My 25th birthday was rapidly approaching, and I was growing with excitement each day. My long-time boyfriend was set to return from overseas and I was hoping we could plan a getaway for just the two of us. Needless to say, I was unpleasantly surprised to find out when he did return that his plans were much different than mine. Much different as in he ended our relationship.
As you can imagine, I was devastated, alone, and now, scrambling trying to convince my best friend to take this trip with me in his place. Reluctantly, she agreed to take the trip, but on a few conditions. Condition one, no outdoor activities. Well, that was the exact opposite of what my trip was going to entail. So, I began to search around for a trip I could take on my own. This was about to be my very first solo trip!
After days of research I decided this wild and spontaneous birthday trip would be to Anchorage, Alaska. At the time, it was as far away from Miami, Florida as I could possibly afford to travel. Being that the trip was planned so last minute, I really did not have time to plan out activities like I normally would. So, with only a plane ticket and a hotel room booked, I arrived at the airport excited and nervous all at the same time.
While on the plane ride, I met two other solo travelers that were sitting near me and we discovered that all three of us were setting out on vastly different Alaskan journeys. A great deal of our flight was spent discussing each of our plans, one would be hiking in the mountains, one would be ice climbing, and well, I still had no clue what I was going to do with my time in Alaska.
When we arrived in Anchorage, we wished each other safe and great adventures, said our goodbyes, and went on our separate ways. From the airport, I easily hailed a taxi and set off to check-in to my hotel. Being that I had zero plans I wanted to check in and head straight to the local chamber of commerce where I knew I could grab some pamphlets and muster up some sort of idea of what I would be doing during this escapade. After talking to the lovely lady behind the desk, who graciously recommended a few things, I grabbed the corresponding pamphlets, and headed back to my hotel. After browsing through the recommended pamphlets, I made a few phone calls, and had a few exciting things set up.
Even though this entire day was exhausting, I grabbed a taxi, and set off to enjoy Flattop Mountain. After all, it was my 25th birthday! The hike is easy and does not require equipment. About halfway up, there are spectacular views of the Anchorage bowl. Be prepared, as you get to the top of the trail, it becomes almost vertical.
Photo of the Anchorage Bowl with Mt. Denali
Now, getting up was not a problem, but when it came time to go back down, it did not take long for me to realize that I was a visibly intimidated. Looking down at the near vertical drop with large boulders had me thinking twice about how I would make my way down. There happened to be a local man patiently standing behind me. He watched and waited for me to summon up the courage to begin my descent. After a little bit of time, he kindly suggested that I might want to start off by going down the steepest parts by sitting down and scooting.
So here I am exhausted, scared, and cold, scooting down a mountain, alone in Alaska. To some, that may sound like a negative description, but honestly at this point in my life it was the best birthday I had ever experienced.
Between the traveling and conquering the mountain, I was starving! Trying to avoid any state of hangriness, I went to the nearest restaurant possible. Much of the menu was fresh off the boat! Being that it was my birthday, the perfect meal for me was steak and Alaskan king crab legs.
After my delicious birthday dinner, I returned to my hotel, and asked the hotel concierge for recommendations of a good bar to celebrate. The concierge directed me to a place called Chilkoot Charlie’s. It is a local bar with ... interesting décor. Attention grabbing décor such as women’s bras that decorate the entire ceiling of one room. It was a great night and I spent much of it chatting with a couple of cool local girls.
The next day I set out to explore the city of Anchorage by bike. While at the bike rental store, the man gave me few instructions on what sites to see and naturally, what I should do if I happened to encounter a wild moose. Naturally, in Alaska, wild moose have the right of way on all paths. So, one most pull over and kindly allow them to pass. The next piece of advice surprised me, if the moose begins to chase after you, the best way to avoid them is to run in tight circles around the base of a tree!
While out on my ride I decided to stop at a few of the points the rental man had suggested. This spot was where the planes are often approaching the airport and they fly noticeably low overhead. Another stop was at a clearing where you enjoy the water and the view of Mt. Denali off in the distance.
Photo of Mt. Denali
On my way back to the city, I was on the bike path when it happened. A wild moose was right in the path!
As instructed, I pulled over allowing the wild moose to have the right of way. To my surprise, it stopped, proceeded to dig a hole, peed in the hole, and then laid down on top of it. Okay, what now? There were no instructions for this situation and I was unsure of what I should do. The wild moose was just on the other side of the path and I was completely unsure if I should get back on my bike and go or if I should stay there and wait until he left first.
Luckily, after a few minutes of waiting the horrible smell of moose pee made the decision for me. My nose decided it was time to go. Most of all I am thankful I was able to continue without disturbing the moose and was able to avoid having to run in circles around trees.
Another highlight of the day was my time at the Anchorage museum, where I learned much about the Great Alaskan earthquake of 1964. The earthquake destroyed much of the city and it was interesting to learn that when they rebuilt the city, they restructured the building codes to keep all buildings under three stories tall.
On my very last day, I took a tour bus on a day trip to Alyeska. We were traveling along the Seward Highway, where there is ocean on one side and mountains on the other. Along the way, the driver stopped at a lookout point and we were able to see beluga whales!!
The next stop was an adventure I had been excitedly waiting for, ice climbing! We hiked a couple miles up the mountain, passing deep crevasses, using crampons on the ice, and we all walked like Frankenstein, per the guides instructions. We stopped at a spot where the glacier ice had melted into a small pool and filled our water bottles with the freshest water I have ever tasted.
The Hike up to the Ice Wall
When we arrived at our ice wall, we spent hours climbing to different points along the wall. Here was a girl from Miami, Florida hanging on to an Alaskan ice wall by crampons and ice picks! The best part was when we climbed up to the very top, you could see just how far we had come from our hike, the cars looked like tiny little specks far off in the distance.
In that moment, a deep sense of accomplishment washed over me, and it was unforgettable.
Later that night, I sat in my hotel room reflecting on all that I had accomplished on this solo adventure to Alaska. Feeling thankful that I took the chance to travel to Alaska alone, done things I had never dreamed I would do, I honestly did not want it to end.
The feeling of independence I gained from this trip was entirely unexpected. At first this trip seemed to be more of an escape from the unexpected breakup, but it evolved into so much more.
Rather than an escape, it truly became about self-discovery. I discovered that I was stronger than I thought, I discovered I was braver that I thought, I discovered I was more independent than I thought. Never again will I feel that I need a boyfriend or best friend to take a trip. It was completely possible for me to travel alone, greatly enjoy the things that make me happy, and discover things I never thought I would do.
To this day I recommend that people should travel at least once by themselves.
It was genuinely an amazing experience for me and one that I will never forget.
1. Three hours early to the airport or running to the gate? Three hours early
2. Pretzels or Lotus Biscoff cookies? Pretzels
3. Excel planned trip or just wing it? Planned trip, to a certain point. Gotta leave room for spontaneity.
4. Favorite continent? Would have to be North America, as that is the only one I've bee to, so far!
5. Dream destination? Seychelles