Over the years, solo travel has kind of turned into my thing. Of all the questions people ask me, the most common is: “Do you get lonely?” It’s a fair question– when people think of going on an adventure, going at it alone isn’t what usually comes to mind. Sure, there is a lot of solitary time when traveling alone. But when you view the situation as an intentional choice, solo travel can make you feel liberated and independent, not lonely.
The truth of the matter is… I’m not always on my own. In fact, I find that traveling alone opens me up to meeting new people on the road since I’m not occupied with the company of a travel companion. During my three weeks on the road in Nest so far, I’ve been blown away by the kindness of strangers who I have encountered along this journey.
As I was driving through the south on the way to New Orleans, I decided to stop in Biloxi, Mississippi, to try crawfish for the first time. I found a spot that seemed like a place the locals go: The Fillin’ Station. Those sitting at the tables around me in the restaurant heard when I asked the waitress how to best deconstruct these small crustaceans and get the most meat. From that question, those around me realized I was a crawfish virgin, and multiple different people chimed in to give me their two cents on the best way to go about eating these little 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 things to see and do along the next steps of my adventure. My meal ended with hugs from these now-friends, who started out as complete strangers, and well-wishes for my journey ahead.
In New Orleans, I met up with some folks that I was connected to by my closest friends in L.A. Knowing the best way to experience a new place is through the eyes of a local, I happily took this opportunity. The first person I reached out to was a guy named Nunez who grew up in NOLA, and now hops around town DJ’ing at bars in town. So, of course he had a long list of suggestions of places to eat and drink. On top of that, he also invited me to spend a day on a boat in the swamps outside of the city to 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, telling stories about 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 taking us out on the boat for the day. But first, they gave me a taste of how people in these parts have 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. On the ride there, 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, and 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 Austin, the heart of Texas. By this point, I’d already eaten 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 from L.A. put me in touch with a husband and wife duo, Kevin and Carol Johnson, the owners of Zero Gravity Institute. They 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 Epsom 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 utter darkness and silence for an hour of complete sensory deprivation. The reported benefits from this treatment range from reduction of muscle tension and stress, to increased clarity and hydration. I spent some time after my session talking with Carol (since I was full of questions afterward) and she happily gave me a lot of helpful information. I highly recommend finding a float center near you to try out. It’s a surreal experience that will leave you feeling incredibly refreshed.
On this journey, there have been countless 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 Nest has made me realize that even though I am traveling solo, I am more connected to others than I ever could have imagined.