Solo Travel: Eat, Pray, Love in Northern California

How do you feel about solo travel? Have you ever done it?
Although I have been fortunate to have many friends and family who love to travel as much as I do and have been great travel partners, in 2011 I was at a crossroads in my life. My Mother had passed away from cancer and a few months prior I went through an emotional break up. I was living in a city that I had only stayed in to take care of my Mother and working a job that was low paying and exhausting. I knew I needed to make some changes in my life and get my emotional strength back but how? I was so busy day to day I hardly had time to think about myself or what to do next. Then it hit me. I needed time for myself. Away from the noise and clutter so my body and mind could rest. I needed to be away from everyone telling me what I should do and instead get incite into my own being and desires. With that, I picked a place on my bucket list.

I centered my trip around the Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey, California. I decided to spend 10 days on my solo trip starting with Carmel/Monterey as my “Love” portion, Yosemite National park for my “Pray” portion ending with San Francisco for my “Eat” portion. My family and friends were nervous. They didn’t like the idea or understand solo travel and I will admit I was a bit scared as well. But having been abroad several times I was a well seasoned traveler and felt comfortable and safe in the US.

Carmel by the Sea

Carmel by the Sea


Love: Carmel and Monterey. The beaches, weather and my room at Adobe Inn with a fireplace were perfect for relaxing and learning to Love myself again. I came armed with 3 things for this trip. 1) A journal to record my thoughts, prayers and plans, 2) the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand about an Olympic athlete who survived being lost at sea and Japanese World War II POW camps 3) the empowerment poem “The Awakening” by Sonny Carroll. In Carmel I took long walks along the beach, ate at restaurants serving fresh delicious foods and did a walking tour of the town-solo.

The distinct architecture of houses in Carmel

The distinct architecture of houses in Carmel

I felt as if there were symbols of love and endurance all around me including this sculpture of an older couple on a park bench.

Beautiful Sculpture of lasting love in Carmel

Beautiful Sculpture of lasting love in Carmel

I did the 17 mile drive in Pebble Beach which is absolutely beautiful. While there I came across the Lone Cypress tree. It sits on a hillside and is thought to be up 250 years old. It has endured fires, increment weather and although it is supported by a cable, it is alive and standing and to me was truly a symbol of strength.

Lone Cypress Tree in Pebble Beach

Lone Cypress Tree in Pebble Beach

In Monterey I spent a day at the Monterey Jazz Festival which is held outdoors and offers such a wide range of talent. I saw India Arie and the legendary Sonny Rollins perform and discovered one of my favorite groups-The Robert Glasper Experiment. I went whale watching which thanks to rough waters, sea sickness and barely seeing the tail of a whale was not enjoyable, but I was proud of myself that I did it! 

Whale Watching in Monterey

Whale Watching in Monterey

I also toured the city known for Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row and the Nobel Prize winner for literature-John Steinbeck.

Cannery Row in Monterey

Cannery Row in Monterey

Pray. Yosemite National Park. I bid adieu to the lovely area of the Monterey Peninsula and drove 5 long hours to Yosemite National Park. I had always imagined seeing this park so it was a dream come true. The last leg of that drive was a bit nerve wracking, up and around tall cliffs. However I made it safely and was proud of myself that I did it. I stayed on the beautiful grounds of the Evergreen Lodge. I should probably mention that I  had never even been camping before and here I was in the woods about to stay in my own little cabin. However, the property is a “luxury” lodge with individual cabins of all sizes around the property with a main lodge holding a lovely restaurant, sitting areas with computers and free wifi.

Evergreen Lodge in Yosemite National Park

Evergreen Lodge in Yosemite National Park

In my cabin there was no TV or wifi only a radio. This was the perfect time to record my thoughts in the journal and read “The Awakening” over and over. The message is clear. You are in charge of your own destiny and happiness. You can wallow in self pity or take charge of your life. I went on tours through the park, long walks on trails through the woods where you could only here the rustling of leaves or squirrels and your own breathing. The place was just breathtaking. I will admit solo travel is not always easy. There were the times eating at tables alone or when I was on a tour in Yosemite with 4 other couples, including newlyweds, that left me feeling a bit lonely. But, I refocused on my own mission. I left there feeling rested and at peace.

At the Half Moon in Yosemite National Park

At the Half Moon in Yosemite National Park

Eat. San Francisco. Driving into the city by the bay filled with traffic, honking horns and noise was a shock to my system after the  peace and tranquility of the Monterey Peninsula and Yosemite National Park. After checking into my hotel in Union square I headed straight to the wharf to start my eating! I never go to California without eating In and Out Burger. I then went to Ghirardelli since I have always wanted one of their big hot fudge sundays but I am always “watching my weight”. It was scrumptious. What a treat! I followed this over the next few days with eating the sesame chicken at Cheesecake Factory, indulging at the farmers market filled with a large varied amount of food vendors, and ending in one of my favorite places-the Ferry Building. You can literally spend the entire day sampling and eating everything from pork buns to specialty cheeses to gourmet ice cream. The best part about all this? I didn’t feel guilty! 

 

Eating a hot fudge sundae at Ghirardelli!

Eating a hot fudge sundae at Ghirardelli!

By the end of my mini “Eat Pray Love” trip I learned many things about myself AND solo travel. I am a strong person. I was so proud of myself for taking these risks and doing everything on my own. I had such a sense of accomplishment and independence. I gave myself time to rest and cry and eat whenever I felt like it with no one to answer to or schedules to keep. All of those things were so refreshing! Since this trip I have been on smaller 3-4 day solo trips to places like Fort Lauderdale Beach and Savannah, GA. I find it just necessary at times to unplug and be one with yourself vs. losing yourself in work and everyone else’s needs. 

If you have never experienced solo travel I hope after reading this you will give it some serious consideration. If you have, tell me where you have been and why you enjoyed it!

Nadeen White

Nadeen White

Creator and Editor of www.thesophisticatedlife.com which covers Travel, Food& Wine, Music& Art! I love living life to the fullest and absorbing all the richness of the people, food and culture around me!

20 Comments

  • Reply December 26, 2014

    My Traveling Troop

    I used to live in Monterey and love the area. Your pictures make me miss it!

    • Reply December 28, 2014

      nadeen

      I cannot even imagine living in Monterey!! It is so beautiful! I look forward to going back. It was hard to take a bad picture there but thank you!

  • Reply December 26, 2014

    Sally

    I absolutely love traveling solo! The thought of doing it was scary at first but I once i did my first solo to San Fransisco, I had enough courage to tour Paris by myself! I realized that you tend to be very present when solo. You take in a lot more than you would in the company of others as there are no distractions. I highly encourage it!
    Great post!

    • Reply December 28, 2014

      nadeen

      Sally this is so true!! No distractions and you can focus on yourself and your needs. I have thought of Paris and London as perfect places for a future solo trip! I have been there previously with friends but would love to explore each on my own at my own pace.

  • Reply December 26, 2014

    Shermika

    Awesome and inspiring story. Looks like you had an amazing time. It’s so good to get away and just BE. Thank you for encouraging others to do the same!

    • Reply December 28, 2014

      nadeen

      Thank you! I do hope this has encouraged even 1 person to go on a solo trip!

  • That’s it… I need another NorCal road trip! I love this post! Great pictures 🙂

    • Reply December 28, 2014

      nadeen

      Thank you Francesca! It is the perfect place for a road trip! I loved driving along Big Sur and in Pebble Beach!

  • Reply December 26, 2014

    Migs

    I can’t wait to travel solo. The thought of it is really nerve wrecking though. I have a friend who travels solo every year to different parts of Latin America and she loves it. I just need to make time for a trip like this. I know I can’t afford ten days away from work but maybe even a little weekend get-away will be nice.

    • Reply December 28, 2014

      nadeen

      Migs yes even a long weekend will give you some time to rest and experience all the great things about solo travel. Find an area close by that you can drive to or take a quick flight to save on time. Please let me know if you do!

  • Reply December 29, 2014

    Vanessa

    Bahamas at the Sivananda Yoga Resort. Very relaxing place on Paradise Island and met some new friends!

    • Reply December 29, 2014

      nadeen

      Vanessa I am so glad you have been able to experience a Solo trip! I have been to to the Bahamas and it is beautiful. A Yoga resort is the perfect place to relax and rejuvinate!

  • This sounds like an amazing Eat | Pray | Love trip Nadeen! I have never done a solo domestic trip, but maybe in 2015 😀

    • Reply January 1, 2015

      nadeen

      Chanel-Thank You! it really was a great trip! If you can fit it in between your International travels 😉 there are so many lovely places in the US to do a solo trip! I personally love getting on the road in California!

  • Reply January 1, 2015

    Felicia

    You have inspired me to just go for it and do a solo trip. I want to do a spa weekend for my BDay in March. I was thinking Arizona?

    • Reply January 1, 2015

      Nadeen

      Felicia I am so glad!! Arizona is a great choice! Search my website http://www.thesophisticatedlife.com for “Scottsdale”. I write about my stay at The Fairmont Princess and there are other recommendations from travel bloggers on solo trips. I hope to get to Sedona this year which I have heard is also great for a “Eat Pray Love” trip!

  • Reply January 6, 2015

    Gina

    I did a solo trip to San Francisco a little over a year ago and it was awesome! I met up with some friends of my friend who used to live in San Fran (I’d never met them before). I did a Wine Tour in Napa, which ended up being a tour of San Fran as well. I also happened to be there when that Make A Wish foundation BatKid thing was going on and got to be a part of that. I was nervous about it, too and, though there were a few hairy moments (a shooting not far from my hotel, some weird man trying to follow me onto an elevator going up to my room when I went to the lobby to see what was going on) it was fine. If you’re alert and do things as safely as possible, solo travel can be a really amazing experience (I speak for travel stateside since I usually travel with company abroad).

    • Reply January 13, 2015

      nadeen

      Gina I totally agree. You do have to be very aware of your surroundings. I love Napa Valley! Such a great area to do a solo trip!

  • […] Have you ever been on a solo trip? I finally documented my first and life changing solo trip for TravelNoire. In 2011 after several heart breaking events in my life I decided to travel to Northern California to “Eat, Pray, Love”. This was of course inspired by the book from Elizabeth Gilbert and the film with Julia Roberts. If you have ever thought of getting away by yourself to relax and recuperate your mind, body and soul then I hope this blog post inspires you to do so. I spent my “Eat” portion in San Francisco, my “Pray” portion in Yosemite National Park and my “Love” portion in Carmel and Monterey! It has been so well received on TravelNoire that I had to share it with The Sophisticated Life readers! I hope you enjoy it. To view the complete article click HERE. […]

  • Reply July 13, 2015

    Cambria

    I have been wanting to do a solo trip for a while now. I just turned 39, married with a daughter but have been craving me time and no one to answer to. Half the people I know look at me weird that I want to do this and the other half say I want to do that also. I am going to drive Mammoth for 4 days in October. I have been there many times and find that places screams “peace & quiet”. I have never done anything like this and a littler nervous…especially eating alone. I loved reading your story and I can’t wait for my little trip.

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