Not too long ago, I noticed a poll on the homepage of Moon.com that asked, “Do you enjoy traveling solo?”  While I mulled over the question for a long time, reflecting on how memorable it might be to travel alone, I admit that, ultimately, I answered in the negative. At the time, I had two reasons for doing so.
First, my fondest travel memories have always been tied to someone else – like my mother and father when I was a child, close friends as I got older, or, as of late, my husband, Dan. The second reason, though, involves a rather embarrassing confession. Despite my lifelong passion for travel – and my familiarity with many forms of transportation, including planes, trains, buses, RVs, cars, and boats – I don't do much driving of my own. In fact, because of an initial fear of driving, which frankly bordered on the irrational, I didn't actually secure an official driver's license until I was 22 years old – following a crash course in learning to drive my mother's stick-shift Toyota. Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, I barely drove during the ensuing years, inadvertently making Dan the designated driver – whether we were on the open road or navigating around the places that we, at one time or another, called home (like Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New Orleans).
So, to be candid, as often as I daydream about traveling on my own, I didn't have the requisite experience to answer “yes” to Moon's recent poll question. Of course, if the question had been, “Do you think you'd enjoy traveling solo?” – I surely would have answered differently.
Since then, however, I've been purposely driving more often by myself – usually no more than 20 miles at a time and typically with mundane destinations, like the grocery store or the post office, in mind. But a couple weeks ago, I decided to venture a bit farther from home. While Dan was salmon fishing near Anchorage, Alaska, with his father and brother, I planned to visit a fellow writer down in Standish, Michigan – more than 100 miles south of where I live in the state's Lower Peninsula. Needless to say, Dan wasn't completely pleased with my decision. Although he could appreciate my delight at the prospect of having lunch with a friend and, equally thrilling, depending solely on myself to get there, he was worried about my doing it while he was more than 3,600 miles away.
I knew, though, that the time had come for me to take the plunge and prove to myself that I could not only make a lengthy solo drive – but also relish it. So, despite Dan's concerns, I stuck to my plan. That morning, I awoke before my alarm sounded – too excited, or perhaps too nervous, to sleep. After inadvertently locking myself out of the house – and having to borrow the keys from my mother-in-law – I packed up the van and hit the road – in a rainstorm, no less. Soon, I was singing classic rock songs at the top of my lungs as I ventured south to visit my friend. Although it took several winding country roads and a long stretch of Interstate 75 to get there, I eventually reached Bridget's farmhouse, where we had a lovely lunch of homemade pizzas and fruit salad, not to mention a wonderful conversation about books, movies, writing, and, of course, husbands.
After our visit, I retraced my route back north – and in spite of a truly terrifying rainstorm, which was much worse than the earlier one and nearly impossible to see through, I was actually less apprehensive than I'd been on the southbound trip. On the way home, I even had the wherewithal to note all the “firsts” I'd experienced that day: the first time I'd traveled so far alone, the first time I'd driven somewhere I'd never been before, the first time I'd stopped at a rest area by myself, the first time I'd driven in such a torrential downpour, and, if my hubby will forgive me, the first time I'd had more than three hours' worth of uninterrupted control of our satellite radio.
Naturally, my husband and mother-in-law were relieved when I'd safely returned from my solo road trip. While I hadn't gone terribly far, it was still a liberating – and enlightening – journey. Overcoming my anxiety and opting for the driver's seat gave me an incredible feeling of accomplishment and allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. While I still love traveling with Dan, I'm now more open to the possibility of traveling alone. And who knows? Maybe next time, I'll cross a state line or two – or if I'm feeling truly adventurous, I might even take one of the treasured U.S. road trips  that I discussed back in April.
So, what about you? Have you ever taken a solo road trip – in America or elsewhere? If so, where did you go – and how was the trip? And if not, I highly recommend taking a solo drive of your own – maybe even this summer – and preferably when it's not raining.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo © 2011 Daniel Martone / Text © 2011 Laura Martone
Laura Martone is Moon’s American Nomad  and the author of Moon Michigan , Moon Florida Keys , Moon Baja RV Camping , and the upcoming Moon New Orleans, which will be published in Spring 2012.