Solo Road Trip as Rite of Passage: An Introduction

There are so many stories of men finding themselves in the great outdoors and on the open road. This great big adventure open to them like a baptism into reality and nature and life. As I started planning my route, I realized how few women I had as role models to guide me and it honestly freaked the hell out of me. Is this safe? Will I die? Can I handle an emergency situation on my own?

I may not have realized it when the planning first started, but I essentially designed my own Rite of Passage road trip. I booked a five day training in Loveland, Colorado with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, an initiation in and of itself, and decided it would be the perfect kick off to this trip. Excavating the interior before expanding into the exterior. In case you haven’t noticed, excavation and expansion is kind of my thing. 

 Of course I meet another Northwestern alum

Of course I meet another Northwestern alum

And so for 5 days, I sat in lectures and hiked and watched the sun rise and set and met other curious, beautiful, creative, spiritual beings from all over the world. In the training Dr. E, as everyone calls her, asked us to allow what we learned to marinate, like a pressure cooker, and so I’ll be keeping that to myself for now, but here is what happened after (along with some tips and tricks should you feel called tonplan your own adventure).

From October 21 - October 31, I drove over 2,000 miles through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and southern California. The first thousand miles on my own. The second thousand, with a friend I picked up in Page, AZ. 

 One of the many sunsets on the ranch in Loveland

One of the many sunsets on the ranch in Loveland

Taking the first leg of the trip alone was important to me. To prove to myself that I can handle anything. And as your friendly neighborhood Capricorn, I was prepared. I booked AirBnBs which ranged from a private room in a home in Santa Fe, to a hostel in Salida, CO, to a tent near the Grand Canyon, to a hogan on an unnamed road on the Navajo reservation. I planned my big drives making sure I’d arrive at my destinations by sundown (which I missed by an hour or 2 a few times, but it was actually alright.)

I then packed and gathered supplies. Some of the most important items included: my green jacket, sunglasses, caps, fleece jacket and pants, Lululemon pants (literally the guy at REI was like, “they’re honestly the perfect hiking pants”), first aid kit, water bottle canteens, wool socks, hiking boots and poles, a flashlight with backup batteries, Swiss army knife, mace (thanks, mom), rx bars, protein powder, emergen-C, instant coffee, Advil, a hot water bottle, Thinx, tampons (yes I had my period on this trip), a lacrosse ball (for rolling out sore muscles), journals, crystals and a tarot deck because duh. 

I also wore my mala beads throughout the entire trip. They extend down to just below my pelvis and so they felt like a protection spell and served me well. I also kept a few crystals in the car given to me by my darling Bakara when I visited her at Everyday Magic for safe travel including sandstone and red tiger’s eye (thank you so much, the sandstone didn’t leave my dash). I also threw in a little pyrite for power and luck. These items are not necessary, but having talismans for protection really helped me feel more capable and less alone. They helped me trust my intuition and my instincts and my intellect. To sum: never say no to help.

I have to say having five days to work towards finding my center (and acclimating to the altitude) was super helpful so if you’re flying to a starting point, definitely do that. I felt almost charmed throughout the trip with every setback having a unique and perfect outcome. Starting with my car rental. 

The lady that helped me, suggested I upgrade to a Nissan Murano for the navigation and honestly I’m so in love with that car now. We had the best time together. I haven’t owned a car since high school, but this car rules in my very humble opinion. I picked it up at around 2:30 or 3PM and started driving down I-70. I was going to the Great Sand Dunes the next morning and wanted to make sure I was off the road by sunset because I know reception and light can be tricky in the mountains so my destination was a hostel in Salida, CO. Driving through those mountain ranges and valleys was breathtaking. The way rock and sky met and dipped and made way for ranches and pines. I was literally weaving in and out of the Rocky Mountains. I even sped alongside the Arkansas River for a spell. I will say that on day 1, I was not very good at stopping for historic views because I had already passed them by the time I realized I could pull over, but there was so much to see from the car, it didn’t really matter. 

The sun was just starting to set as I pulled off the highway and into the beautiful little mountain town, guided by the glow of a waxing moon. I stopped for a quick dinner at a local bar and chatted with an artist who owned a gallery in town. I had all the tips about not letting anyone know you’re alone in the back of my mind, and of course, didn’t give away any details of my plans or lodging, but you know how you can just tell when someone is buena gente? This town just felt good. 

Back at the hostel, I was given the tour and picked my bunk, the second tier in a three level bunk bed toward the back, and settled in. I had to be up at 6AM for the drive to the Dunes so I expected to be in bed early, but I got sucked into reading poetry and playing Uno with a group of regulars who totally blew the lid off of what my experience of a life could be. Here were people so different from my usual crowd in Miami or New York and I felt like I fit in immediately. My 10pm bed time soon turned to after 1am, after meeting another Cuban who lived in this town. 

The next morning one of the veterans (as in army) I had met made breakfast while I made coffee and we spent the morning talking before we went our separate ways, a little later than I had planned, but well worth it for the company. My adventure had just begun, and what an initiation to the road it was. 

Read part two: Sand Dunes + the road to Santa Fe