Lake Michigan Circle Tour Solo Road Trip - Part 5 Lessons Learned
In the last post I sort of glossed over the few final days of my trip. But before I continue, if you haven't already, be sure to check out the first 4 parts of this trip by clicking here, here, here, and here. It will help put this one into more perspective.
I spent the final 24 hours with my sister who lives in Chicago. We basically ate and drank our way through town and I showed my sister how fun it is to go to bed at 10pm on a Saturday night! Ha!
This summer, my sister got a loft in the West Loop (I think that's what it's called. I'm not completely sure to be honest! :). But since I would be heading through town on my way home, I thought, why not spend some time and see her new place! It was a quick 24 hours, but was so nice to spend some time with her alone! Usually when I make the trip to Chicago, I have my kiddos in tow, which means we typically do more family oriented things. But this time it was just us 2, and she showed me all her favorite places. It as fast and furious, but I am so glad I decided to stop for my final day! Albeit, it was quite a shock to the system having just spent most of the week alone and camping to then be thrust into the middle of a big shiny and busy city!
Anyway, what I really wanted to do with this post is offer some tips, tricks, or lessons learned through my week long solo camping road trip all the way around Lake Michigan!
#1 - Other people will project their own insecurities on you. About 3 hours into my road trip, I stopped at a rest area for a break. As I was getting out of my car, a woman walked by with her adult daughter. I overheard her say "this gal is from Sioux Falls, too!". I politely smiled and asked if they were as well. They nodded and told me where they were headed on their trip and asked about mine. I told them about my adventure and then went on my way into the restroom. When I came back out, the ladies were getting into their vehicle to leave when they stopped me and asked if I was traveling alone. When I said yes, they gave me a look of concern, as if they felt bad for me. I was so confused at first and just nodded and said it's no big deal. As I turned to get into my car, she yelled out "you better be careful!". As I drove down the interstate, I wondered if anyone ever said that to my husband when he traveled alone? Very doubtful. This wasn't an isolated incident. "Be Careful" is what most people said to me anytime I talked about my trip prior to leaving. I was also often asked if I "carry". But people don't ask men this. This truly was my first experience with sexism and it saddens me that our society just accepts that women are preyed upon. I honestly left on this trip not even thinking twice about the fact that other people would think what I was doing was too dangerous for a woman to do. There are so many other women who travel alone. This is actually more common than people think. And yet, when I encountered people along my travels, their look of concern and/or pity was always disconcerting. Another common comment I would receive before, during and even after the trip is "your husband let you do this alone?". LET me? LET ME!? My husband knows better than to try and control me. That behavior wouldn't get him very far. In fact, he encouraged me to do the trip and never once did he second guess my ability nor question my safety! If he was thinking it, he never projected it on me. His belief in my ability to do this on my own means everything. In the end, I realized that those comments were just reflections of their own insecurities, things that scared them. Things they were too afraid to do and in no way are these comments my own personal feelings about solo woman travel.
#2 - I felt safest when I had a cell phone connection. I realized on night 2, when my cell phone had no connection, and there was absolutely no wifi connection because of how remote of a location I was in, that I actually began to feel unsafe. This feeling had nothing to do with the actual location, but the feeling that if something did happen, I would have no way to call for help. This night also happened to be the night where my imagination went wild. You can read about that in Part 2 of the trip. I always thought my feeling of safety would come from just being alone in the dark, but in reality, I realized on the trip, that as long as my phone had a connection, I actually felt safe. Safe and connected to the outside world should I need someone or something.
#3 - My biggest concern on the trip wasn't actually ever my safety. My biggest concern was getting a flat tire or having some other type of car troubles. For the majority of my trip I was traveling on highways in remote areas. Occasionally I would go through a small town, but they weren't as common I had hoped. Before I headed out on the road, I had my vehicle checked and got an oil change. I also contacted my insurance agent to ensure I had roadside assistance and get the information on how to use it should I need it. This helped me curb my concern, but it was always on my mind as I was driving.
#4 - Being alone does not have to equal lonely. I definitely had moments where I would have loved to have someone around to talk to, or just to have near. The mere presence of a person can cut loneliness for me. However, I actually do enjoy my own company. When I went through my divorce 5 years ago, I had to get comfortable with being alone. I found that on this trip, I loved being able to drive for as long as I wanted to without worrying if another person was tired fo driving. I could stop and get out as much as I wanted without worry if I was going to wake a sleeping child. I could eat avocados, nectarines, granola bars and oatmeal without worrying if that would be enough of a meal for someone else. It was great to spend the week meeting only my own needs. But don't be fooled. By the end of the trip, I was ready go back to being needed by my husband, kids, dogs, and everything else that pulls my attention from day to day. It feels good to be needed. And sometimes a little reset feels good too. Balance is so important!
#5 - Personal hygiene while primitive camping is not as hard as I thought. Besides car troubles and personal safety, my other concern was personal hygiene. I like to feel clean. Especially since I wanted to not only go hiking alone, but would also be going to places where there would be other people around. I did not want to look, or feel, or smell, grungy. Prior to my trip I purchased a plastic dish wash tub. I went most of the trip without running water so I also brought along a large jug filled with water from my house. This came in handy for lots of things: making coffee, washing dishes, and "showering". Anyhow, since I didn't have a shower for the majority of my trip, I would put about an inch of water in the dish wash tub with about a quarter size amount of body wash, swirl it around, and use a wash cloth that I brought along to basically take a sponge bath. But it worked! I actually felt clean! Brushing my teeth was just as easy. I had makeup remover wipes that didn't require rinsing for washing my face in the evenings. And voila! I was clean. When I purchased these items and planned it out, I didn't know if it was going to work or not, but it was perfect and now what once plagued me is no longer a concern.
Overall, this trip was the best thing I ever did (minus having children and marrying my dream man). The original intentions of the trip started with just wanting to be in Bay City to support my husband during the 2nd stop of the NWT. But when it occurred to me that I could make this more of a road trip, something I had always dreamed of doing alone, I decided to go for it. The self confidence I cultivated while on this trip is priceless. It is something I will carry with me always and pass on to my own children. I encourage everyone (female or male) to take solo trips. Solo trips where you are alone always. Alone during the day. Alone at night. Alone as you travel. Alone making all decisions. It was so much fun and I can't wait to do it again next summer!
Lake Michigan Circle tour is Complete! Over 2,000 miles travelled! Where will I go next!? I'd love suggestions in the comments!