The Enthusiast’s Guide to Travel published by Rocky Nook — in this excerpt, author Jordana Wright shares her experience of being on a journey by yourself.

The unexpected

My first solo travel experience happened unexpectedly. My husband and I had spent months planning and preparing for a massive forty-five-day photographic project and journey across the western United States by train: America by Rail. In both scope and ambition, it far surpassed anything we’d done or planned before. Every little detail was organized, from the places we planned to visit, to the photographs I was longing to take in each location. We had gear sponsors. We had private donors. We had meetups and photowalks planned in eight cities. We had special access to amazing locations. Everything was set: I was the photographer and he was the logistician. Three weeks before our departure, my husband got a job offer he couldn’t pass up, which directly conflicted with the dates of the journey. I was deeply disappointed but started going through the mental checklist to cancel our travel plans, refund donations, and let everyone know that the trip was off. I told my husband that I was sad we couldn’t go. He looked at me incredulously, shook his head, and laughed. “Oh, you’re still going. You have to go. It’s too big and too important to miss, so you’ll do it solo.”

I changed my travel plans at the last minute to add a day in Olympic National Park, allowing me to visit Ruby Beach in Jefferson County, Washington. ISO 500; 1/160 sec.; f/3.5; 10mm
I changed my travel plans at the last minute to add a day in Olympic National Park, allowing me to visit Ruby Beach in Jefferson County, Washington. 1/160 sec f/3.5 ISO 500 10mm

Independent woman

Well, crap. I was an independent woman, but I wasn’t “backpack across the country for forty-five days by myself” independent. At least I didn’t think I was. Turns out I was wrong. What followed was the single greatest personal experience I have ever had. Did I miss him? Like crazy. Was it outside of my comfort zone? Hell yes. Is it exactly what I needed to grow mentally and artistically? You know it. Solo travel is the single greatest gift you can give yourself. A journey taken alone simultaneously forces you and gives you permission to be completely independently motivated. Every decision is your decision. You don’t have to worry about consensus or pleasing other people. There’s no more asking for input or apologizing for what you want. Want to wake up in the middle of the night to shoot the sunrise in a remote spot? Go for it. Want to sleep late? That’s cool, too. Need a break? Stop. Hungry? Eat. Want to focus on your photography as you travel? Well, there’s no one else to annoy by pausing to shoot every thirty seconds.

Imperial Sand Dunes, Niland, California ISO 400; 1/4000 sec.; f/4.5; 20mm
Imperial Sand Dunes, Niland, California
1/4000 sec f/4.5 ISO 400 20mm

Spontaneous photography

The photos in this post were all taken as a result of being spontaneous and able to choose my own photographic agenda, despite long drives and early mornings. Traveling solo makes you think long and hard about what makes you happy. It identifies what matters to you and gives you the freedom to follow your whims. Before America by Rail, I was terrible at self-promotion and talking about my photography. I had never needed to do it myself because my husband was the salesman. I lived with a little voice inside me saying that I wasn’t doing anything special or different, so having him there to talk me up began as a comfort and, over time, became a crutch. Though I’d been shooting professionally for years, I still struggled with anxiety before every shoot with a client. I wasn’t shy, by any means, but I wasn’t the type to strike up a conversation with random strangers. Then came my trial by fire: forty-five days of solo travel. I came home with a renewed artistic vigor and a greater sense of who I am. I had an easier time talking to strangers and felt a deeper sense of purpose in my day-to-day life. Professionally, I was able to have deeper and more complex conversations about my passions, my accomplishments, and my goals. Every hurdle was a gift. Every unexpected challenge was an opportunity to grow. Now, I travel alone at least once a year. I love traveling with my husband, or friends and family, but America by Rail ignited a spark in me that demands a solo adventure every so often, so I set out on my own to feed the flames.

Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana ISO 200; 1/200 sec.; f/4.5; 26mm
Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana
1/200 sec f/4.5 26mm

Travel photography requires dedication and an adventurous spirit. This series of excerpts from “The Enthusiast’s Guide to Travel Photography” by Jordana Wright is published by Rocky Nook.

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