Road trip with strangers

I turned thirty-four at the end of June and decided the best way to celebrate would be to go on a road trip. I was going at it alone, for seven days, covering over 2000 miles through California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Whenever I set out on these adventures by myself, a certain type of worry creeps into my thinking the days before I am about to leave.

“What am I going to do with myself?”
“What if I get bored?”
“Will people look at me weird in restaurants when I ask for a table for one?”

I worry about these things every time. But still I go, because I refuse to let the fact that I don’t have anybody or couldn’t convince anybody to go with me deter me from exploring and experiencing some place I have never been before.

With the limited amount of time I had (one week) I couldn’t just start driving without a plan of where I was going. Simply winging it is just not something I am particularly good at. So I made a plan, an itinerary of some sort where I would want to be when and what I was planning on doing there. With a little room at the end for some improvisation. On June 27, I loaded all the gear I needed for all the adventures I had in mind into my car and left the Bay Area, heading northwest.

On my birthday, I encircled Lake Tahoe, a 73 mile loop around the largest alpine lake in North America.
In Zion National Park, I hiked the infamous Narrows.
In Bryce Canyon National Park, I did the Under The Rim Trail with an overnight stay in the wilderness.
In Arches National Park I cycled the entire Scenic Drive to Devil’s Garden and back.

Even though I technically did all those things by myself, in that I had not taken anybody with me I had known before this trip, I was never really alone. Taking a trip around Independence Day brings with it that one is by far not the only person on the road. But beyond that, there is always a chance to meet like-minded people. If you are open to it.

There were Courtney, her sister Lauren and Becky, who were also doing the Narrows hike in Zion, who offered me their campsite, since I did not have a place to stay. They even invited me for dinner. Hot dogs. I was grateful.

There was Ben, a 28-year old software engineer living in LA, who had the campsite next to mine at the Sunset Campground in Bryce Canyon. He had burned his Jetboil stove trying to heat up soup. We ended up going for dinner instead and chatted for more than two hours.

Andrew, a recent graduate from DC and family therapist to be, and I ended up being the only two human beings on the Under The Rim Trail in Bryce. We linked up after getting off the shuttle and decided it would be better to hike with company rather than alone. And so we did. Resurfacing from the wilderness forty-eight hours later and getting our picture taken next to the trail sign.

I had numerous other smaller encounters with people along the way. An older couple car camping in Bryce that let me take a peek in their campervan after I had shown interest in the setup of their vehicle. The baristas at the Red Rock Cafe in Moab who were all to eager to tell me why everyone is so freakin’ happy there.

Once again I managed to answer my own questions and expose my fears as unfounded. I cannot recall I ever felt bored or sorry that I was out there by myself during the entire trip. I did not feel self-conscious walking into restaurants and get a table for one. I just didn’t care. I was just happy to be where I wanted to be. And if you put yourself out there and are open to make new connections, road trips will provide those opportunities. If you enter an environment that is abound with people of similar interests, there is always a chance that you can hang out with someone. Might it be for five minutes, five hours or two days.