Every year I create a "goals" list rather than a resolution. It's a positive way to go about your year rather than feeling like you're failing at unrealistic things you want to change. In 2016 I wrote "Travel more. Do a solo trip." I traveled a ton in 2016 but the solo trip was something that scared me, even though I really wanted to take one! It took almost three full years after writing that list but I finally did a solo trip and it was one of the most incredible experience of my life.
I feel like I'm in the majority when I say 2018 was the worst year of my life. Nothing went right. My brain was fried, my spirit had definitely been broken at some point, and I was so exhausted. When I was planning my trip to New Jersey to be with my family for the holidays I realized I had 12 days to spend there and thought, "that might be a bit much" (sorry, mom) Around this time I had also looked at my Been app (it helps you keep track of all the states and countries you've traveled). I've been to almost every state on the western half of the country except for New Mexico, Hawaii, and Arizona. Phoenix is a city I was eyeing up for a while so I looked up flights and they were cheap. I texted my niece, Gabriella Marie, and told her my idea (being on the opposite side of the country, I always feel guilty about missing out on family time) and she said "You have to do it. You've had a crazy year. You have to do it". Later that day as I was about to book a flight and hotel my best friend, Alex, called me. She had been to Phoenix earlier that year so I told her my idea, she said "You HAVE to stay at the J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn, it may be more expensive but it's so worth it." I listened to her and booked my flight and hotel while we were on the phone. I was really doing this!
Full disclosure, there are a handful of people I know who live in Phoenix. However, prior to this trip I hadn't hung out with any of them on more than two occasions. I reached out to everyone to let them know when I'd be there in hopes to catch up but it wasn't a make or break for me...this trip was a mental vacation for me. Not to mention, it was a GREAT transition between rainy Washington and freezing New Jersey. Two days prior to my trip I researched some places I should visit and restaurants I should try but told myself that if I did nothing but stay at the resort this would still be a successful trip. This wasn't about exploring, it was about resetting and doing whatever the f*ck I wanted.
A few days before my trip my friend, Alex (a different Alex), told me I needed to hike Camelback Mountain, I hadn't planned on taking my hiking boots or clothes but I thought it would be perfect to get in my first solo hike on my first solo trip. I did some research and realized there were two trails and one was more difficult. I told myself if none of my friends would come with me, I'd do the easy one, I wasn't trying to die on this trip.
I landed in Phoenix on Tuesday at noon and flew out on Thursday at 6pm, the perfect amount of time. I slept most of the flight until we were about to land and I opened the window and saw the AMAZING view. It looked like Mars! And the sun was BEAMING on my face. I couldn't wait to get outside.
When I got to the resort I could.not.believe.it. Was I seriously still in America?! This felt exotic. I had a view of Camelback Mountain and it was SO sunny! I checked in and they drove me to my room in a golf cart, giving me tour of the resort on the way! It was like I had my own mini-hut!
I decided to grab lunch at Sprouts, the restaurant at the spa, before heading to the pool. This was my first experience completely alone and at first I thought "everyone is going to think I'm SO weird" but it wasn't like that AT all. I had my notebook and planner and began jotting down things I needed to do in the new year. It felt amazing.
After lunch I headed to the pool where I was immediately greeted by an employee handing me a water asking me if I needed anything. I could definitely get used to this. I read my book ("Start With Why") and soaked up all the sun I could before it started to cool down. I went back to my room, watched The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Holiday Special on Netflix (they offered Netflix in the room!) and took a nap! I met my friend, Alex, (seriously, the third Alex in this story) for dinner at Culinary Dropout which was recommended by a bunch of people! Dinner was great! I had fried chicken with honey and headed back to the resort.
I watched the Ellen DeGeneres special on Netflix before passing out by 10:30p, already the best vacation ever. I woke up the next day and decided I could do the harder hike because a friend who did it twice encouraged me (Thanks @AlexColoreo!) I was definitely scared. Before heading out the concierge at the J.W. Mariott gave me a TON of water to make sure I was safe! The trail was INSANE. I LOVED IT. It was the hardest hike I have ever done. Scratch that, it's not a hike, it's a climb.
There was something so badass about hiking on my own, let alone on a trail people considered more difficult in a city I have never been where I was completely on my own. It was definitely the most incredible moments of my life and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
All of these photos were taken by different people. There were a ton of friendly people on the trail and several at the top who were trading phones to take photos. Yes, there was a Christmas tree at the top of the trail, which means someone climbs it WITH a tree every December! (The cactus photo was a selfie, my Uber driver said it takes 75 years for ONE of those cactus arms to grow!)
I went back to the resort after my hike and relaxed by the pool where I wrote out my Christmas cards and ordered lunch and a drink which was delivered right to my lounge chair. This was quite possibly one of the most perfect days of my life. I had plans to get dinner with an a friend from Seattle who moved to Phoenix. I didn't have any dinners solo but if this is something you're concerned about you can always sit at a bar to make it less weird, bartenders are used to having solo customers so this is the norm for them! I've also learned, it's all in your head. NO ONE is staring at you thinking YOU are weird, if anything they're admiring the fact that you're eating, drinking, or hiking alone. You may even be inspiring someone to try something on their own.
On the final morning of my trip I met with La, she's on air at KISS FM in Phoenix and was on my Side Hustlers podcast earlier this year. La and I have never met in person but we grabbed coffee at Lux Central and talked for an hour and a half like we were old friends. La's Side Hustle is a Japanese style shave-ice truck, Mahalo Made. I am a terrible travel blogger and didn't get a picture with La, but I got a picture with the truck that tows are Mahalo Made airstream!
After coffee, La dropped be off at a the Uptown Plaza shopping center which had some great local shops. I got a new ring and a wooden cactus ornament at the Local Nomad which was ironically selling jewelry from Baleen, a store only a few blocks from my apartment in Seattle. After shopping around I decided it was time to head back to the resort where I put on my bathing suit one last time and headed to the pool. I'm super grateful for the AMAZING humans the the J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn. They were over the top kind (but not annoying). They helped mail out my Christmas cards, guide me in the right direction, and make sure I was happy, comfortable, and hydrated at all times. They also gave me an awesome late check out time of 3pm. I was able to hang poolsid before packing up and leaving my bags with the bellhop so I could get a drink and snack before heading to the airport!
This trip gave me the clarity and mental space I needed. I always thought I'd go crazy traveling on my own because I LOVE being around people and traveling with friends. I really needed the time with myself so I was super grateful to be alone with my thoughts. I loved being able to choose what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. And if I decided to change my plans, it didn't matter! While I did get dinner and a breakfast with people I knew, I still spent most of my time alone. It was incredible. I truly believe I can do a trip in a city where I don't know anyone. If you're worried about taking a solo trip think of the things you absolutely LOVE and make sure your destination has all of those things. I left being so fulfilled. I checked something off my bucket list, conquered an insane trail, fell in love with a new city, and found a new hobby of solo traveling. What's next? Not sure but I know it will be warm and sunny!