Almost five years ago to the day, I embarked on my first real road trip from Virginia to Maine. And I did it traveling alone. If anyone tells you that you can’t travel alone as a female, they’re wrong. It was a very liberating experience. At the time, I owned next to nothing and was living paycheck by paycheck. Do we live in a dangerous world? Yes. There is going to be danger wherever you go. There are dangers where you live now. As long as you have a good head on your shoulders, take proper precautions and use a little common sense, you can have a safe and successful trip.
In a previous post, I discussed travel safety tips. Here, I’m going to share with you my experience in traveling alone all those years ago when I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Back then I had no credit cards (Smart, though I had applied for one through my bank before the trip…it arrived in the mail the day after I left. Probably for the best.) Being tight on budget, I didn’t even own a smart phone! Instead, I spent my nights in the hotel room planning my next day by looking up things to do on my laptop and programming addresses into my TomTom.
Leaving Southeastern Virginia
Though it wasn’t the first time I’d left home, I hadn’t done that much traveling in the past. Previously, my family had taken me on road trips to visit an older brother in Arkansas and New York. I had even been to Canada on one occasion, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and to Pennsylvania for a funeral. So it wasn’t that I hadn’t been out, it was that I hadn’t been out on my own for my own reasons.
I made everything up as I went with certain interests I knew I wanted to see. Mainly, the goal was to reach the state of Maine (no pun intended). I’m not sure what was pulling me towards the state but I felt compelled to go.
First, I traveled west towards the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once I reached the Natural Bridge Caverns, I toured them to stretch my legs, then continued up the scenic route of Skyline Drive.
No pictures can ever fully capture the beauty of this place. If you ever have the chance to view the beauty of the mountains, the western part of Virginia and the state of West Virginia are the best places to view them in the east. With that being said, I will leave you with these:
After adventuring down Skyline Drive, I made my way towards the Luray Caverns. Far more vast and commercialized than the Natural Bridge Caverns, the rest at the northern tip of Skyline Drive. I was determined to get there before they closed for the day (Yes, so far this has only been one day…and a lot of driving).
Once again, pictures cannot do this place justice. If I ever go again, I vow to take none and instead, enjoy the beauty and splendor of seeing it with my own eyes. Sometimes when we go on trips we spend so much time taking pictures that we forget to take in the experience.
A Random Motel in Luray
After I left the caverns, I found a place to settle in for the night. Since I had been “winging” it, I hadn’t booked any place in advance. This was long before the days of being a Hilton Honors Club Member. I checked into the last room of a motel that was $50 a night. This night was one of the moments that I realized how spoiled and privileged I was during my childhood.
The room had no wi-fi, millions of dead beetles in the window sill and bug traps/poison hidden in corners and behind the furniture. I’m not even sure what kind of bug they were trying to kill and I didn’t want to find out. That night, I refused to shower or even undress at all. After sitting on the bed and having a good cry (realizing how naive I had been all my life and how easy I’d had it), I dead-bolted the door (yes, the motel had dead-bolts), I put the desk chair up against it and my heavy luggage on top of that.
I refused to leave anything on the floor because of bugs and for the same reason I slept on top of the covers, fully clothed and with the lights on. Exhausted, I didn’t even bother to watch the television. Instead, I was thankful to have a place to sleep even with the fear of bug infestations and possible intruders trying to break down my door. After all, I had seen enough horror films that took place in motels out in the middle of nowhere.
Not that I’ve ever been large (I’ve never been more than a size 2), but I had a small belly before I started the trip. Yes, even size 2’s get bellies. Throughout the course of this trip, my diet consisted of yogurt, granola bars and water. Once a day I would try and stop for a plate of pasta or a slice of pizza (a far cry from our now seven-course meals at modern sushi joints in DC, thank you, honey!) If you’re ever looking to lose weight (I’m not a doctor so you probably shouldn’t listen to this), one week of eating like that made any pudge I had vanish almost overnight.
Heading Towards Vermont
I knew that it would still take me more than a day to get to Maine, even without stopping and sight-seeing anywhere. Since I didn’t have wi-fi the night before or a smart phone with any kind of data plan, I stuck to the road the next day and rove through Pennsylvania and the country-side of New York. By the time I reached Vermont, I was exhausted and determined to find a place to stay that had internet.
I found a quaint motel in Bennington, Vermont that charged $100 a night. It was well kept and I felt safe showering and sleeping in my pajamas unlike the night before. It’s amazing what small comforts can do. Having internet, I took the time to plan the rest of my trip to Maine and figure out what I would do once I got there.
Making it to Maine, “The Southern North”
Maine is often called “The Southern North” because the people there have southern hospitality despite being among the northern “Yankee” states of New England. Up here there are no Cracker Barrels, lots of wine and jam is made from blueberries and you can buy lobster on just about every corner. I’d go back in a heart beat.
I ventured to the Botanical Gardens which were filled with plants and sculptures of all kinds. Inside, was an interactive map where visitors were encouraged to add their zip codes. There was one other visitor from my zip code…and I have yet to track them down and find them!
Cellardoor Winery and Maine Desert
After leaving the gardens, I ventured out to the desert. Yes, there is a desert in Maine. Didn’t know that? Neither did I and it’s getting smaller and smaller each year so you might want to go see it while you can.
Headed towards the Cellardoor Winery located in Lincolnsville, ME, I was originally under the impression that it was named after a scene in The Lord of the Rings. In both the book and movie versions, there is a scene where the fellowship comes across a large door where they must “Speak ‘friend’ and enter.” While this is not the case, the actual story isn’t far from that.
According to the Cellardoor Winery Website, the story goes as follows:
A Symbol of Welcome and Friendship
As the story goes, a hobo, a traveler looking for work nearly 100 years ago, visited our farm in Lincolnville. He was welcomed. He felt safe. Upon his departure, he carved in the barn door a “hobo symbol” to let fellow travelers know they would find hospitality here.
All these years later, we have proudly embraced, are motivated by, this story and the spirit of welcome meant to be offered to guests. While the door with the fabled hand carving is treasured, we have adopted a current day artist’s interpretation of it as our logo. It is our inspiration to beat our guests’ expectations, to offer a respite from busy lives.
When you see our Hobo symbol, know that you are in a safe and friendly place. We invite you to our Cellardoor properties with open hearts, generosity, and camaraderie. Whether you join us for a tour of our winery, a wine tasting, a food and wine pairing, or one of our big events, we hope you enjoy your time with us.
Inside the Winery
While I didn’t see any offerings of tours, there were two tasting bars inside. At the time, they offered a free tasting of four wines at each bar on Sundays (which happened to be the day I was there!). You could pay a little extra to sample 8 wines at the first bar. The second bar featured meat and cheese accompaniments. It was well worth the trip!
Ogunquit Beach, Maine.
On my last night I stayed two nights in Bath, Maine before heading back south towards Ogunquit Beach. Staying my last night there, I found the only place I could with a vacancy, which happened to be within walking distance to the beach.
It was incredibly peaceful to walk along an uncrowded beach with low humidity in the middle of August. (Something you’d be hard-pressed to find in Southeastern Virginia.) It was my last moment of peace and solace before making the 13 hour drive back home to an area that I consider to be filled with toxic and close-minded people.
When I got home, the excitement of my trip was quickly squashed and squandered by co-workers. You see, all of my jobs have been “male-dominated” and by that I mean that I was always in an environment where I was surrounded by men. When I would excitedly tell them about all the fun I had on my trip, I was often met with responses like, “You went alone!?” “You didn’t take your man with you?” (At the time I was either fresh out of a relationship or just starting a new one, can’t remember). “Why did you go by yourself? You should’ve taken your boyfriend.” “Women shouldn’t travel alone.” And the list goes on…
There’s also a lot of men out there who like to deny that men who would say such things exist. I started to fire back with my own questions. “Why do I have to have a man with me?” “Do you not think a woman can survive without a man?” “Yes, I went alone and I’m still alive. I wasn’t mugged, raped or kidnapped. So your point is?”
Take a Stand Against the “Norm”
While my parents didn’t speak against it, my aunt and older cousin were for some reason in awe of me. They think I’m cool because I packed a bag and went to Maine on a whim. I never understood why, at least at the time, I didn’t. I see it now. My aunt and older cousin were from the same upbringing as I was, along with my mother.
My mother would often tell me growing up, “You don’t do that. You’re a woman and women don’t do that.” “Women don’t pump their own gas, that’s a man’s job.” “Women don’t take out the trash, that’s a man’s job.” And while all of that “was a man’s job” never once did she clarify what a women’s job was. She herself was big into microwave cooking and she never forced me to sew or learn any sort of “home-making” tasks. So what she really left me with was a blank slate.
Nothing was Specifically My Job
But that meant, I had to choose a path for myself and honestly, I enjoyed mowing the lawn. And I really didn’t mind pumping my own gas, much to her chagrin. My aunt and cousin thought I was awesome because I was woman willing to go against what she’d been taught by her upbringing. I continue to do this to this day which pisses some people off.
While the gender dynamics at my work place are changing, that is a big can of worms for an already long post. I have been asked on more that one occasion, “Why can’t you just do as your told?” “Why can’t you just fall in line and be like everyone else?” Because I’m not meant to be. It’s not in my nature.
I challenge anyone reading this, whether you’re a man or woman, it doesn’t matter, to challenge the status quo. Question why you do the things you do. Is it because someone else told you that’s what you’re supposed to do? Or is it because you want to do it?
Women, it’s OK to travel alone. Men, it’s OK to show emotion. Women, you don’t have to shrink yourself or blend in. Men, you don’t have to always make the plans. Be different. All of you 🙂
Thank you for reading!
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Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.