I grew up afraid of, well, pretty much everything. The dark, driving on highways, getting lost, ice on stairs in the winter, airplanes, when my parents didn’t get home at the exact time they said they would ― unfortunately, that’s not even scratching the surface.
As a kid and well into young adulthood, I was anxious and fearful of any number of what-ifs, always focusing on what could go wrong. But as I was nearing 30, I finally realized I needed to make changes. I had to do something brave to attempt to conquer some of my fears.
I was teaching middle school math and had a week off for spring break ― so I decided it was now or never. I set off on a solo road trip to the Grand Canyon from my home in Colorado. I spent a week driving through the Southwest solo, stopping wherever I wanted, spending days hiking alone in unfamiliar terrain, talking to strangers at cafes and browsing hole-in-the-wall shops in new places.
That trip shaped the trajectory of nearly the next decade of my life ― I had found my thing. I’ve spent my entire 30s traveling solo, primarily to U.S. major national parks. Along the way, I’ve exposed myself to new things, learned about my capabilities and dug into a well of bravery I didn’t know I had ― while even creating a new career for myself.
I’ve now visited nearly every U.S. major national park ― 59 of the current 63 ― and all 50 U.S. states solo. After 13 years in the classroom, I transitioned from teaching middle school math into full-time content creation and freelance writing (another brave decision I never thought I’d be able to make). I am, for all intents and purposes, living my dreams.
Through sharing my travel and writing online, I have grown a large community on social media and started making a significant portion of my income “travel influencing” and content creating. I’ve taken a lot of pride in the idea that my social media may inspire others to conquer their fears and be brave.
So it’s shocking to some when I tell them my No. 1 travel rule I refuse to break: Never post on social media in real time.
Even though I am brave, capable and experienced, safety is still at the top of my mind. Once, I was driving along the Oregon Coast on a long road trip just a year or two after beginning my solo national parks quest. I admired the majesty of the waves, the jutting rocks, the incredible sunsets and the…