Picture this, a two month road trip with a car full of girls in their 20s. They don’t know each other that well, have different interests and their pace of lives contrast. Sooner or later some alone time will be needed before the cold shoulders and slamming of doors start. On our two month venture around the USA I occasionally went out for the odd walk after breakfast. I’d go out with my camera and not stray too far from the motel. The thought of solo travel in America was daunting to me and I was very much okay being in the company of my mates. However two separate times I had to try solo travelling. Due to different interests and a change of plans I found myself exploring on my own. I probably would have enjoyed my time more if I had the company but I still had a pretty damn good time alone.
Here’s my solo travel experiences.
“Today I’m going to Brownsville where Stand By Me was filmed!”
Visiting the town in Oregon where one of my favourite movies was filmed was first on my road trip planning list. Unfortunately no one else on the trip shared my fan girl enthusiasm. We entered the town driving under the same green bridge the boys return to after their adventure in the movie. As a true fan I definitely did listen to the famous song while we drove under! We parked up on Main Street, dodged the rain and headed for the Brownsville Saloon Bar and Grill for some lunch. Inside it was quiet with a few locals eating and playing on the slot machines. I say locals due to the strange looks we received on entering. They could tell we weren’t from around here. There I asked our waitress about the movie locations and she directed me to the art centre and the museum. After lunch we headed back to the car where I picked up my waterproof jacket. It was still pouring with rain but I wasn’t letting that dampen my spirits. The others however decided to stay in the car to avoid the rain. My solo travel began there.
I made my way to the art centre and picked up the last map on the display. Then I headed for the museum and bought a t-shirt and postcard. Whilst there I spoke to the museum owner about how dreadful this rain was and then set off in search of some locations.
I wandered about and took pictures, passing only a few people on Main Street. It wasn’t quite a ghost town but sadly it felt like it was getting that way. Alone and walking around I was left to my own thoughts. I couldn’t believe I was in the same area where they had filmed my favourite 80s film.
In the alleyway behind Brownsville Saloon was where one of my favourite scenes from the movie happened. One boy shows his friend the gun he ‘borrowed’ off his Dad for the trip. Tricking his friend that the gun wasn’t loaded the friend gets quite a surprise when he fires it off. They run from the alleyway laughing and the coming of age movie begins. So I headed round the back to take a look. In the movie the diner was called Blue Point Diner. With no one around I took more pictures.
As I finished taking my photos I didn’t notice the waitress from before was stood behind me watching as she took her cigarette break. She scared me half to death. “Did you find the museum all right” she asked. I replied that I did and thanked her again and told her she scared me. She smiled and went back inside. Like in the film I too got an unexpected surprise whilst stood in the alleyway.
As we left Browsville and drove out two young boys went past my window of the car on their bikes laughing whilst racing each other and another two were sat on the side of the road deep in conversation. A moment that felt special to me as I was the only one to see it in a romantic notion kind of way. Young boys still there growing up in Brownsville.
I’m not sure what you call these experiences. Coincidence, a strange happening, evidence of magic still left.
“I went ahead and booked the tour by myself.”
In New Orleans I did a swamp tour by myself. I booked the tour with Airboat Adventures. I also booked a seat on the mini bus that would take me there and back. A short bus journey from our motel to town and a 10 minute walk to the mini bus pick up point was all it was going to take. The thought of getting to the pick up point by myself in an unfamiliar town was a little worrying. Before I left the motel I screen grabbed maps and pictures of buildings just to make myself more confident. Isn’t it funny how much we rely on WiFi and data these days. I was going to be fine but I’d rather be safe than lost.
Our motel was slightly out of town and there weren’t any fellow tourists about. The bus arrived and I stepped on, paid for my ticket and turned to look for a seat. About three rows before the very back there was a seat that became available when a girl took her bag off the seat and smiled at me. I sat down next to her. I knew that New Orleans is one of the top cities with a higher population of African Americans but I only truly realised that when I sat on the bus and looked around. “Why you so pink” a young boy jokingly asked from behind me. I wasn’t sure whether he was talking about my sunburn or not. The people around me all smiled. I found it very amusing. I was the only white person on the bus.
One of the biggest influences in my photography back in college was Robert Frank. If you know his work you’ll know one of his most famous images taken in New Orleans of a streetcar. The picture was taken in the 50s and shows the racial segregation of that time. I felt like I was taking part in one of those ‘Then and Now’ recreation pictures that have become very popular on the internet.
Leaving the bus I headed for the pick up point which was outside the Sheraton hotel. I was picked up and taken to Airboat Adventures. On arrival I paid and was given a wrist band and then waited for my number to be called. Number 11 was called and I had front row seats.
Our tour guide was called Paul Phillips and if you are ever in Louisiana taking a swamp tour ask for Paul, I highly recommend him. Just as we left the dock the heavens opened and I have never experienced rain and whiplash from rain like that before. Our air boat continued through the storm. My ears were shielded from the noise by huge yellow headphones but my eyes suffered. I screwed them up to shelter them from the rain and wind but tried to see what was going on as not to miss the view. I looked like a hot mess and a drowned rat by the end. Luckily my hair was already tied up so I didn’t need to worry about that. We sped through the storm and it soon brightened up. We carried on straight for awhile, Paul told us about snakes being in the trees and to be careful about one falling into the boat. Later he pretend one had fallen into our boat and a few girls reacted just the way he had planned.
The bayou is changing constantly due to erosion and sinking land so the routes taken on the tour will sometimes be different. The guides never get lost though as they are always out on the water. We turned a corner and met up with another air boat. The party of people on the other air boat were all stood on their feet looking out to the water. That’s when I realised their guide was in the water and there were two alligators in the water with him! Paul parked our boat up against the others and then jumped in and joined the alligators. The two tour guides began to wrestle with the alligators. Paul Phillips happens to be a world champion alligator wrestler. Needless to say he’s a professional and what a show he put on for us. Afterwards we travelled around some more and we all got to hold a baby alligator.
I returned back to the motel squelching every step I took. Converse were not the best choice of footwear when travelling through a rain storm. I reported back to my travel companions on the day that I had and the fact I had a picture of myself holding a baby alligator made it all that more special.
Where have you solo travelled to? Are you scared of solo travelling like I was/still am? Let me know in the comments below!