After my daughter was born, I felt that I needed to ratchet back my traveling while I adjusted to a new role as a mother. The unpredictable sleepless nights and demands of raising an infant didn’t give me bandwidth to plan a solo journey. What would that look like anyway? After a few months, I began longing for an uninterrupted shower. Then, in quick order, I began longing for time and space to just be me without attaching my role as mom, wife, or baby feeder. I was struggling with biochemical changes as my body and mind adjusted to its new routine. I didn’t have any interest in leaving the country. This was shocking to me at first because of how much I had absolutely loved international travel and exploring cultures that were different than my own.
After I became comfortable with this new transition, I decided to take my first solo travel within the United States. I picked a state and decided two things- 1. I was going to avoid visiting friends. 2. I was going to minimize planning in advance and only book the first and final nights. Both of these decisions helped me to avoid pre-travel stress. I booked a flight to Portland and rented a car. The first night I stayed at McMenamins- Edgefield in Troutdale, a mere 20 minute drive from the airport. I didn’t sleep so well that night and felt guilty and lonely. I woke up thinking I had made a mistake. At breakfast, a very simple conversation with a waitress barely out of college sent my body buzzing. I’m typically more vulnerable around people I don’t know, however this morning in my sleep-deprived state I was especially quick to share my hesitancy about this trip. She responded, “I’ve lived in Oregon my whole life and have dreamed of exploring more of this state. You’re here. It’s beautiful. Your daughter will still be there when you get home and you might just discover during this trip how to prioritize “you” sometimes.”
Thank goodness for straight-talking strangers! I headed down the scenic Columbia River Gorge to Mount Hood and lucked out on a cheap room at the famous Timberline Lodge. The next day, I traveled to Maupin and joined a rafting trip down the Deschutes. I replaced trepidation with beautiful memories. Onward to Bend and Crater Lake with photo-snapping pride and enthusiasm! Near Klamath Lake, I even took a seemingly never-ending dirt road detour to find hot springs based on a tip (albeit vague one) from a convenience store counter clerk. Found them! Thankfully, it wasn’t the reenactment of a thriller/horror film where single woman goes down a road never to return. The road trip music was simply the best (obviously) and was complete with singing, swaying, and fist pumps to Hall and Oates and Stevie Wonder.
Ashland welcomed me with open arms and free bicycle for the day after a generous guy at the local bicycle shop loaned me HIS bike after no rentals were available. Remember the epic Joseph Gordon-Levitt dance scene in 500 Days of Summer? Yep, that was me after the kindness of a stranger kissed me on my head and sent me speeding away on a bicycle to explore the town. I watched my first Shakespeare in the Park performance by myself. I headed over to the local pizzeria and bought a beer and slice of pizza before pouring myself in bed. Leaving Ashland, I took the long scenic coastal road via the speed trap town of Port Orford to Coos Bay. It never occurred to me that I’d find four-wheeling in the sand dunes outside Coos Bay so compelling that I’d want to spend five hours doing it. As the wind passed over my skin propelled by this freedom machine that I was riding, I was overcome by joy and satisfaction. I wasn’t shirking my home life, I was digging deeper into a place of fulfillment.
Eugene was another bright ray of sunshine. After experiencing their terrific Farmer’s Market, I quite accidentally stumbled upon an Asian bistro that had just opened their doors for business for the first time…that day. They generously provided me a taster’s menu of virtually everything they offered and then refused to take my money. The generosity of strangers never ceases to amaze me. It was a perfect finale to a great trip. As I drove through Portland to fly out of the airport, the irony was not lost on me that I completely missed the number one city that most people visit in Oregon. I boarded the plane with a solid feeling of satisfaction as I basked in the enriching glow of my journey. Indeed, my daughter was waiting when I arrived at home. Not only was I happy to see her and my husband, but my heart and mind felt more centered, rejuvenated, and realigned with purpose.