I love traveling alone! Solo trips have helped me learn to love spending time with myself. I am so darn glad that I have, because I think I am pretty cool. (lol) Some of the greatest things about traveling solo are the freedom, the opportunities to live in the moment, and the way it changes you into a stronger and better version of yourself.
You get to make your own choices without worrying if someone else will like it. Want to go on the roller-coaster ride 15 times? DO IT! Want to go for a ten hour walk around town?! YOU GO GIRL! Want to spend the day curled up with a book on the beach? Yup, it’s all you, gooooo do it.
I love the independence traveling alone offers. You are in charge of your own density; your own time. That openness allows you to change your plans at the last minute to do something that you never knew was even an option. Traveling alone allows for you to be crazy flexible and do whatever makes you the happiest. This type of freedom allows for the most wonderful ‘meet cute’ with strangers who may become new friends. (Okay, have you watched the movie The Holiday? When Kate Winslet’s character is talking with Cameron Diaz’s neighbor and learns what the term “meet cute” means?! Seriously, love that movie. lol)
Live In the Moment
You get to choose how you want to take it all in. You get to choose the way you want to travel. You get to choose where you want to go. You get to choose to be in the moment for… every moment.
I remember the last time I was in Prague, I had a just few hours left in the city til my flight out and I had about 10 koruna left in my pocket. Knowing I was leaving, I didn’t really want to exchange any more money, so I stopped at a café in this adorable square near the hostel I was staying. I chose a comfy spot, near a heater, outside in the cold, and draped the provided red blanket over my lap.
I ordered chocolate fondue and a hot cocoa. I enjoyed every single second of my chocolate overload. I watched the people in the square and cozied up to my heater. I reflected on my amazing trip while I was still ON my trip. What a rare opportunity!
I really believe that traveling solo gives you a chance to find your own rhythm and it is my opinion that everyone should try it at least once.
Trust and Believe In Yourself
Traveling solo puts you in positions to really learn who you are, to challenge yourself, and it opens you up new possibilities – both on your trip and in life in general.
I admit, this can be scary sometimes, it can cause you to have to step outside of your comfort zone, it can cause a bit of anxiety or nerves, but it helps you grow. In changes you in a way that we don’t see coming.
If you are trying to get somewhere, you have to figure out the map and/or the transportation system. If you are looking to make new friends, you have to talk to people. If you get lost, you have to ask for help. If you would like to see the area you’re in, you have to figure out where you want to go for the day.
This repeating of trying new things will cause you to be brave. It will cause you to trust yourself and your skills. It will cause you to believe you are capable of hard things.
Because, the thing is... you are.
I know traveling abroad helped me believe in myself. It helped me trust my inner voice. It changed me. It helped me love myself for who I am and look forward to who I will become.
Traveling to a new place can make you see the entire world differently. My life changed when I learned this as I was living in a another country for the first time. I spent three months enjoying a beautiful Greek Island called Paros. The people there are welcoming, loving, and kind. A large part of me will forever wish I was born Greek!
Travel Opens Your Mind
I remember walking by a 3,000 year old cemetery every day on my way to town. I would shop at the little farmers market so I could support the locals. I enjoyed sitting on the beach to do nothing and experience the three S’s (sand, sun, and sea). I visited many small chapels to discover they are always unlocked and full of welcome.
On the surfaced these things can be found most anywhere in the world: cemeteries, farmers markets, beaches, and religious sites. Experiencing them in Greece allowed me to learn that there is always something deeper to see. That there is more than one way to do something. It showed me that there is a beautiful life completely different from my own upbringing which I grew to love just as deeply.
Travel Challenges You
During my time in Greece my boyfriend (now husband) came to visit me. I had just returned from a couple day visit to Istanbul and met him at the airport. This is important became now we have all this luggage between the two of us. We walked the airport to the bus station so we could travel to the seaport. After an hour bus ride, we see the large Blue Star ship and gather our belongings.
As I watch the bus pull away, I realize that I have left my day pack on the bus. This is VERY important, because my day pack held EVERYTHING vital! My passport, my money, my credit cards, my apartment keys… you get the idea. This was bad.
I panicked. I was mentally freaking out and trying to stay calm because I knew staying calm would help me solve the problem. I crossed the street… thinking that the bus has to circle around eventually… right?! Isn’t that how it works?! Busses are on routes and drive the same route all day long… oh gosh…I don’t know how it works here. That’s the way it works at home… I had desperately hoped that was right.
I stepped onto every single bus that went by to see if my bag was still there. After about an hour of this, I admitted defeat and realized I needed a new plan. I jumped onto one last bus to only ask where I would find lost and found… if the bus line even had one. I had no idea what to do in this situation.
I nervously told the bus driver that I had a question for him. And he said to me, “You lost a bag didn’t you?” wait… “YES, YES I DID!!” He pulled my bag out from the floor by his feet and handed it to me. I thanked him profusely and stepped off the bus like a joyful champion clutching my prize! Upon inspection of the contents, everything was still there. I was elated and grateful. I wish all the best karma on every person who kept my bag safe that day.
Travel Makes You be Resourceful
Having to be resourceful can come in big or small ways. This trip was the first time I ever tried Greek yogurt. One bite and I thought it had an awful flavor! How did people eat that stuff?! I looked and looked for what I considered to be “regular yogurt” but did not find any in the small town I lived in.
I noticed that at the local restaurants, yogurt would be served with honey. I decided to order one and found it was okay. I purchased some Fage (“fa-yeh”) Greek yogurt from the store and picked out a few other toppings in an effort to help me enjoy it. I tried it with honey, Nutella, and peanut butter - among others. I added some fruit to the honey and found some granola. I remember the ratio of topping to yogurt was probably about 50-50. The Greek yogurt flavor was just so strong to me. I began to actually enjoy it every week and before I left I could already see that I was adding less and less topping.
Today, I cannot get enough Fage in my life. I am so thankful I can get that brand in the United States! I eat Greek yogurt almost every day and no longer need to add anything sweet to appease my taste buds. I also find that ‘regular yogurt’ tastes disgusting. Funny how such a small way of being resourceful changed the rest of my life. Imagine what changes you will experience when you have to be resourceful in a bigger way.
(Plus, Fage has crafty commercials, just had to share their artsy side with you!)
Believing In Yourself
You can see from my Greek trip how travel can help a person believe in themselves. Visiting places that can be found around the world, such as the cemeteries, farmers markets, beaches, and religious sites, made me question who I was and what I believed in. They were the same only very different from my own life. Trying these new things helped me build confidence in myself and my ability to be out of my comfort zone. Though to be honest, it was no hardship sitting on the beach. (lol)
And my experience with leaving my bag behind made me stay calm to try and deal with the station. Thankfully it ended well, but in that moment, I had a plan of next steps. Challenges cause to you lean on and depend on you.
Not having a yogurt to eat, which I desperately wanted, caused me to seek a solution. It caused me to have to problem solve and to try something new. So next time I have to solve a problem while abroad, I will already know how to go about it.
Travel does so much more than the examples I mentioned here. It makes you use navigational skills, and step out of your comfort zone. It can make you learn a new language or way of doing something. Travel can make you have to be brave in a way you haven’t been before. Travel will force you to make you friends.
All of these experiences help you believe yourself because you have to keep testing yourself. You have to keep learning and growing and expanding your life skills. As you try something new, as you decide each step, and as you accomplish each challenge you begin realize you are your own best friend. You begin to face challenges head on as you trust that you are capable. You are brave. You are tough. THIS is when you know that travel has irrevocably changed you. Travel has made you, YOU.
It's that time of year again. Everyone is encouraging everyone else to make new goals and new resolutions. I personally have a few serious goals for the year, for example, I'd like to lose 70 pounds, and I think I have a pretty good plan in place for that. I actually like myself as I am, but I want to be a bit healthier and weight loss factors into that. So, go me, right?!
What I REALLY want to talk about is the FUN goals! Things like travel, and adventure, and exploring, and discovery. We all have things we want to fix and change and that is absolutely great, But, just thinking about travel makes me feel all giddy inside!
Getting my Year of Fun and Adventure Started
I think every year, any budget, and any person's life can be packed with fun, adventure, and excitement. It is up to each induvial to fulfill that in a way that works with where they are in life.
At the beginning of every year, I take into account three main things: (1) my lifetime, personal bucket list; (2) THE MAP; and (3) my bucket list for the year.
My personal, and pretty traditional, bucket list looks like what I assume everyone else's looks like. The only difference is that it will be filled with items that are exciting to me vs. another person's idea of fun. For example, on my list I have "See all 50 US sates before I am 50," "Visit all 7 continents before I die," and a big one for me right now is just "Visit the Azores." I have a thing for islands. Just love 'em!
I would say most of my bucket list goals are rather big and require many trips and tasks to accomplish them. And I am perfectly fine with that. In fact, I love it! This type of list makes me feel like my travel dreams have a never ending supply ideas. Each year, I try to mark something off or at least work toward marking something off!
My Bucket List for the Year
At the beginning of the year, I make a bucket list of places I want to go, things I want to see, and things I want to do. People talk about making a bucket list for your life, but WHAT are you doing for 2019?! I get wanting to take those big trips, but ask yourself, "what do you want to accomplish locally?"
My list has local destinations, out of state or out of country destinations, tasks such as hike x number of miles in a year, and other fun ideas. I ask myself these questions:
What does your bucket list look like for the year? Ask yourself how are you focusing on the fun and adventure that life has to offer? I am not talking about a bucket list that includes "paying off that credit card" and though that is important, my question is how are you focusing on you and your dreams? How can you still have fun for YOU no matter what your life situation is at this moment?
The second item I take into account is THE MAP. Somehow it was dubbed exactly what it is (LOL). I have this map. It is a Google Map and it something I started several years ago. It began because I noticed that I would see a cool post about a place on Facebook and think to myself, "Wow, that sounds amazing! I WANT TO GO THERE! I hope I remember that."
Then, six months later I would see another post about the same beautiful location and think "Wow, that sounds amazing! I WANT TO GO THERE! I hope I remember that." Do you see the pattern here?! I would again promptly forget.
At some point, I realized that I was seeing the same places and repeatedly forgetting about them when it came time to make my travel plans. Thus, THE MAP was born.
It is easy to create a saved Google Map and it is easy for the pin points to add up. The way I use it by adding a pin point every time I learn about a unique restaurant, festival, historical site, modern site, museum, bakery, amazing natural wonder, and anything else you can think of!
THE MAP has now grown to take on a life of its own! My sister and friends will message me with interesting sites they come across. I have learned about pin points from magazine articles, Facebook posts, blog posts, conversations, and even while on vacation when I don't have enough time to do everything I learn about. Does it make me terrible that two or three of them are even from ease dropping on conversations that happened around me?!? #noshame #sorrynotsorry
How Do I Use THE MAP?
It turns out there are two ways. First, I sometimes plan trips to specific destinations on THE MAP. I research other things I may want to see or just head to that city for a walk about.
And the second way was unexpected and I found I use THE MAP more often as a travel support tool. It helps me decide what path I want to take along a journey. It helps make a business trip more fun. It helps me find wonderful things to see in a place I am already going to.
The thing I love about it is that the points are things I personally find interesting. They are personal to ME. For example, my hubby and I drove to Florida from Michigan last year. This is a 20+ hour drive, so on way home we detoured to see the Angle Tree in Charleston, South Carolina. It was amazing! It is considered to be a 400-500 year old tree and casts shade over 17,000 square feet! I still cannot believe how beautiful it is and I am so glad I didn't miss it.
There are probably a million things in this world that I would have no desire to see, but someone else would find that very thing something they cannot live another day without seeing. And you know what? That's okay! It is good that we're all different. This style of map allows YOUR MAP to be all about you.
Angel Tree, Charleston, SC, USA - Photo Credit: Audrey Tipper
Accomplishing Those Goals
Let's talk about how the heck do we accomplish all these goals anyway?! Everyone has their take on accomplishing goals. One big thing they always say is that if you write your goals down that you'll accomplish them. To be honest, that has never really worked for me.
It is important for me to have a list to mark off, but I find the actual act of writing down the goals one of the least important parts of goal setting. I find I can write down all KINDS of cool 'goals,' in fact I can make a huge list! But if I don't have actionable tasks to back them up, then they are just a group of skittering thoughts that happened to make it out of my brain and onto some paper.
That being said, the brain dump is an important part of my personal process. I tend to make my start any goal list with what I want to accomplish where I jot down all of the ideas that make sense to me. Then I take a step back and ask myself what is realistic? It is okay if the goal is huge and you aren't sure if you can reach it. If you get close, then have you really lost anything in trying?
Once I have things narrowed down, then I add in the HOW part and a due date for myself. Without the how and a due date, the goals will never get anywhere for me. I have to have actionable SMART goals or they are just words on paper.
To sum it up, when working on goals:
Sounds so simple when you write it down in four things, but I think the hardest part of sticking to goals is personal accountability. If that is something you struggle with, don't be afraid to ask a friend to "hold your feet to the fire" so to speak.
Now, go get started on your bucket list for the year and get all your HOWs down on paper. You got this girl, I believe in you and the fun!
Grandma didn’t know it before we left on our trip. Heck, I didn’t know it before we left. I was unaware it was even possible to feel the way I felt. The feeling was a profound sense of peace. It was something new… I could practically see the pathways of ideas running through my mind. And it would never have happened had I not gone to my 68 year old grandma with a hair brained idea which I had not thought through.
The thing was, I just was so excited. I couldn’t WAIT to tell Grandma about my new plans with my bestie. I met up with Grandma and she listened intently about my plans - she really is supportive and amazing like that. I was animated as I went on and on about trekking across the states, about seeing the wildlife, and being immersed in nature. I talked about the research I had done in reaction to supply pick up points, gear, and people I may meet on the trail. We were going to do a threw hike on the Application Trail! Dang if we weren’t simply over the moon about it!
I imagine my excitement would have been infections to most people but not Grandma. She is full of life and has a joyful spark which is undeniable. Grandma also has the ability to fly with big dreams while keeping one foot attached to logistics. This time, she lovingly and stoically looked at me, and said, “Well, Audrey… maybeyou should TRY backpacking first.”
I can still remember my chest fallen feeling and the simple realization that Grandma was a genius. She had dropped a pretty bomb with her capacity for reality. She then told me that visiting a place called Isle Royale was on her bucket list and she told me she would take me with her because she needed someone to go with. I had never heard of this island and I certainly didn’t know what it would come to mean to me.
This adventure seemed like a win-win! I had a practice trip and Grandma got to mark an item off her bucket list. We got together to plan our meals and to figure out what gear we each needed. I didn’t know anything about hiking really but Grandma did. Grandma organized and led our trip like a pro. Before I knew it, the day had arrived.
We drove 10 hours to get to the first stop, and the next day we took a three hour boat ride to the island. I couldn’t have been more excited!
Day one was awful… day two was awful… my back hurt, my feet hurt, my legs hurt, my shoulders hurt from carrying the pack. This had been a terrible decision and I absolutely HATED backpacking. I really wondered what I had gotten myself into. I was very confident I would never be doing this again. I tried not to complain, but you’ll have to ask Grandma how I did on that.
As the hours went by, something miraculous started to happen. For the first time ever as an adult, I began to relax. As in, truly relax. A type of mental relaxation that I find difficult to describe. I could feel the tension in my brain start to dissolve. While I had been focused on each painstaking step, I had completely missed the fact that my brain was delighted. My mind felt true… peace.
It was a type of peace that I have not found doing anything else. I can only describe it as my brain having the space to think. By day three I began journaling. The rest of the trip I wrote down things about my dreams, my goals, my frustrations, my excitements, things I was angry about and didn’t know how to deal with. Things that made me happy and that I wanted to expand. Just everything and anything really.
And new ideas came to mind. I really felt like my brain was suddenly working in a way it had never worked before. There was a freedom in it that and I had new ideas about all areas of my life.
After the trip, it became very clear to me that we never unplug. We talk a lot about self-care, self-love, unplugging, going on vacation, but I have come to believe that we all struggle to figure out how to truly let our mind take a break. One big reason is that we never give ourselves permission to disconnect to that level. We never give ourselves approval to just be in the moment and to really allow our minds a chance to be free from the rat race for just that minute.
I fell in love with backpacking that week because I saw the immeasurable power in stepping away from the daily grind. I went home with a list of things to accomplish, ways to solve problems, and new things to learn about.
Grandma and I had a wonderful trip. I learned a lot of about hiking safety and the importance of keeping together. I learned that I packed to way too much – I didn’t bring anything that time and I brought LESS the next trip! I made great memories with my grandmother that will be with me the rest of my life. Thank heaven for Grandma’s who keep us on the path to dreams.
Isle Royale calls to Grandma and I. The island sends her song of welcome on the air waves and invites each of us to take part in her offer of peace… we need only respond to her call. We need only accept her offer of contentment. The island is there waiting for you. Tell her hello for me. I will see her again soon
How was I to know that Prague would leave a little mark on my soul? I am certain it was the chocolate that did it. The chocolate and that bright red blanket. Special moments like these inspired me to launch Three Happy Turtles. I want other women experience their own version of chocolate and blankets.
Nestled and warm, covered in red wool, I enjoyed the best chocolate fondue of my life. I watched the passersby, tourists and locals alike, as they journeyed to unknown locations. I could well imagine the exciting destinations they were traipsing to within the city. It was my last day. I was on a plane in a few hours. I knew I was leaving behind a tiny a piece of myself and taking a piece of my new friend with me.
There was an adorable pop up market in the square near where I was staying. I wandered through the tents, enjoyed a glass of mulled red wine, and watched the amazing street artist throw sticks covered in flames.
I located a little café along the edge of the square and sat outside on the cobblestone patio. Each woven chair held a red blanket over its back and several tall cylinders gave off beautiful waves of heat. It felt so cozy and welcoming, that I was drawn into the café’s friendliness.
I spoiled myself with a cup of hot cocoa topped with whip cream and I was thrilled to discover chocolate fondue on the menu. The flame thrower artist continued to entertain his onlookers and a few other street performers paraded around while I gave myself permission to relax and love the day. I dipped strawberries and bananas in my fondue and smiled at a city that was smiling back at me.
These are the days. And the hours. And the moments which moved me to start Three Happy Turtles. Discovery and the ability to unplug are so important that they are an intricate part of our core values. What will you discover? Where was your chocolate and red blanket?
My name is Audrey and I live in Michigan, US with my hubby, little daughter, and my enormous black cat. I am the founder of Three Happy Turtles and my mission is to empower YOU to trust and bellevue in yourself through travel and adventure. Love to each of you, can't wait to hear from you!