In this post, we’re going to talk about solo travel and couples travel, and lots of stuff in between.

Abby, thank you so much for joining us today.

Yeah, thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Abby is a landscape and adventure photographer, artist, and outdoor advocate. She’s based in Dover, Delaware, and she’s also the marketing director for Delaware State Parks and manages her own wedding photography business.

Abby is an amazing photographer. She’s got the best Instagram account and I’ll link all of her information in the description below the video.

SOLO TRAVEL

How long have you traveled by yourself?

I’ve been traveling solo for probably about 4 years now.

What do you enjoy about that the most?

What I really like about it is it:

  • Forces you to think about what you as a person want
  • Forces you to think about what makes you happy 
  • Forces you to think about what is going to be the most fulfilling for you out of the trip
  • Gives you the confidence to do other things in life, too, when you can travel by yourself.

MODE OF TRAVEL

How do you usually travel when you go by yourself?

It kind of depends. I’d say if the destination is within about a 6-hr. drive, I’ll drive and then I’ll either stay in an Airbnb or sometimes I camp or I’ll sleep in my car because I can do that when it’s just me.

Abby Shepard car camping
©️ Abby Shepard Photography

But if it’s longer than that, then I tend to fly.

I think it’s good to have kind of a guideline like that [for how long you’re willing to travel by car]. It helps us pick our destinations as well.

SOLO CAMPING

When you go camping, do you typically stay in a National park or do you do the dispersed camping on BLM land or do you kind of mix it up a little?

I kind of mix it up a little bit. I don’t actually stay in National parks all that often because it can be really hard to get a reservation depending on which park. You have to plan really far ahead of time and they can fill up really fast.

I actually usually end up staying at either a state park campground or a privately owned campground. There’s not a lot of BLM land or free camping around on the east coast where I live and if I’m going to the west coast, usually I’ll fly so then it’s a little bit harder to camp but I like private campgrounds like KOA have more reliable Wi-Fi so if you need to work on the road, which I sometimes do and you need Wi-Fi, that’s a good option and State parks usually don’t fill up quite as fast as national parks.

SOLO CAMPING SAFETY

When you’re camping by yourself, especially being a female, is there any gear that you take with you to make sure that you can protect yourself?

Yeah. I usually carry pepper spray with me if I’m hiking or camping by myself. It’s just like a little thing that I can keep with me. My dad also got me a flashlight that doubles as a low-key taser which is, I guess, useful. Those are really the only gear things that I use.

I also make sure that I download offline maps for roads on Google Maps and offline maps for trails on All Trails so that if I lose service I can still know where I am.

I also let people know where I’m going to be, usually my parents or my boyfriend, and I also never post where I am in real-time so I won’t post that I’m at a campground until after I leave so no one can actually find me from Instagram or social media.

Have you ever had any issues when you’ve been camping by yourself or traveling by yourself?

Honestly, no. I’ve never felt like I was in an unsafe position.

DINING ALONE

I know a lot of people probably shy away from traveling by themselves because eating by themselves can be awkward. Is there any way that you’ve overcome that?

Yeah, so a few thoughts on that. First of all, I feel like it’s just going to be uncomfortable the first couple of times you do it, but then you just gotta do it, and then it gets better but I do have a couple of tips for it. If you sit at the bar, it’s a little bit easier. You can just usually walk up and sit at the bar.

Then sometimes if I feel bad for taking up a whole table by myself, I’ll leave the waiter a little extra tip just to say thank you for letting me have a table to myself. 

If you really don’t want to eat in a restaurant you can always get take out and if you don’t do that either, fast-casual places or non-sit-down places are always really easy to eat by yourself.

Those are good tips because I know a lot of people probably…the awkwardness may keep them from venturing out on their own.

SOLO PHOTOGRAPHY

Do you have any photography tips for people when they’re traveling by themselves?

I think that’s one thing – if they want pictures of themselves, that’s one of the bigger things that’s kind of difficult to do and I know myself…I’m terrible at selfies! I always look like either my eyes are squinty or I look, you know, I try to open my eyes up and then I look like I’m a crazy person. [laughing]

So, yes I do have some recommendations.  First, I have these apps on my phone that allow me to control my camera shutter with my phone so that I can set up my camera, step away, and then I can control the shutter with my phone – yeah, hopefully, that makes sense – which is super helpful.

I also have a drone that I take pictures with of myself sometimes. I know that’s not accessible for everybody but if you have a drone, you can take pictures of yourself and then also just bringing a tripod to put your camera or phone on is super helpful and the phone tripods can be super lightweight and you can take them with you easily hiking.

And then when you’re actually taking pictures, I don’t usually ask people to take my pictures because I get kind of picky so I tend to take like a ton of pictures of myself and just keep moving the whole time – walk back and forth, look around, smile, look in different directions – and then I’ll look and find a couple that I like and just…it can be uncomfortable at first if people are around you, but that’s another thing that the more you do it, you’ll be more comfortable taking pictures yourself even if there are other people around.

©️ Abby Shepard Photography

I think a lot of people are so used to that now. You know everyone’s got a phone and everybody’s posting themselves on the social media sites so it’s probably not as uncommon as some people might think. Yeah.

Another thing I just thought of: I don’t like carrying my tripod usually. Well, sometimes I do, but I don’t like carrying it because it’s really heavy, but recently I’ve just started using whatever’s in the landscape to put my camera on or my phone like my backpack, rocks, a ledge…just use whatever’s around you if you don’t want to carry a tripod or you don’t have one.

TRAVELING WITH OTHERS: PROS & CONS

I know you travel with your boyfriend and he’s very outdoorsy as well and enjoys hiking and camping.

©️ Abby Shepard Photography

What do you find to be the pros and cons of traveling with another person?

Good question. So let’s see.

PROS:

  • You have someone to hang out with all the time so you don’t have to worry about being lonely which sometimes happens with solo travel but it’s just something you have to keep in mind for solo travel
  • You have someone to do things with: to eat with, to hike with, to run ideas off of
  • You have someone to drive when you don’t want to drive, you could take a break
  • You have someone to help with logistics


CONS:

  • You’re with that person 24/7
    • You have to make sure that you’re working out any disagreements that you have
    • You both have to make sure that you communicate what you need and what you want and that you’re both satisfied with what you’re doing

I would say that’s probably the biggest con, at least for me.

ADVICE FOR NEW SOLO TRAVELERS

What would you say to someone who’s considering venturing out on their own for the first time? Do you have any suggestions or advice to give them?

Yeah, I mean I’d say do it go for it but actual advice, I’d say to:

  • Start small and do things around where you live first
  • Go on a day hike by yourself somewhere that you’re comfortable 
  • Try a whole day trip somewhere that’s a little farther away
  • Try one night overnight by yourself, then build yourself up to something bigger or longer
  • Have some sort of plan. You can get lonely by yourself or get kind of unmotivated and so if you have a plan – at least for me – a rough plan of where I’m gonna go I’m gonna stay even sometimes where I wanna eat, it helps keep me motivated
  • Be flexible and patient with yourself. If you don’t like it, that’s okay or if you have a bad experience, which is going to happen at some point, that’s okay, too. Just…it’s not going to be every time and if something bad happens, just be like it’s okay. I tried my best and now I know better for next time.

And you learn from it and the next trip is that much better the next time, right?

Yeah, exactly, because it’s not gonna be perfect all the time. Something bad or inconvenient or not fun is gonna happen at some point and just be okay with that.

I agree with you and it’s I think it’s so important, too, to get comfortable spending time by yourself.

 

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