The Strangers I’ve Met on My Solo Trips Across the USA

pink pangea foreign correspondentI cherish the time when I travel alone.

During my solo trips, I like to take a small notebook with me and write down what I have seen and experienced along the way. For me, an iPhone is good enough to capture wonderful moments of the trip.

In the past, when I told my mother that I wanted to go somewhere, she would ask me if I had someone to accompany me. After she knew that I went by myself, she would get really worried. Later on, as my solo travel became frequent, she acquiesced to let me go, and let me to send her a message everyday to make sure that I was safe. Luckily, my solo trips were always full of fun.

Even though I know that the world is not a safe place — bad things can happen to women when they travel alone — I still believe that there are more good people than bad ones.

I have some memorable solo trips that I want to share here.

Solo Birthday Trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico

Last year, for my birthday, I decided to go to Albuquerque. At that time, I was a big fan of the TV show, Breaking Bad. It tells the story of a high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, who is diagnosed with lung cancer. In order to leave a large fortune to his family before he dies, he starts to make crystallized meth, using his knowledge of chemistry, and turns into a drug dealer.

Since this show is set in Albuquerque, I was eager to go there. I took Amtrak and went to New Mexico alone.

The highlight of my trip was the Breaking Bad bike tour. My tour guide, Josh, had the same passion for the show that I did. During the tour, we passed lots of Breaking Bad filming locations, and talked about the show all the way. When we stopped at each shooting location, he would show me the related episode on his laptop.

One of the show’s most memorable scenes was when Mr. White used the fulminated mercury to make an entire building explode.

traveling solo
One of the buildings used in filming “Breaking Bad.”

Now, this building was in front of me. I clearly remembered the graffiti on the building’s wall. I felt excited as if I heard the loud sounds of the explosion and the people screaming, and saw Mr. White walking towards me proudly and fearlessly with a big bag of money.

We also passed by a peaceful lake, where people were doing all kinds of water sports, and enjoyed the beautiful autumn weather. Trees turning yellow, the blue sky, lazily drifting clouds, and the idle ducks created a picturesque view. The lake was also an important part in the show with the assassin Mike’s final scene. He was dying and watched this lake with his calm and desperate eyes.

I began to understand why Breaking Bad was filmed in Albuquerque. I had seen an interview with the show’s director Vince Gilligan. Vince commented that Albuquerque meant the world for Breaking Bad. He said: “I can’t imagine the show would be nearly as interesting as it is if it were set anywhere else…When I think of Albuquerque, I think of clouds, just those beautiful floating cumulus clouds. The skies. These are skies you just don’t see in Southern California. You really get the depth and the sense of scale in the desert in Albuquerque.”

I have been told many times not to get into a stranger’s car, but when I saw her big smile and a huge hairy dog in her backseat, I thought she was not a bad person.

I feel grateful to the show, since it introduced me to this beautiful city.

The whole trip has been a big blessing to me. I met some cool people at a hostel and was treated to a free French dinner from a generous stranger. Along with the wonderful biking tour, another highlight of the trip was meeting my new friend, Sarah. After a short nice hiking at La Luz Trail, I wanted to walk to the bus station instead of taking the expensive taxi back to my hostel. When I went down the mountain, there were lots of cars passing by me. At this time, Sarah stopped her car, rolled down the window, and asked me if I need help.

After I told where I wanted to go, she said she’d like to take me to the hostel, since she was going that way too. I have been told many times not to get into a stranger’s car, but when I saw her big smile and a huge hairy dog in her backseat, I thought she was not a bad person. We started to chat and got along well in a short time. She asked me if I wanted to have lunch with her. I was happy to accept the invitation. It was a strange feeling that you can tell your stories and open your heart to a person who you only know for several hours.

Solo Trip to Austin, Texas

Here, I stayed at HI-Austin International Hostel, a clean, adorable hostel with helpful staff and an excellent location. It is situated along the Lady Bird Lake Trail, and less than a 10-minute drive to the downtown area. When the sunlight was not that strong, I took a walk along the trail.

Traveling alone provides a space to enjoy solitude. On the other hand, one keeps meeting new people along the way.

I enjoyed being surrounded by green and observed some wildlife along the trail.  I also learned that an annual bat festival in Austin starts from March to November. The bats build a nest under the Congress Bridge, and fly across the river everyday during the sunset. At sunset, many people have already been standing there, waiting for the bats to come out.

traveling solo
I got to witness an annual bat festival in Austin.

After waiting for about an hour, the bats finally came. Within a few minutes, they covered the whole sky. The view was magnificent and really worth the waiting time.

On the following day, I rented a bike to explore the city, swam in the Barton Spring pool, and wandered around little stores along the South Congress Street

In the evening, I hung out with my new friend, Jessica, from the hostel. We had a good dinner and got to know each other better. She is from Australia and was traveling around the world. Her next stop would be Cuba. Jessica said she felt both nervous and excited. She had also started to learn some Portuguese.

I often meet world travelers at hostels and feel jealous of the fact they could have that much time and money to travel the world. I hope I can be like them someday.

During this trip, I used Skype to talk with my mom. Since I had returned to China right before this trip, when I saw my family, I felt an impulse to shed tears. My mom kept telling me to be safe in Austin, and never talk to strangers.

However, for me, chatting with strangers is a big part of my trips. My personality makes me feel at ease when talking to strangers. Even though I know that the world is not a safe place — bad things can happen to women when they travel alone — I still believe that there are more good people than bad ones. I like to watch people’s behaviors when I am talking to them, and to see whether I can trust them or not.

traveling alone
My mom was worried about my safety in Austin.

 

I feel lucky that I met many good people on my solo trips who gave me directions, became my tour guides, and introduced me to their cities.

Traveling alone provides a space to enjoy solitude. On the other hand, one keeps meeting new people along the way. My advice for solo female travelers is to be brave, be careful, plan well, and avoid going out late, and keep a beautiful smile for every stranger you meet.

About Yinong Wang

Yinong WangYinong Wang’s passion is traveling. She loves exploring the world, enjoying beautiful natural places, and meeting new people. There are so many places she still has not been, and so much she wants to experience in her life.

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