GUEST BLOGGER: May Challenge - S is for Solo Travel

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meet Melissa Rohrbaugh!!!




Single Mom Survival Guide: Traveling Solo


My 2014 New Year's Resolution was to embrace my independence.  Basically, I wanted to get more comfortable with the idea of doing things on my own.  As a married person, there were a lot of things I had become accustomed to doing as a pair.  Some of them were as simple as going out to dinner or the movies, up to the big things like negotiating the purchase of a new sofa, new car, or a new house.  Honestly, making decisions on my own didn't come easy at first, even despite my bossy persona. Most of it has gotten easier with time and out of necessity.

My challenge for this year was taking a vacation on my own.  Just a long weekend away to explore a place I've never been that is on my "bucket list."  Now, I must confess, although I was adamant about accomplishing this, the whole premise terrified me.  I had a lot of anxiety about going alone.  Some of the anxiety stemmed from the idea of not really knowing my way around or how to navigate a new place.  And some of it was irrational - what if I don't have the guts to leave the hotel room and explore the city once I get there? What if I stumble into a crappy neighborhood and get mugged?  As a result, I booked and cancelled my getaway trip twice before I had the courage to finally go.

Following this last trip booking, I decided that I had to go and I couldn't make any more excuses.  So I booked a long weekend in Seattle.  Seattle was a city I always wanted to visit.  It always seemed like a fun and safe city, with an interesting history and a small footprint which makes it easy to see in just a couple of days.  After talking to a lot of other single mamas, I realize how lucky I am to have a long weekend to myself every other weekend.  It was time to take advantage of my time alone and do something adventurous.

The first thing I did as soon as I got on the plane was made friends and asked questions.  I was flying with lots of Seattleites, and they were all very proud of their city and the fun things it had to offer.  On the flight out, I sat next to a very nice guy - a lawyer originally from L.A. who moved to Seattle 10 years ago.  He put together a list of all of the best restaurants and live music venues.  He also told me which neighborhoods to avoid and drew me a map of the public transportation system. Once we landed, he took me to the light rail line and gave me a business card in case I ran into any trouble.

Once I got into downtown Seattle, I quickly found my bearings.  The concierge at my hotel provided me with a map of all of the touristy stops. I visited all of the essentials: the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Great Ferris Wheel, and a lot of museums (I managed to find their shopping district too, inflicting some damage to my credit card).  At each stop, I asked locals where they liked to go to dinner and what they liked to do for fun.  I found a lot of good spots that way, and I also learned that although there are 2,000 of them in a 5 square mile radius, Starbucks is not well loved by the true Seattle coffee people.

The highlight of my trip was going to a Seattle Sounders game.  As a Philadelphia Union fan, I was excited to see the best team in the league play, but I couldn't believe the fan base.  I bought a ticket 4 hours before the game on Ticketmaster for $40.  My seat was great - 8 rows back at mid-field among all of the season ticket holders.  After they made fun of me being from Philly and preparing for me to throw punches or the F-bomb after the first bad call of the game, they took me in as one of their own.  It was a neat thing to see 50,000 soccer fans in a sea of green that were so proud of their team and their city.

My last day there, I just wandered around town, revisiting my favorite coffee shop on my visit and taking time to enjoy the water view.  As I sat overlooking Puget Sound, missing my kids and finally realizing just how far from home I really was, I was overwhelmed with a sense of calm.  I made it.  I have evolved.  I'm not the victim I could have easily taken the role of; I am the exception, improving myself and my outlook on life.

Happiness doesn't find you.  You have to seek it out every day.  Adventure doesn't find you.  You have to step out of your comfort zone and seek out those things that excite, scare, and ultimately inspire you.  And sometimes, doing those things on your own gives you a greater sense of accomplishment. For a while, I was lonely waiting for someone to experience life with, but now I'm learning that you have to lead the charge on your own.  Explore the world - sometimes you will have the luxury of a travel companion but don't avoid travel if you don't.   Work and kids and bills and house cleaning will all be there when you get home, so make your free time worth living for.


Here are some of my favorites from my Seattle visit:

Favorite place to wander around aimlessly: Pike Place Market - this is definitely a foodie must.  There was amazing baked goods to try and a huge variety of amazing fresh seafood picked right out of the water.  The Hmong flower stalls were beautiful as well.  They have gorgeous huge bouquets of flowers for just $10, which is unheard of here.

Favorite Tourist Spot: Bill Speidel's Underground Tour (James St. & 1st Ave.) - a fun way to learn the history of the city at the expense of its founding fathers, complete with a 90 minute trek under the city streets.


Favorite Seafood: Ivar's Acres of Clams (1001 Alaskan Way) - the clam chowder and seafood cocktail were delicious and only a few bucks during happy hour.  They also encourage feeding the seagulls at their walk-up fish and chips shop outside.  Those birds were the happiest but most obese I've ever seen.

Favorite Coffee: Storyville Coffee (1st & Madison) - best latte of my life and they even make the foam on top look like a heart.  A far cry from my typical Dunkin Donuts fare.

Favorite Brunch: Sazerac (1101 4th Ave.) - I recommend the Diablo scramble - muy delicioso.

Favorite Museum: EMP Museum (325 5th Ave. N.) - a museum dedicated to all things pop culture.  I loved the Nirvana exhibit - brought me right back to high school and my alt rock CD collection of the day.
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