8 Reasons You Should Travel Solo

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Yep. If you travel solo you’ll absolutely meet an Elephant in a Midwestern-looking forest that will grant you three wishes.

I won’t lie to you. The idea of traveling alone is terrifying for folks who have never done it. The fear bubbles up inside you, overtakes you and you push the idea off another few months to the point where you forget about it until an Instagram photo or blog post brings back the desire.

The good news:

Just like any fear, it can be conquered and once you get past it, you’ll end up wiser and happier than before you took the leap.


8 Reasons You Should Travel Solo

It doesn’t matter how you do it or how long. Drive across the U.S. for a week or two, backpack through Europe for a month, or simply venture forth on a quick weekend trip to your favorite city or National Park.

No matter where you go (or the duration), you’re bound to uncover countless mysteries about yourself and the places you explore.

Reason #8: You’ll Meet Interesting People

Think about the last time you went on a trip with another person or a group of people. How often did you talk to strangers? Or even in your daily life, how often do you go beyond exchanging pleasantries with the person you buy your coffee from every single day?

I guess it depends on the type of person you are but I’ve found that when I’m traveling with others, I’m less likely to talk to strangers other than to get directions. In a group, you’re usually on a set schedule and there’s no time for dilly-dallying. When you travel alone however, your time is yours alone and a life-changing conversation can spur from someone noticing your accent isn’t like theirs.

By talking to people during your travels, you get a glimpse into their life; how they live, what they do, where they came from, and who they are. Connecting with people is how we (humans) better understand one another. In doing so, we’re more likely to empathize with our fellow man, which brings us all closer together.

And it’s easy too!

You hardly have to do any work when it comes to chatting with strangers on a solo trip. A person will notice your license plate and start it for you, or they’ll see the backpack on your back and share stories from their younger years, possibly sharing some tips about where you’re headed.

And really, what’s not to love about connecting with others?

Reason #7: You Can Do What you Want, Whenever you Want

This is my favorite part about traveling solo. You can literally do anything at any time AND change those plans at the drop of a hat without having to worry about upsetting anyone.

Have plans to check out a museum but you run into a fellow traveler who’s headed for “the best coffee in the city”? The museum can wait!

You’re driving down I-90 to Mt. Rushmore when you notice (it’s hard not to) a bunch of signs for some mysterious Wall Drug? Screw it, why not see just what in the world this crazy place is?

I can’t tell you how many times I decided to change plans halfway through executing them and ended up neither better or worse than I was before; Just in a different place with new experiences.

 

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Like the time I came across this bell in the middle of nowhere 15 minutes off the highway.

Reason #6: You’re More Likely to Try New Things

As with any trip, you should always be financially prepared for unavoidable mishaps and more importantly (but not really), exciting opportunities!

Imagine this: You’re traveling with a group of scoundrels in Bagan, Mayanmar and you really want to take a hot air balloon ride over the valley of temples but you’re the only one in your group interested in the idea. Maybe next time… When you’re in Mayanmar…

Traveling solo however… Well, you get the gist.

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Balloons over Bagan at sunrise (Mayanmar 2013) – CC Paul Arps

And of course, with all the people you take the time to befriend, and the fact that you can decide to do anything at any time, you’ll be given plenty of opportunities to do something different at every turn.

Reason #5: Anything Bad that Happens isn’t Really all that Bad

A million things can go wrong when you travel solo. A million things can also go wrong when you don’t travel at all.

I’m reminded of a t-shirt I bought in Gatlinburg when I was younger. Pretty much every year during middle school and high school, my Mom and stepdad would take my brother and I to the Smoky Mountains and we’d camp out for a week. We were only allowed one day in the tourist trap of Gatlinburg but I distinctly remember a shirt I bought one of those years that said:

“You can fall off a cliff and die.

You can be attacked by a bear and die.

Or you can stay home, fall of the couch and die.”

Your odds of doing so are 1 in 225,879 by the way.

No matter what happens, as long as you still have your life, it’s really not too terrible. Sure, you may get robbed and end up broke and without a passport in an unfamiliar city but you can at least walk away from it with a cool made-up story about the time you fought off three dudes but were overpowered by the last, big one and barely escaped with your life.

Even a flat tire on the side of the road can bring a stranger to your aid that gives you a little more faith in humanity.

So I promise, as long as you’re still breathing, everything will be fine.

Reason #4: You’ll Discover Who You Are

Solo traveling is a lonesome endeavor. You sometimes spend hours without talking to another human and extended periods can feel taxing on your sanity.

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Things pop into your mind and it’s hard to discern their true meaning.

This is actually a blessing in disguise!

When the podcasts you downloaded are listened to and your playlist is getting repetitive, you’re the only line of defense between boredom and a good time.

So sing at the top of your lungs in the car, or plop yourself on a bench and watch people go about their daily business and make up stories about how their marriages are failing or they just had a baby with three arms instead of the normal amount. (Or make up happy stories. Whatever works.)

You’ll think of ways to entertain yourself and find that those methods are what make you unique and the awesome bag of fun that, deep down, you know you are.

And during the times of adversity and strife, that’s when you find out what you’re truly made of.

Without anyone to lean on when things get tough, you’ll want to give up and go home. But you won’t. Why would you when you’re experiencing everything the world has to offer?

Reason #3: Free Drinks at the Bar!

Bar-goers love an interesting conversation and are more than happy to buy you a drink when they find out your not a local. Be prepared to share personal anecdotes, thoughts on Donald Trump (topical!), and the history and culture of your hometown.

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Cheers, baby!

PSA: Always remember when traveling and drinking to keep an eye on your drinks, and control how much of it you consume. While there are some fantastic people out there, there are also some terrible ones who are only looking to take advantage of you.

Reason #2: Bye Bye Comfort Zone

One of the biggest benefits to traveling solo is how confident it will make you.

It puts you in the mindset of not worrying about what other people think of you because you’ll never see them again. So asking for directions becomes easier. Striking up conversations is a breeze. Taking control of the dancefloor in a French Disco doesn’t require a second thought.

You realize that life is for living and on a solo trip, you’re the only one who can make that happen.

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“Laissez-nous danser, étranger complet.” (Translation not confirmed to be accurate)

And the best part? When you return home from your journey, all those experiences stick with you and transfer that newfound confidence into your daily life.

Reason #1: It will Be one of the Best Experiences of your Life

Quite the declaration, eh? It’s true.

With the people you’ll meet, the unique experiences you’ll take part in, the lifelong friends you’ll make, and the history and culture you’ll absorb, it will be impossible to say you had a bad time.

You’ll appreciate the little things more, like when the sun sets at just the right angle for the perfect shot.

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You’ll become wiser after listening to a stranger tell you the story of when she was a young army brat and now runs a food truck with her husband.

You’ll have stories to tell your friends and family about the time you kayaked around a lake and just took it all in.

You’ll look back fondly on the time you drove aimlessly down backroads for hours searching for the perfect spot to wait for the moon to pass in front of the sun.

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And most importantly: You’ll want to do it again.

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Fossil Butte National Monument – 3 Reasons it’s Worth the Detour

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Fossil Butte is a seemingly insignificant U.S. National Monument smack dab in the middle of nowhere. It’s nearly 3 hours from any other National Park or Monument, 15 miles from the nearest city (Kemmerer, WY),  and about 1 hour from Interstate 80.

So unless you’re trying to fill out your National Park Passport book or you’re really into fossils, it can be hard to justify making the journey.

I’m going to do my best to convince you otherwise.


As a birthday gift in 2015, a good friend of mine gave me the 2016 Centennial Edition of the Passport to Your National Parks® book and I decided one of my new missions in life was to fill it with stamps.

I still have a ways to go with covering every page, but in October 2016 I took my second solo cross-country trip and knocked out a few of them. My favorite stop was Fossil Butte National Monument.

This is apart of my U.S. National Parks Series of posts. If you have your own story to share about Fossil Butte, leave a comment or contact me! I’d love to hear about your experiences 🙂


About Fossil Butte National Monument

Fossil Butte is an 8,198 acre (33.18km²) U.S. National Monument located in Lincoln County, Wyoming in the Southwestern portion of the State.

The area is a high cold desert, with sagebrush, Pines, and Aspens comprising most of the local vegetation. The wildlife in the area is mainly Mule Deer, Pronghorns, various birds, and sometimes Moose and Beaver.

I saw a bunch of Pronghorns.

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Fossil Butte was designated a National Monument on October 23, 1972 for lots and lots of reasons: Lots and lots of fossils.

The monument sits on a 13 square mile section of what was once Fossil Lake (900 square miles), the smallest of the three Great Lakes during the Eocene Epoch 56 to 43 million years ago. The others were Lake Gosiute (up to 15,000 sq mi) and Lake Uinta (no sq mi data I could find). For reference, the current Great Lakes up by Michigan are 94,250 sq mi, so Fossil Lake was rather tiny.

However… Size isn’t everything 😉

You can do a lot with a 900 sq mi lake and the ecosystem of Fossil Lake certainly did.

Generations of prehistoric plants and animals lived, died, sunk to the bottom of the lake, and were preserved in 2 million years of sediment (the lake dried up after this time).

Fossils are constantly unearthed in the park and are in such pristine condition (bones are found in place rather than scattered) that they offer scientists a host of data about the climate, how it changed, its effect on the wildlife present and also how that wildlife coexisted.


So Why Should you Visit?

There are quite a few reasons Fossil Butte was my favorite stop on this two-week journey. Here are a few:

Reason #1: The Fossils are Cooler Than you Might Imagine.

I mentioned earlier that the fossils in Fossil Butte (apart of the Green River Formation)  are anatomically right where they should be. This is highly unusual and only a handful of digs in the world can say the same. In fact, Fossil Butte has the highest quality fossils from the Cenozoic Era in North America.

The reason for these fantastically preserved fossils is that Fossil Lake was rather calm and undisturbed, especially in the lower sections of the basin, and the sediment was extremely fine. Because of this, as plants and animals died and decomposed in the water, they didn’t move around much. The fine-grained rocks and sand drifted over the bones and plants, hardened and created beautiful Limestone windows to the past.

Some of the 300 casts and fossils on display at Fossil Butte:

  • Birds and bats and other flying creatures
  • Plenty of fish (some mass mortality specimens where large schools of fish die all at once)
  • Plants, plants, and more plants (which are vital to understanding past climate patterns of a given area)
  • Insects and flowers
  • Invertebrates
  • Mammals like early horses (seen above in the collage)
  • Reptiles and invertebrates
  • A 13 foot crocodile that’s the first thing to catch your eye when entering the visitor center (comes complete with fossilized poop)

So yeah, nearly all types of once-living creatures can be found on display at fossil butte and you’re guaranteed not to find anything as collective and well-preserved anywhere else in the U.S.

For more fossil images from Fossil Butte that I didn’t capture, click here.

Reason #2: Truly Cool Exhibits and Activities

Snapchat-5650523987286459879You’ll notice this sign as you enter the park. As you continue driving, more signs pop up and the reason behind them begins to make more sense.

The signs take you on a to-scale journey through planet Earth’s history.

9 inches = 1 million years.

So understandably, as you drive further down the road toward the visitor center, the signs get closer and closer together as more and more earth-shattering events (heh) take place.

The signs wrap around the visitor center and end on the present day with details about many of the events as they relate to Fossil Butte, the rest of the paleontological record, and humanity as a whole.

This exhibit gave me a minor existential crisis.

 

Dioramas

Shoreline Diorama; Courtesy National Park Service

The Shoreline Diorama shows life along Fossil Lake’s shallow shores during the Eocene Epoch. If showcases 10 arthropods, 10 plants, 1 bird, 1 reptile, and 3 mammals, all coexisting and fighting for survival.

Try to spot them all!

Forest Diorama; Courtesy National Park Service

The Forest Diorama is a depiction of the land surrounding Fossil Lake. Many moons ago, you’d find thick forests and dense marshlands with flora much like woody flowering plants you’ll find in Asia today. Looking at the diorama, it’s easy to tell that the area was covered in a blanket of humidity, perfect for lush plant life to thrive and a far cry from today’s high cold desert. Species on display include: 22 arthropods, 24 plants, 3 bird species, 1 mammal, and 4 reptiles.

It’s fun to search for them all

Other Fun Activities!

  • Fossil Preparation Demonstrations are available 10 am to 3 pm daily and show how scientists prepare and examine fossils for display
  • Ranger Talks include a Monument Exhibit Tour where you can learn about all of the 300 fossils on display, a Fossil Butte Past & Present talk where you’ll understand exactly how the area went from lush forests to a sagebrush ecosystem, and a Timeline Tour that talks you through the existential dread of the timeline exhibit.
  • The Fossil Quarry Program (Summer only) includes a Ranger-led 1/2 mile hike uphill to the Fossil Butte Research Quarry where you’ll learn about the ongoing research in the area, help search for fossils, and record findings and notes. You can literally discover a fossil by taking part in this program any Friday or Saturday between June 16th and August 26th from 11 am to 3 pm. And now I want to go back so I can experience this.
  • Fossil Rubbings are also available in the Visitor Center so you can take a piece of Fossil Butte home with you (and stick it on the fridge)

Reason #3: The Silence and Serenity is Perfect (and There are Hiking Trails!)

You’ll notice after reading some of my blogs that I’m a lover of Nature in its purest form. The main reason I travel to these faraway places (specifically during the off-season) is to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It helps me recharge, wind down, and find peace.

Unadulterated Nature is the closest I’ll get to a religious experience.

For me, there’s nothing quite like sitting on top of mountain (or a Butte in this case), with the nearest humans miles away, where I can let my mind wander and my eyes focus on anything in front of me, whether it be a hawk circling overhead, a beetle crawling on a pine bush, or a vast landscape that seems endless and full of possibilities.

A scenic road in Fossil Butte is exactly what I was looking for.

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I visited in late October so it was rather chilly and windy, but the sun did its best at keeping me warm. The photo above was captured on the scenic drive road that leads 4 miles past the visitor center and up the Butte. It’s a rather narrow and steep road and it turns from gravel to dirt (in my case mud) so I don’t recommend taking an RV or trailer up it as there are very few areas to turn around.

The scenic road has three unmarked roads/trails (noticeable by the gates at their beginnings) that offer hiking opportunities:

  • Cundick Ridge is a 2 mile out-and-back trail with a minimal elevation gain. It is accessed by the first gate on your right side.
  • Eaglenest Point is a 2 mile out-and-back trail with some elevation gain. It is also accessed by the first gate.
  • Rubey Point Road is a 3 mile out-and-back trail with some elevation gain. It is accessed by the second gate on your left side.

There are other trails near the visitor center that have more interesting sights to see.

The creatively named Nature Trail is one I would have loved to hike a couple weeks earlier.

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Courtesy National Park Service

As you can see by the map, it’s a 1.5 mile loop 2.5 miles down the road from the visitor center. The reason I would have loved to visit a couple weeks earlier is because of the Aspen Groves that litter the trail. As you may know, Aspens are white-bark trees that look absolutely stunning during Fall because their leaves change to a bright yellow. It’s gorgeous.

A fun fact about Aspens: A grove is actually one living organism, connected by the roots.

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You can see all the Aspens. Imagine walking through them, surrounded by a sea of yellow.

Another trail you can find before reaching the visitor center is the Historic Quarry Trail. It is a moderately strenuous 2.5 loop with a 600 ft. elevation gain. It’s closer to Highway 30 than the other trails so you might hear the occasional 18-wheeler or train scuttle by (something I like to avoid).

 

map of Historic Quarry Trail
Courtesy National Park Service

A short side-loop leads to the Historic Quarry and during the summer and the streams that wind through the area near the trail attract mosquitoes so be sure to come prepared.

Even though these hikes are rather short, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hike smart. Always bring more water than you need, wear sunscreen, pack some snacks, carry bug spray, bring your bear spray just in case, and always tell someone where you’re going and check in when you get back.


In Conclusion

At first glance, Fossil Butte National Monument may not seem like it’s worth the detour. Hopefully I’ve convinced you otherwise because this rarely-visited gem is well worth a day trip.

Visiting Glacier National Park in the Off Season

 

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As a birthday gift in 2015, a good friend of mine gave me the 2016 Centennial Edition of the Passport to Your National Parks® book and I decided one of my new missions in life was to fill it with stamps.

I still have a ways to go with covering every page, but in October 2016 I took my second solo cross-country trip and knocked out a few of them. One of the more memorable ones was Glacier National Park.


This is apart of my U.S. National Parks Series of posts. If you have your own story to share about Glacier, leave a comment or contact me! I’d love to hear about your experiences 🙂


About Glacier National Park

Located in northern Montana and bordering the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, Glacier National Park encompasses over 1 million acres (4,000km²) and includes parts of two mountain ranges. It was established as a National Park on May 11, 1910.

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Glacier has 130 named lakes, is home to hundreds of species of animals (some endangered) and over a thousand species of plants. It was also home to many Native American tribes who took advantage of these natural resources as far back as 10,000+ years ago.

The parks’ landscape is covered in mountains, which were formed by glacial activity from the last ice age, leaving us the giant, jagged peaks we see today. There were an estimated 150 glaciers in the park during the mid-19th century and as of 2010, there are only 25 left. It’s estimated that by 2030, the park may have zero glaciers left if current climate patterns continue.

Glacier is also the world’s first International Peace Park in association with Waterton National Park in Canada. The two are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and have been best friends since 1932.

Planning Your Off-Season Visit

Glacier is a gorgeous park, no matter the season and it’s still a popular destination from Fall through the short-lived Spring. I visited during the second-to-last week of October for a couple of days.

The Bend

My first mistake was forgoing the proper amount of research so when I showed up in St. Mary on the East side of the park, I expected to find a campground, an open ranger station to get my stamp, or access to the ever-winding Going to the Sun Road…

Nope None of those amenities were available.

Seasonal road work had Going to the Sun closed, the St. Mary Visitor’s Center was deserted for the season and the only accessible campground was on the complete opposite end of the park. This brings me to my first tip:

Know the Seasonal Closings

By the end of September, all lodgings inside the park are unavailable along with many other services so it’s important to bring your own food into the park.

Many of the resort towns that dot the outskirts of the park are also closed so if you’re not a cold weather camper or you don’t want to sleep in your car, be sure to call local hotels before stopping by, only to find the lights off and the windows boarded up.

By November 1, the St. Mary and Apgar campgrounds are the only open campgrounds. They revert to a primitive state (no running water, no flush toilets), are first come first serve (which isn’t usually a problem), and are half-price.

Here’s the 2017 list of closing times for various services etc.:

  • Going to the Sun Road has sections open all year but closings can happen during inclement weather. During my visit, the East portion was blocked the entrance and the West end was closed to all vehicles except park workers, bicycles, and foot traffic at Avalanche Creek Picnic Area (14.6 miles from Apgar Visitor Center.) Click here to check current road closures.
  • Apgar Backcountry Permit Office closed November 1
  • Apgar Nature Center closed August 28
  • Apgar Visitor Center closed November 6
  • Logan Pass Visitor Center closed October 1
  • Many Glacier Ranger Station closed September 29
  • Park Headquarters open 8am-4:30pm year-round, closed for lunch from 12-12:30pm in the off season
  • Polebridge Ranger Station closed September 17
  • St. Mary Visitor Center closed October 9 (backcountry permit office closed October 13
  • Two Medicine Ranger Station closed September 29

All of these closings are subject to change each year and are available here.

Beware the Wildlife

As stated above, the wildlife in Glacier is diverse but not all of its creatures are cute and cuddly (never cuddle a wild animal, ya dingus.)

During Autumn, it’s important to remember that many animals are preparing for the impending White Walker invasion and are territorial and on high alert.

NEVER APPROACH WILD ANIMALS.

Always keep your distance. Many animals carry diseases, some view you as a threat, and others might see you as a quick and easy meal, especially if you’re traveling alone.

Bears

These guys usually hibernate from December to May but if you’re visiting during Fall, you should absolutely have a can of bear spray on you at all times. Many females are searching for food, which may be scarce (making them hungry) and pregnant (making them ridiculously territorial). Bear spray may not prevent a bear attack and in some cases will actually make the bear angrier, but it’s your best bet to, y’know… not die when a bear wants to destroy you.

You should also have bear bells hanging from your pack to alert any bears of your presence before rounding a corner and startling one.

The park has two species: Black (the smaller guys) and Grizzly (the big, brown ones). It can sometimes be hard to distinguish which is which because their colors can sometimes look very similar. As the old saying goes, a quick way to figure out which one you’re looking at is to climb a tree. If it follows you, it’s a Black bear. If it knocks the tree down, it’s a Grizzly. (Only joking. Don’t climb a tree).

There’s a lot of different advice out there on what to do if you encounter a bear. From my understanding, you should initially make yourself as tall as possible and make as much noise as possible while backing away slowly. This may make the bear a little weary of you and think twice before potentially getting hurt in a scuffle.

If the bear charges, DO NOT RUN. Prey runs. In many cases, an initial charge is a scare tactic. Back away slowly and make a mean face while you’re at it. The bear won’t understand, but you’ll look cool. If the bear doesn’t stop, there’s no point in running. It will catch you so get ready; It’s time to fight.

Some folks say you should fight with all your might against a Black bear while once you’re knocked down by a Grizzly, you should play dead. Apparently, a Grizzly will gnaw on you for a bit and get bored while a Black bear will just keep chewing. Either way, your odds of surviving at this point are very slim.

For further reading about bears, here’s some nightmare fuel about fatal bear attacks in North America if you’re interested. But seriously, if you’re worried about encountering bears on your hikes through Glacier, find a hiking buddy. I met lots of solo travelers during my trip and most were more than happy to talk. I never asked them to join me on a hike but there’s no doubt they would have been all for it. Bears are less inclined to take on two foes at once.

Mountain Lions

They live in the park too and don’t hibernate. Mountain Lions are generally shy and avoid humans, but if you spot one, make lots of noise and look as tall as possible. If it attacks, your bear spray will be effective but a hiking stick is also a good thing to have around. You can use it to poke the tender spots like the eyes.

Elk

These guys are like Whitetail Deer, but much, much larger. If you spot one, keep your distance (at least 75 feet / 25 yards). They usually don’t attack, but you do not want to get into a scuffle with those razor-sharp hooves and pointy antlers.

Click here for more information on wildlife safety in Glacier National Park.

My Experience

As I said before, I was woefully underprepared for my trip to Glacier but I adapted and it ended up being a wonderful time. I had all the food I needed, I was happy to sleep in my car and I got a ton of fantastic shots with my camera during my two hikes.

A Quick Pit Stop

I want to highlight a small food truck I stopped by on my trek North. It was about 10am when I drove through Chester, Montana, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. It literally takes less than 30 seconds to drive through the place but there’s a little park on this strip of Route 2 that I noticed had a little food truck sitting in the parking lot. I stopped up by and to my luck, the middle-aged wife and husband were just opening up shop for the day.

The details are hazy but I’ll do my best to retell their story.

I got to talking to the delightful couple (I can’t remember their names), mostly sharing traveling stories and my past with the woman. She told me how she grew up an Army brat, always on the move from base to base. She did a bit of traveling as she grew up and after having a kid or two, her and her husband either ended up in or chose to stay in Chester.

Regardless of their situation, they opened up the food truck a short time ago and most days plop themselves in the park and sell their burgers, dogs and other classic American fare to locals and folks like me who are just passing through. I ordered a specialty burger. If you’re every passing through Chester, Montana, stop in and buy their stuff! It’s delicious.

Capture

 Back to Glacier

My second day in Glacier was by far the best. I heard Lake McDonald was beautiful so I drove up Going to the Sun Road and stopped to take pictures near the lake.

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As I drove, I parked at every trailhead and parking spot searching for the perfect hike and taking pictures of the massive peaks that surrounded me. The mountains were snowcapped, the trees had changed, and the silence was serene. Except near the river of course.

As stated above, the road was blocked at the Avalanche Creek Picnic Area. A bus full of schoolchildren was in the area and they were planning a hike on the only trail around.

I came for solitude and silence and unfortunately it was the only trailhead I saw in the area. The others I passed were far too long for the amount of time I had to hike and so I made the executive decision to just walk past the road block until I decided it was time to turn back.

Best idea I had that day.

I want to say I did a total of 10 miles but my phone didn’t have service and I didn’t bother to keep track. I just walked one way until my feet started to blister then turned around.

The silence was perfect. The cumulonimbi held fast. The isolation was unnerving at times.

I kept waiting for a bear to jump out from the underbrush and tell me only I could prevent forest fires. Every twist and turn in the road brought a new sight to my eyes that forced me to look up and gawk.

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If I had been driving, I would have missed countless small details (like unmarked trails) along the road, only had glimpses of peaks before they rushed by, and would have heard tunes I’d listened to a thousand times before instead of the occasional slight breeze, the rushing river to my left, and every so often, the sounds of solitude that I’ll never forget.

I saw some flora I’d never seen, a few birds, the occasional service vehicle (always sharing a wave with the drivers), and two cyclists, one of whom stopped to chat with me after his second passing. At first introductions, he was simply a cold cyclist with condensation hanging from his nose. He asked me how I was enjoying the park and mentioned he cruised the road nearly every day. I was surprised and asked him if he lived in the park to which he replied that yes, he did (living the life).

The next thing he said blew my mind. He used to be the park’s superintendent.

After I got home I looked him up and sure enough. his name was Chas Cartwright and he was the superintendent of Glacier National Park from 2008 to 2013. I’d never met a celebrity before.

When I returned to my car, my feet felt ready to fall off, I was hungry, and the parking lot was filled with vehicles. I drove on to my next adventure, happy that I had my own unique experience in Glacier and didn’t have to deal with the traffic that plagues the area during the Summer months.

It was a good day.

I Lost My Passport. Now What?

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The red button won’t solve your problems

You’re in another country, enjoying the sights, the people, and everything new and exciting you’ve been dying to try for years.

Then you realize your passport is missing. Or worse, you get robbed and have your money, identification (including your passport), and personal belongings stolen.

And you don’t have any photocopies…


This is a part of my How To Travel series of blog posts. As time goes on, I’ll have more posts in the series and different series’ to help organize my blog and make it easier for visitors to navigate.


What do you do?

If you’ve been robbed, the most important thing to do is run, don’t walk to your nearest police station and file a police report.

By having a police report, you can file a claim with your insurance company and – if you can pay for it – get a limited-validity emergency passport.

Without any identifying information, a police report is one of your only options to hopefully track your stuff down. Relay every bit of information you can remember about the thief, your location, and potential witnesses. Maybe they’ll catch him, maybe they wont. Right now, that’s the least of your worries.

Your main priority is to recover and protect your identity. Here are the next steps:

1. Contact Your Bank

If you’ve lost your credit and debit cards, you need to put a freeze on them (if you think you’ll get them back), or completely cancel them. You can also replace your cards. Don’t add being broke to your list of things to worry about.

2. Go to Your Embassy or Consulate

If you have no money, you can’t afford a limited-validity emergency passport…

…But the nice folks at the embassy can pull up your information and confirm you’re who you say you are, giving you a stamped photocopy of your passport. It’s possible to get through customs with this, but don’t count on it. Your safest option is to buy a limited-validity emergency passport. For Americans, it costs the same as a normal passport.

Any documentation you get from here can also be used when you make an insurance claim.

3. Get Some Money

With the stamped photocopy of your passport, you can now breathe a little easier. You have proof of identification, which will help you get money from a bank or Western Union.

Head to an internet café or some place with free internet and find a way to contact home or friends (the police will let you use their phone if you’ve lost your laptop or cell.) You owe it to your mother to let her know what happened. Plus, she might send you money because she loves you.

If however, your parents are struggling financially or you still have money in the bank, head to a bank! There you can grab money from your accounts and get closer to sense of normalcy.

4. Back EVERYTHING Up

You should have done this before you left but you made a mistake. It happens, and now you have to face the consequences. Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone screws up from time to time.

After you’ve given yourself a pep talk, get online and find all necessary documents and information you had before it was lost. Put it in your cloud storage (Google and Microsoft give you a small amount of free storage when you open an account), send copies to someone you trust, carry a copy with you, and put copies in each of your bags.

This step will ensure you’re covered (for the most part) if you get struck by lightning twice in one trip.

In Conclusion

You can breathe easy again. Relax, have a beer, travel smart, and enjoy the rest of your trip!

How to Apply for a Passport

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So you’re ready to see what’s out there…

You’ve thought about it for years, telling your friends, “Italy seems nice” or “I’ve always wanted to visit Australia.” and now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and see the world.

The first thing you’ll need to do: Get a passport.


This is a part of my How To Travel Solo series of blog posts. As time goes on, I’ll have more posts in the series and different series’ to help organize my blog and make it easier for visitors to navigate.

Because I’m American, I’m going to summarize the American Passport System and the process for legal U.S. citizens. If you’re renewing your passport, you can do so here


What is a Passport?

Simply put, a passport is a government issued document that lets you travel to other countries. As long as you’re older than 16 when you apply, it’s valid for 10 years.

A passport usually has the following identifying information in it:

  • Your name
  • Your nationality
  • Your picture
  • Your date of birth
  • Your signature

The moment you reach a new country you are required to present your passport to Customs and Border Officials. In most cases, No passport = no entry.

It’s one of the only ways to prove you’re who you say you are. So if you lose your passport while you’re in another country, you’re in a heap of trouble. This is why it’s important to have multiple photocopies of your passport.

There is a process (which takes time) and a fee to obtain a passport, which is all described below.


How to Apply for a Passport

Applying for a passport can seem daunting at first. You might have all these ideas in your head of how it’s a process and it’s going to be so much work. You may also be thinking about this huge decision you’ve decided to make.

I mean, you’re about to set off and see the world. Who wouldn’t be at least a little nervous to take such a monstrous leap?

Good news! It’s easier than you think.

Your first step is to find some documents. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Proof of Citizenship – Your birth certificate is your best bet. You’ll also need a photocopy if this.
  2. Identification – Have a driver’s license or other State-issued ID? Bring that along with a photocopy of it.
  3. Proof of Relationship – Only required for children under 16.
  • Also, you should know your Social Security number

Next, you’ll need to take your passport photo. You can:

  1. Take it yourselfSee here for requirements
  2. Pay for it – Corner pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid have passport photo services for a small fee. They’ll get it right the first time.

Now that you have the proper materials, you can apply for your passport!

To do so, you will need to fill out a Form DS-11 with one caveat: You have to apply in person.

You are however, able to:

Finally, you have to find a Passport Acceptance Facility near you. Your results will be mostly U.S. Post Offices and Clerk of Courts offices.

By doing all of these steps before you visit the office, you’ll  save yourself a ton of time and a headache or two.

In Conclusion

This blog post was a way for me to better understand the passport process before I apply for a passport myself while simultaneously building the website one post at a time. Some of the information may be inaccurate so please use the official Department of State website to avoid any problems you may face while applying for your passport. It’s where I found most of the information posted here.