It all started about 9 years ago when I went through a significant life change. I suddenly had time on my hands and nobody to travel with. I was skittish about traveling solo. Will everybody in the restaurant feel sorry for me having dinner by myself? Will the front desk at the hotel hand out my room number to strangers at night? When I ran out of excuses of all the ways the world was too dangerous to travel and had to admit that I’m really just afraid to be alone with myself, I booked my first solo trip and I have been hooked ever since.
There is an awareness, a stillness I only experience when traveling alone. It became a place within myself I crave, where I feel truly free and present.
Let me tell you about my recent trip to gorgeous San Juan Island and share a few solo traveling tips along the way.
The quaint town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is hands down the cutest and safest place I have ever been to. Everybody is friendly and welcoming, waves at you, starts a conversation or asks if you need help. According to some locals nobody ever locks their car or their house.
The Washington State Ferry lands right in the heart of town, making bringing a car optional. Everything--restaurants, bars, shops, boutiques, galleries, museums, as well as the hotel I stayed in, is in walking distance. I love walking to dinner at night and not having to find parking. The place has a touristy, festive feel, while remaining authentic. There are no fast food chains, no traffic lights, yet hanging flower baskets all through town. Local fishermen and farmers get sandwiches at the same places the visitors do. When I drove up Spring Street to my hotel, a deer crossed the road.
The beautiful gardens at the Earthbox
The Earthbox Inn & Spa
I prefer to stay at family or women owned hotels. Usually the people working in such a place are not just doing their job. They genuinely care about their guests having a good time and make you feel like family. This was exactly the experience I had with the Earthbox Inn & Spa, a renovated retro motor inn with a full-service spa and a pool. The front desk staff was super friendly and helpful. My room was small, clean and stylish. I loved going for a hot tub and a swim in the heated pool in the mornings, then visiting the staff in the comfortable lobby for a fresh cup of coffee and to chat about my plans for the day.
Solo Travel Tip: Let the Front Desk know what you are up to!
While there is great cell phone service in the town of Friday Harbor, as soon as you venture out of town, service gets spotty. Let the front desk know what you are up to, just in case your car breaks down or you twist your ankle on a hike, so somebody knows if you are missing. Plus, the Earthbox Front Desk has an abundance of cool tips on what to do and where to visit.
“My” seat at the bar at Topsl
Favorite Place to Eat – Topsl Seafood Bar
Okay, I’ll admit it: I ate here three times. Topsl is a sushi and seafood place above the Cask & Schooner public house right by the water. You can sit at tables overlooking the harbor or at the bar with Master Sushi Chef Kazu from Japan. I can’t decide which view is better, that of the Salish Sea or the fresh fish and watching a true master at work. I love the pace of sushi and started each night with a seaweed salad and raw oysters in the half shell, followed by whatever Nigiri Kazu recommended that day. I fell in love with the Sake-spiked Mojito and the fact that I was greeted by name on my last night there.
Solo Travel Tip: Sit at the Bar
I don’t feel awkward dining alone anymore, but I do feel weird sometimes taking up an entire table in a small, busy place. I love to eat at the bar, strike up a conversation with the bartender or the chef. Service is usually faster and I often meet other solo travelers that way.