A major focus for women in 2017 was self-love and I was no different given my mantra was: fall in love with yourself. An awesome follow-up to 2016’s mantra, “Do whatever you want.” I liked going to museums, dinners and hikes alone and dealt with loneliness whenever it came around but I wanted to take it up a notch. The next natural step on my self-love journey was to travel alone. This would technically be my first solo trip anywhere. I didn’t count my two study abroad trips in college. And, considering I’d traveled extensively outside of the U.S., I figured a cross-country trip was in order. It was about time I got to explore this country’s natural wonders, a.k.a. Native land, like the Badlands National Park, Grand Tetons, and Grand Canyon.
It felt odd at first to plan this alone but as time went on I fell more in love with the idea, especially since I got to map out every stop according to little ol’ me. I was still worried that I would get lonely and want to turn back or that it would be unsafe but my biggest worry was if I could truly enjoy my company for 18 whole days on the road. If I really did want to fall in love myself then shouldn’t I be able to do it? I thought this was a perfect opportunity to find out. But not everyone was thrilled with the idea – meaning my Peruvian parents were kind of freaking out.
When I told my mother she furrowed her brow and said, “Pero porque vas a ir sola? Una mujer no puede hacer un paseo asi. No entiendo,” which only motivated a feminist like myself even more. My father turned completely pale followed by taking off his bracelet telling me to give it back to him when I got back safe and sound. Adding that if at any point during the trip I felt lonely that I should read the Padre Nuestro prayer since it was engraved right on there. His reaction gave me anxiety and even made me cry while packing. Even my friends were a bit worried, some comparing my trip to Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, where she trekked the the Pacific Crest Trail. But I was going to be a in car, so not so wild afterall.
There are a few things you should love before taking on a solo road trip: your own company to some extent, audio anything (music, audio books, etc.), and, most importantly, driving. I mean absolutely love driving because there will be times where you will be on the road for many, many miles, at times not seeing a single soul for hours. And, you definitely need to teach yourself how to use the self-timer on your camera.
When you roll solo, you have total control of when you hit the road. So while you should avoid driving at night for safety purposes, make sure to check when the sun is going to set so you can catch the sunset toward the last hour of wherever you are headed. It’s pretty breathtaking. Marvel at it. Pat yourself on the back because you are the one who took you there. No one else.
I had seen photos of the Badlands National Park online before leaving but when I saw it in person, I started crying. Literal tears of joy. It was immense and pretty stunning up close. It felt as if I stepped onto another planet and watching the documentary at the welcome center of it’s native history is a must.
I didn’t think I was going to be impressed by Mount Rushmore but as soon as I saw it from the highway I pulled over to take it all in. It’s a super impressive sculpture if you look at it from that angle. And, what’s even better: Crazy Horse Memorial is just around the way, a mountain monument still under construction honoring Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse.
If someone in or near the lovely state of Wyoming says, “The roads are fine” in the middle of November, that actually means that they’re in fact not fine. Those roads probably have 1-3 inches of snow and are meant for the safe and confident driver, which I realized I was on this trip, so drive slowly. I drove 20 miles per hour on snowy mountains for 2 hours because I was already in too deep to turn around. However, this winter wonderland kind of made up for that anxiety-ridden solo drive.
Awesome surprise: My friend Carol decided to join me for part of my trip. We didn’t expect to make a stop at The Arches National Park but we were told it was required if we were already on our way to The Grand Canyon. It’s in Utah and you get to see over 2,000 sandstone arches. Native Americans lived in this area thousands of years ago so be sure to take the time to give this native land lots of love and respect.
What do you do when you’re scared of heights? You go hiking and try to conquer that fear. The hike was strenuous and it took me about 30 minutes to get comfortable with the drop offs. I had to switch up my self-talk from “You’re going to die” to “You are going to be just fine. You got this.” The next two hours of that hike were awesome. Once the hike was over and I survived, my confidence was at an all-time high. Nothing will make you feel more like a badass.
Not only were the Red Rocks amazingly picturesque but they have spiritual energy that is supposed to help you heal in many ways. This was just supposed to be a 2-hour stop but ended up being 6-hours. I even FaceTimed my parents from there and they were so excited to see what I was seeing. It made the hike there so worth it.
A word to the wise: Pack a pillow and blanket. You never know when you might need a nap or you don’t have the energy to make it to the hotel so you sleep at a rest stop in New Mexico. But we got up early enough to hit the ground running and get awesome roadside photos.
The Hamilton Pool Reserve is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Austin. It’s a natural pool that was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed. Pack your lunch, take a dip or just stare at it in awe. Then end your night singing along at Dueling Piano Bars for guaranteed good vibes and drinks. They take requests really fast!
I put New Orleans on my travel bucket list for the year so when this road trip came about I immediately added two nights here. I went to Cafe Du Monde, ate some Cajun Fried Chicken, and then went jazz club hopping. It wasn’t until then that I realized that I gave myself a trip of a lifetime. I even did a little ghost hunting at Muriel’s Restaurant but can’t report anything concrete except for this bougee portrait.
This was one of the most rewarding, confident-building, emotional, independent, challenging, scary, amazing, life-changing trips I’ve ever taken. Just remember: Be smart, don’t take insane risks, and embrace the unknown. Your future self will join the other badass Latinx travelers who have as well! So, do yourself a favor and take a solo road trip because 7,225 miles later, I truly feel like my most fearless self, ever.