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I love traveling and I live for road trips. I am most at peace when I am out in the wilderness sleeping under the stars. But I am always with someone, never alone. When I decided to take this two week solo road trip, it was because I had been stuck at a desk job for two years with limited vacation time. I was so over it and so stir crazy I was about to burst. I had to take this trip, even if no one could go with me, for my own sanity and happiness. I needed a reset. So, I put in my two weeks notice and started planning.

Portland was the fourth stop on my trip. I had already visited friends in Jackson and Boise. My boyfriend flew out to meet me in Seattle where we spent the weekend wandering the city like true tourists and exploring the rainforest coast. Here in Portland, I was truly alone for the first time. I had no one to stay with and I didn’t know a single person in the city.

I was a little nervous when I first woke up in my empty hotel room. For a minute, I didn’t know what to do. Then I realized I could do whatever I wanted. There didn’t need to be a conversation about making plans or deciding on what works best for other people. It was just me. I got in my car and drove about 20 miles out of the city along the Columbia River. A huge tourist attraction, Multnomah Falls, was my destination.

You’ve probably seen pictures of this massive, incredible water fall. I think it’s used as a generic screen saver photo on computers. It’s the one that falls into a high pool, broken up by a foot bridge, and then a second falls down to the bottom where the river continues. Seeing it in person was almost unexplainable, a feeling I struggle to put into words. The size of the water fall, the power behind it, the cool spray that hit you even standing so far away, the lush green forest that surrounded it – it was truly something else. Standing in front of this I felt so small, yet so empowered. I couldn’t help but foolishly smile from ear to ear. I walked up to the foot bridge to see it from a different perspective, this one much closer.

The trail continued up and I decided to keep going, to hike the whole thing to the top. The trail was extremely steep and my calves were burning almost instantly, but I wasn’t stopping. On the way up I saw every shade of green in the leaves and ferns and moss. There were multiple spots where water was trickling down the rock canyon walls around me. The tree roots weaving in and out of each other. It was enchanting.

At the top I observed a few things. First, the people: there was a group of teenagers sitting by the water smoking pot, not trying to hide it at all. A young couple also sitting by the water on a blanket eating sandwiches. A father and son standing on the look-out platform looking at the view. A large family taking picture after picture. And me.

The look-out platform is not something for anyone who’s afraid of heights. It jets out over the rocks and the view is straight down. Here I could see the waterfall dropping beneath me and the river running strong out in front of me. I could also see all the people down below, and all the cars in the parking lot, and the drivers on the road heading back into the city. I stood there and just stared for a few minutes before making my descent. This was the moment I had been searching for. This moment was the entire reason why I took this trip.

At home in Colorado, I hike all the time, it’s one of my favorite past times. In fact, it’s sort of my religion, as cheesy as that sounds, but true. However, I very rarely hike alone. When I do, I’m not really alone because I always bring my dog with me. This solo hike was a special treat.

Once back in Portland city limits, I walked from my hotel out to the river front and through the park. I walked into the downtown area past the university and all the store fronts. I found myself in line at Voodoo Donut where I got three large donuts that I proceeded to eat for dinner that night and breakfast and lunch the following day.

Traveling alone can be so freeing and it’s something I highly suggest every woman do at least once in her lifetime. It can teach you a lot about yourself and allow you the time and head space to accurately evaluate your life. I don’t like spending too much time alone, and this was the first time I traveled by myself. The experience changed me, and opened me up to a part of myself I didn’t know was there all along.

I could have been done after this, just got back in the car and drove home. However, I stayed in Portland a few more days and then continued south. California, is a whole different story.