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  • Writer's pictureEmily Hutchins

The Power of Solo Travel

I recently had the opportunity to take a week off between a job transition and decided to take some personal time to embark upon my first solo trip. I often travel solo for work, but have never gone on a trip completely alone that was purely personal.

I've always been intrigued by New Mexico and it's one of the few states out west that I've never visited. I booked a flight for Albuquerque, found an Airbnb in Santa Fe, and off I went with absolutely no agenda but the opportunity to spend 4 days in a completely new place all by myself.

The Airbnb was perfect for solo traveling, as it was situated right on the local greenway and only 1.5 miles from the heart of the downtown plaza. I dropped off my bags and went on a quick 5 mile run on the local greenway, then headed downtown for dinner.

The food in New Mexico is the best cuisine I've ever had in my entire life. The flavors are absolutely out of this world.

Beer battered chili relleno at La Fonda

The next morning, I woke up early, so excited to do my first trail run. I drove to the trailhead of Atalaya Mountain, only 10 minutes outside of town, with elevation topping out at just over 9,000 feet. It was a steep 3.5 mile climb to the summit. I saw about 10 hikers along the way … 9 of them were other women on their own enjoying the wilderness. One woman I met was out on the trail because she was inspired by a book she recently read called, Running Home, written by local ultra runner, Katie Arnold.

This run was particularly special as I had the entire summit all to myself with it snowing lightly around me.

That evening, I dined at "The Shed", that was recommended by locals. I had stuffed chili rellenos again and one of the best margaritas of my life.

The next morning, I woke up and took a day trip to Taos and drove through Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.

On my drive back to Santa Fe, I stopped at Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot Springs, which was one of the most relaxing and healing places that I've visited. They had 10 or so different natural mineral pools and signs that said "Whisper Only". My favorite was the mud bath pool and eucalyptus steam room. I definitely plan on going back there in the future.

The next morning, I woke up and met an acquaintance of a friend and his pup, Lady. They took me on a great trail run of the local Dale Ball trail system. This was the best run of the trip. The trails were covered in 8+ inches of fresh snow and was pure magic (except for the fact we were running a super fast pace and I was having a hard time breathing with the elevation).

Post run, I do not lie …I ate the best veggie breakfast burrito of. my. life. A local had suggested Palacio Café to me and said this particular burrito was so good, that one time she ordered 3 in one day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She was right. I learned to order my meals "Christmas" style, which is where red and green chili sauce are mixed and smothered over the burrito.

I spent the afternoon walking around downtown, admiring the snow clinging on the brown adobe walls and the dried red chilis hanging from all the front porches.

My last evening, I walked to dinner at Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen without my phone for a fun experiment. The couple next to me were on their phones the entire time, in fact most people in the restaurant were on them. I just observed and enjoyed my delicious meal of butternut squash, potato and poblano soup followed by yucca root (crust), carrot hummus, goat cheese and pickled red onion pizza, and homemade cheesecake. My server actually noticed I wasn't on my phone and commented what a rarity it was to serve people who are not on their devices. This simple test made me realize that I'm addicted to my phone. I'm going to make a conscious effort to leave it at home more often, especially when out to eat with family and friends.

Takeaways from my first solo trip:

1. There is no reason to be self conscious about being solo in public. Own it, stay off your phone, and have interesting conversations with the locals and other travelers.

2. New Mexico is the known as the "land of enchantment" for a reason. New Mexicans know how to find their yin and seem so connected to their landscapes. This place is very spiritual and the people I met were so happy. While I was a bit discouraged about the rain and cooler weather while I was there, the locals were jazzed. They certainly changed my outlook on the forecast and inspired me to get out and enjoy it.

3. Trust your gut. I was always aware of my surroundings and made good decisions. After talking to the local running shop, I got the trail beta and knew which ones were safe to run alone on. I made a point to find a running partner when available.

4. In a normal routine (at home & work), I sometimes try to do too much and need to take time to "slow down".

5. On this solo trip, I found myself sometimes doing distracting things - it's like my ego was trying to keep me from being "present." Interesting that I only noticed this was happening after I was alone for several days.

6. Time away makes me really appreciate my husband.

I'm learning to find some solitude each day, even for 10 minutes. This experience is one that will always be stamped in my memory, as I was able to cultivate my curiosity and reconnect with myself. Carpe Diem!

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