Solo Travel: Eat, Pray, Love in Northern California
By Nadeen White
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I also toured the city known for Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row and the Nobel Prize winner for literature-John Steinbeck.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!