Endless Caravan: Solo But Never Lonely

Over the years solo travel has kind of turned into my thing. Of all the questions I get from people, the most common one is “Do you get lonely?”. That’s a fair question to ask, as when people tend to think about going on an adventure, going at it alone isn’t what usually comes to mind. Sure, there is a lot of alone time… but when you look at the situation as a an intentional choice, solo travel can make you feel liberated and independent, not lonely. But the truth of the matter is, I am not always on my own. In fact, I find that traveling alone opens me up to meeting new people on the road since you are not occupied with the company of a travel companion. So far on my three weeks on the road in the Airstream Nest, I have been blown away by the kindness of strangers I have encountered along the way.

As I was driving through the south on my way to New Orleans, I decided I need to stop in Biloxi, Mississippi to try crawfish for the first time. I found a spot that seemed like a place the locals out go called The Filling Station… and the tables around me heard me ask the waitress what was the best was to deconstruct these small crustaceans to get the most meat. The tables of people sitting around me overheard that I was a crawfish virgin, and multiple different people chimed in to give me their two cents on the best way to go about it eating these guys. The conversations evolved into asking me what I was doing in town and where I was heading. They all proceeded to give me a laundry list of tips of things to see and what to do along the next steps of my adventure in areas they were familiar with. My meal ended with hugs from these people who started out as complete strangers, and well-wishes for my journey ahead.

Once I made it to New Orleans, some of my closest friends in Los Angeles suggested some folks I should meet up with in town. Knowing the best way to experience a new place was through the eyes of a local, I happily took up the opportunity. The first person I reached out to was this guy Nunez who grew up in NOLA, and now hops around town DJing at all the bars in town that were up my alley. So of course he had a long list of suggestions of places to eat and drink… but on top of that, he asked if I wanted to spend a day on a boat in the swamps outside of the city and get up-close-and-personal with some gators.

I’ve wanted to explore the swamplands for years, so I took him up on this offer, no questions asked. As Nunez and I drove out to the swamps, he filled my head with information about the area, and memories he had growing up as a kid. We arrived at a small family farm where we met up with his friend Broc… a local commercial gator hunter who was going to take us out on the boat for the day. But first, they gave me a taste of how people in these parts had a little fun. We drove into a marsh and proceeded to let off shotgun rounds aimed at cans… this was certainly an experience the average tourist wouldn’t come across. After having our fill of that we made our way to the mouth of a nearby bayou… while I sat with a huge smile on my face sitting in the back of a pickup truck with the wind in my hair watching farm houses on stilts pass by. We spent a few hours out on those waters, both Nunez and Broc giving me a lay of the land, endless stories, and local knowledge. There were alligators to be seen everywhere, Broc made a point to wrangle up a smaller one so I could get a photo holding it. I was slightly apprehensive, but knew it would be worth it. That little guy was incredibly strong, lashing around trying to escape my grip… but we managed to get a shot where it looked like it was no big deal. I’m so grateful for the authentic experience those boys afforded me, without expecting anything in return.

From New Orleans, I made my way to the heart of Texas… Austin. While there I ate my fair share of TexMex and BBQ, so I felt like it was necessary for me to seek out something on the healthier side. Another friend in Los Angeles put me in touch with husband and wife duo, Kevin and Carol Johnson, the owners of Zero Gravity Institute… who ended up inviting me into their float spa to try it out for free. For those of you who have never heard of floatation tanks… they are small, enclosed, light and sound proof containers filled with a few inches of water containing enough Epson salt for you to effortlessly float on the surface, creating a zero-gravity experience. During a session, you lie on the surface of the water in complete darkness and silence… for an hour of complete sensory deprivation. There is a long list of reported benefits from this treatment… from reduction of muscle tension and stress to increased clarity and hydration. I spent some time after my session talking with Carol, as I was full of questions afterwards, which she happily answered. I highly recommend finding a float center near you to give it a try yourself… it’s a surreal experience that will leave you feeling incredibly refreshed afterwards.

There have been countless other situations of people helping me back into camping spots and giving me tips of things to check out along my route. It’s situations like this that dispel all the negativity projected in the news and media, and make me realize that in general, most people are good… even perfect strangers. Cruising around the country in the Nest has made me realize that even though I am traveling solo, I am more connected to other than I could have ever imagined.