Is Traveling Alone Truly Brave?

Is Traveling Alone Truly Brave?Over and over again on this trip, I’ve had people tell me that I am so brave for traveling alone.

I’m in my own car, in my own country. Familiar with the currency. I speak the language. I have a cell phone – and have signal most of the time.

When I was 21, I moved to Germany with my ex-husband, courtesy of the US Army. I drove all over the place in Southern Germany – where I didn’t speak the language other than the ability to order two beers or some french fries, and to ask how much something cost. We didn’t have cell phones yet. I never thought twice about hopping in the car and going somewhere.

One summer while I lived in Germany, while my husband was deployed to Turkey, I got a Eurorail pass and traveled with a childhood friend around Europe, taking a lot of night trains so we didn’t have to pay for hotel rooms.

That? That was brave. Both my trips around Germany and around Europe. What I’m doing right now? Not so much.

I find it fascinating how much we let fear rule us these days. I think that overall, as a society, we are actually safer than we were 20 years ago. Driving 12,000 miles – so far – doesn’t seem that brave at all to me.

Why is it that people act like if a woman does a road trip like this it is brave, but if a man does it it is no big deal?

There have been moments where I have had to be alert and aware, of course. I’m camping in National Parks. There are bears. I have seen exactly one bear, but that doesn’t mean I’m not staying alert and watching for them. There was the evening I drove across Utah on a 2 lane highway with no cell phone signal. I saw two people walking on the side of the road. A few miles later, I passed their car – they must have been going for gas. I wondered what I would have done if it had been me. I would have pulled over and waited until the morning – in the evening, the road is pretty quiet, but during the day there are a lot of truckers going through. I could have flagged one down to get help sent to me.

Do you have to be smart about it, and pay attention? Of course. But no more than you do in everyday life.

I should add, I do make sure I top off the gas tank a lot more often than I do in Houston. Especially after that night in Utah.

Have you ever traveled alone on a long distance road trip? Did you consider it to be brave?

Look Over the Edge… Beartooth Highway, Montana & Wyoming

Beartooth Highway Lakes - Over the Edge

This photo sums up what is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while driving on this road trip. Matter of fact, taking this photo was the moment that it all hit home.

Slow down.
Don’t fly past everything.
Look around.
Pull over.
Walk.
Look over the edge.

I drove the Beartooth Highway on Friday (and again on Saturday on my way to Big Sky), and it was a thrilling drive. A little crazy, as it is full of crazy curves as you climb up the mountains to the highest elevation highway in Wyoming (10,947 feet) and Montana (10,350 feet), and is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies.

It was overcast. Raining. 54 degrees, versus the 100 degrees in Billings when I left. I didn’t have a jacket on. I wanted to get to the campsite before dark. Storms were starting in the distance, and minutes later I saw lightening.

I had EVERY reason to not stop.

But I did. I stopped to photograph the mountains. 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation in the area, the skyline is amazing. I stood next to the car, planning to hop right back in because I was cold. I was getting the railing in my posts, so I decided to walk to the edge to get it out of the shot.

Once I did, I looked down. There were lakes down there that I would have never seen if I didn’t stop and look.

It is so tempting in life to just fly by everything. To not look at the other points of view. I’ve learned over and over on this trip that when you do stop & look, you’re rewarded with a lot of new discoveries. I knew that before, logically, but the moment I stepped to the edge and saw those lakes, it hit me hard.

Off today now to drive from Big Sky to Glacier National Park, here in Montana. I can’t wait to see what lessons are ahead!