amount of time really helps me dig into the rad feeling of being alone. As for missing my partner, I of course miss him, but he travels so frequently that we’re both used to be apart. Plus, time spent apart and focusing on our independent pursuits only strengthens the relationship.

Let’s talk about dogs + solo travel

To be honest, traveling with Spaghetti doesn’t make me feel significantly more safe than just purely traveling alone. She’s a 25 lb. muppet with a soft bark and a tendency to get really scared, so it’s not like she’s going to attack anyone. She does provide excellent company and make me feel less alone.

Solo travel with a dog is harder than I expected, especially during this most recent winter trip. All outdoor seating is closed for the season, so there wasn’t a single restaurant I could eat at with her. Instead, I ate most of my meals in the car or in our hotel rooms. And since we weren’t camping, I had to find dog friendly lodging each night. Pro tip: Motel 6 allows dogs and doesn’t charge an extra fee for ’em! 

When I had to leave Spaghetti in the car (never for more than 30 minutes on this trip), I made sure all food was packed away. The one time I didn’t, she stole a slice of pizza. She has separation anxiety we’re still working on, so having to stay with her all the time did impact my ability to do a lot of things. And traveling with a dog completely changed my relationship with National Parks. They’re inherently not-dog-friendly (for good reason), so I found myself spending less time in them.

And lastly, my favorite reader question: Have you had to pee in a water bottle yet? 

Yes, many times. Ladies, I prefer to pee into something like a large yogurt container because my aim is not very good. You can also get a device like the She-Wee to pee with, but I get fussy about the idea of needing a penis-mimicking device to complete a function my vagina is perfectly capable of handling on its own, so I pee into yogurt containers instead, ha!

Have more questions? Want to share your own advice for traveling solo? Leave ’em in the comments!

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Weeks 0 & 1: Goodbye Denver, Hello Boulder!

It’s been about two weeks since I turned in the keys to my adorable house on Grant Street in Denver. Packing up my entire life and downsizing to accommodate my new mobile lifestyle was a whirlwind. At first, I skimmed my belongings and clung to sentiments, barely making a dent in the massive amount of stuff I had accumulated during my two years living in Colorado. As go-time lurked closer and closer, I quickly converted towards the “Purge all the things!” mind set. On November 30th, I slid the key to 159 S Grant street off my carabiner and locked the door behind me.

My darling old house on historic South Grant Street in Colorado.

Since then, I’ve stayed in two Airbnbs in Boulder while wrapping up work at OIA’s HQ. Why two? Well, the first one turned out to be a major mistake in judgement–I actually don’t even have any pictures of the place. It was a charming property with tons of house plants and a very kind (but super chatty) host, but we eventually had to cancel our reservation after Mcgoo literally became allergic to the funky air and houseflies + a noisy heater rendered us sleepless. It would have been a good spot if we were just staying for a night or two, but we’ve learned our longer stays = being a bit choosier with our Airbnbs.

Thank goodness for a flexible cancellation policy.

Our new Airbnb in Boulder is divine. I can’t wait to show you pictures next week. It’s a gorgeous two-bedroom house owned by a climber couple with impeccable style. The walls are adorned with mountain paintings, polaroids from Yosemite, and concert posters featuring bands like TV On The Radio, The Roots, and The Black Keys. Bookshelves are lined with climbing guidebooks, beautiful animal bones, and tchotchkes from the hosts’ travels. I am seriously kicking myself for not booking this place originally. A fresh coat of snow only makes this place even more flawless. I’m in love.

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While in Boulder we’ve been taking it easy as we adjust to this nomadic lifestyle. There’s a lot to learn. Since I’m still working out of the office, I’ve been horrible about cooking my own meals. My relationship with Whole Foods is getting seriously unhealthy–in an ironically healthy way.

These tofu salad rolls from the Whole Foods sushi bar are addictive. I mean, look at them. Who wouldn’t want that for lunch, every day?

The tofu salad roll from Whole Foods' sushi bar.

I’m also getting a little sentimental about leaving Outdoor Industry Association HQ. I’ll be traveling back to the Front Range frequently for important company events and spending time with my colleagues, but damn, I’m going to miss them. Our team is top notch, and I love spending time with my ragtag crew of co-workers. I mean, how many other marketing departments get together to climb during lunch on a regular basis?

It’ll be sad saying goodbye, but I’m stoked to convince all of them to come meet me out on the road at some point…

The view from Lake Standley in Colorado.

Next week is our last before we hit the road down to Miami for the holidays. Confession: I still have a bit of purging and organizing to do before we’ll be able to fit everything in just two cars (Mcgoo’s Subaru Outback–which is what we’ll be traveling in–and my Scion tC). It’s going to be a tight squeeze, but we’ve got a few things like paintings and family heirlooms that we have to transport back to Florida for storage before we finalize our on-the-go packing situation. Wish me luck!

Want to follow along on my adventures? Get connected on Twitter, FacebookInstagram. For all the action in real-time, make sure to follow me on Snapchat – username: kboue! 

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Hitting the Road for the End of Summer

I’m finally surrendering to the seasons – summer (almost, pretty much, but not quite yet) is over. The air is slowly shifting towards a crisp chill, and I keep spying overeager trees with gold and crimson leaves. Fine. I can jive with the thought of thick scarves and cool climbing weather. But first I need to give my beloved summertime a proper send off.

I’m hitting the road for 3,766 miles of road trippin’!

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Here’s what’s really going on: Amble is coming back to Colorado for the fall, and I need to go scoop her cute toosh from Tallahassee, Florida. Given a perfect storm of holidays and PTO and other travel plans, it just made sense to hit the road and live out of the Subaru for 10 days to complete the mission. The adventure begins with the Colorado mountain wedding of two of my favorite humans, then continues southward towards Albuquerque, New Mexico. We’re passing through Durango on the way, so I’m hoping to hop out of the car for a few hours to explore if time permits.

After trucking across Texas–seriously why is that state so damn big–I’ll make a stop in Baton Rouge to visit an OIA member and do an interview + photoshoot at their outdoor retail shop. From there, it’s to the coast. I have a serious craving for saltwater and sand, so I’m spending a few days soaking up as much salty bliss as I can before hitting my most eastern destination: Tallahassee to pick up Amble pup!

IMG_1197The forecast is promising lots of rain, rain, and more rain–but ain’t nothing going to dampen how excited I am about reuniting with my pup and basking in some saltwater. Spending a few nights cozied up in mountain cabins and seaside shacks with my adventure partner doesn’t sound too shabby either.

Do you have any end of summer trips planned? Are you ready to give up the season of sunshine and swimming holes? I want to hear your plans! Be sure to follow my journey in real-time on Snapchat (kboue), Twitter, and Instagram.

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Five Adventurous Must-Reads for Summertime

Top 5 Adventurous Summertime ReadsAh, summertime. The most magical time of the year, if you ask me. Mornings are cool out on the patio sipping iced tea, afternoons are perfect for lazy tanning at the park, and evenings just beg you to cozy up in your bed with open windows. And what better accessory for all of these sublime situations than a book?

I’ll be honest, I’m a horrible reader. As a writer, I’m pretty sure I should be reading 100x more than I usually do – so I’m trying to amp up my literary chops with five fantastic adventurous books. As I complete each publication (bear with me, I read at a sloth’s pace), they’ll get their own individual reviews, but here are the five books that will keep my nose buried deep in their pages throughout the summertime. Continue reading

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Final thoughts on 2011, and cheers to upcoming adventures in 2012

It’s here once again – my favorite holiday. The best day of the year for reflecting on the best and worst moments from the past, and looking towards the future with hope and an eager resolve to make the upcoming year even better than the last.

This year was the first year where I began to dedicate my life to the art of road tripping. Over the span of two cross-country trips and countless climbing excursions, I traveled to 21 states from Alabama to California. I visited ten National Parks – thanks to my wonderful annual parks pass. From the swamps of the Everglades and camping in Yosemite to the giant towering trees of Sequoia and the sand dunes at Death Valley, my explorations through America’s National Parks were one of the defining aspects of my adventures.

I graduated from Florida State University in April, and quickly sped off on my first road trip of 2011 – a six-week delve into car-dwelling and extended travel with my boyfriend, Niko. As we traveled across over 6,400 miles together, we climbed some of the most beautiful rock formations in the country, sampled amazing grub, and slept beneath the stars.

During our four-month relationship hiatus, I embarked on my own solo road trip. Embracing the idea of solitude for the first time, I traveled alone across 17 states and 6,657 miles. I also made my first ‘adult’ decision, and moved up to Denver, Colorado to get a taste of mountain living.

And now here I am, on the eve of the new year. You’ll currently find me holed up at Tallahassee Rock Gym, the place where it all began. It truly feels like I’ve come full-circle this year, and I couldn’t be most satisfied with where my life has led me. It feels so appropriate to be ringing in the 2012 with a final day spent slaving away setting new routes and cleaning the rock gym, then by the time the clock strikes midnight I’ll be on the road to Rocktown for a climbing trip to start my year right.

So, I propose a toast.

Here’s to 2012.

New adventures, new destinations, new climbing ascents,
and lots of saving up for 2013.

Readers, expect huge things from The Morning Fresh in 2012. My goal for this upcoming year is to position myself as an established travel and adventure blogger, and to begin truly dedicating myself to my photography and other creative projects. Here’s to finally catching up on overdue posts from my cross-country adventures, an increased social media presence, and working to inspire others to join me in the quest for living a simpler life on the road.

Thank you for your readership, comments, tweets, and unwavering support. I appreciate each and every one of you, and can’t express my gratitude enough. Have a wonderful new year, and keep your spirit high on adventures.

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