Traveling solo was definitely not in my non-existent bucket list. I did travel for work domestically on my own once but a two-week long overseas flight for a holiday is an entirely different thing. Although it has gotten me very curious, I never intentionally dreamed of traveling alone. I do get the thrill–the yearning to soul-search and have that special one-of-a-kind experience. People do it for several reasons and with the aggregate information available on the Internet and technology, solo travel felt seriously doable and even safe. This year, I had an opportunity to travel abroad for some pre-wedding errands and to meet some family and friends along the way. I was looking forward to it because I get to visit a new country.
So my Pacific Northwest trip materialized. I was headed to British Columbia, Canada, with a solo trip to Washington State in the US. I obviously wanted to make sure I visit Seattle as it has always been one of those US states I was keen on visiting at least once. I begged my fiance to come with me, but he was busy with work, so I had no choice but to do it on my own. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it on my own. Besides, I would not always be alone because I would be meeting people there.
Unlike the usual process of planning all the details and booking a bunch of places beforehand, I threw caution to the wind and just booked accommodations and transport tickets. There was some initial research but definitely a far cry from the usual pre-planning I do. Since I don’t want to backpack and my fiance would kill me if I choose any accommodation less than a decent hotel in a good location, I booked my accommodation right at the heart of downtown Seattle.
The truly solo part of my trip was heading to Seattle and riding the Amtrak Cascades train that overlooks the beautiful scenic Pacific Northwest coast. I love old school trains that don’t run underground and allow me to take in the scenery. It was a good choice to take the train even if it took an hour longer than riding a bus. The ride was comfortable, easy, and just an overall pleasant experience. I brought my own snacks, listened to music, napped for like 20 minutes, and mostly just stared through the window.
The train traveled along the beautiful Pacific Northwest coast and although the photos above may not exactly seem that scenic, just take it from me–it is. It’s the kind of quiet serene atmosphere of mountains, pebbled beaches, tall pine trees, calm dark blue waters, gray sand, and interesting species of birds along the shore or flying through the skies. It’s just very different from some of the coasts I’ve visited.
My first day alone and already it felt different not being able to talk to someone or share my initial excitement or thoughts. As a chatty extrovert who enjoys being around people, I ended up bombarding our family chat group and my fiance with messages and photos of my daily adventures. I also had no itinerary but just managed to somehow get a feel of the downtown area to know where I was and where all the important areas are located. My trip also turned out to be some sort of shopping trip (like any trip to the US really) where I kind of wasted a lot of time inside Nordstrom/Rack, Target, and Saks Off Fifth.
Perhaps one of the difficult parts of traveling solo was not being able to get some really nice shots for the ‘gram. There were some pretty awkward selfies that I have taken for family and a few friends, but I don’t think I want to post it here. I didn’t want to ask people around me to take my photos.
It was weird at first, but after a day, I ditched the camera and just got into the spirit of actually being alone in a dynamic city with absolutely no appointments or sense of urgency. The kind of freedom you have as a solo traveler is very liberating. Suddenly, I just wanted to be alone and felt a bit anti-social. I did not really feel the need to make friends or go out of the way to join a group. I unplugged and resigned from social media. Relished every sight and scenery. Took my sweet time each day.
I joined a free walking tour of Pike Place Market, Seattle’s number 1 tourist destination, at the start of my stay so I can better understand and appreciate the area. This allowed me to come back on my own time with some sort of familiarity and knowledge about the area because the place is unassumingly huge.
The tour was informative and interesting. The guide had great energy and allowed us to try some of the delicious food sold in the market. We went through various alleyways and floors that are hidden in plain sight for the wandering tourist. I recall coming back to this area each day to grab some lunch, snack, or basically just to revisit some of the shops.
Pike Place Market has absolutely something for everyone. I got to try the most amazing smoked wild Alaskan salmon and the sweetest nectarines (photo above). It was the best place to wander around that I just kept messaging my fiancé about all the things he would have loved about this place and how I wish he was there to share the experience with me. I would go in and out of shops that sell antiques, gorgeous (cheap!) flowers, toys, stationery, cosmetics, and a bunch of other items that you probably don’t need but want to have. I even got to visit the first Starbucks in Pike Place Market early in the morning for coffee when the lines are still short. I drank it in an empty bench by a park facing the sea. Total cliché but oh-so-perfect at that moment.
There were new exits to discover that lead to the waterfront area. I found solace in the idea of getting lost, possibly taking the longer route, and being extra observant because there weren’t any distracting conversations. I was so into it that I even kept a small notebook with a few scribbles of my thoughts. I also loved walking by the water and the harbor while listening to music. The weather was divine — sunny skies with that hint of pre-summer air that complements the Pacific waters. There was something so cinematic about it.
Food was tricky. I wanted to try it all, but US portions are huge and it was too expensive to buy varieties. I treated myself to all the wonderful food Seattle is known for — awesome coffee and amazing seafood. One of my favorite random food moments was eating a slice (or two!) of pizza by the food court in the basement of Westlake Center. There were also lots of pastries and sweets in between because why not.
The streets of downtown Seattle, albeit a bit hilly (which made for a good workout), was easy to navigate. I found myself choosing to walk for most parts of the day with the occasional Uber in the evening when I’m too exhausted carrying the morning’s shopping haul. I would walk through the business district, try out Amazon Go, and end up stopping by Whole Foods (one of my favorite US haunts) a couple of times to get some quick takeout and wishing they could bring these goods to the Philippines at reasonable prices. This area was right beside a university so it gets pretty interesting to see college kids and all the surrounding shops and boutiques that have that hipper-than-thou vibe.
On my last day, I remember walking from my hotel to the Museum of Pop Culture just before sunset and I didn’t realize that they were closing early that day (this would not have happened if I did research haha!). I was the last person with only about 15 minutes left and the kind-hearted ticket lady just made me enter for free when I told her this was my last day in Seattle. To be fair, I bought a lot of stuff (mostly vinyl) in the gift shop to offset my free ticket. Haha!
I visited the Space Needle at sunset to get breathtaking views of Seattle. Most of the scenery photos from up above were no good, but I’m posting a few shots below. The Chihuly glass sculptures (shown below) were absolutely breathtaking and so colorful that I wish I was able to bring home one.
As the sun would set around 9:00 PM every day, I would go back to the hotel at nightfall feeling a bit worn out. Nights were mostly spent catching up on some work (it was a busy time!) and indulging in HBO OnDemand reruns while snacking on my daily leftovers. I genuinely loved the me-time I had each night.
A visit to downtown Seattle is everything I’ve hoped for and more. With a thriving music, arts, and food scenery, I loved that the city knew it and was damn proud of it. It felt diverse and authentic with a lot of creative energy. At the risk of sounding cheesy and sentimental, I know Seattle will now hold a very special place in my heart for this awesome experience alone. I cannot wait to bring friends and family here.
For a solo traveler, downtown Seattle was enough to occupy me and my senses. I was glad that it was not as overwhelming as Manhattan, which I think might get a bit lonely. Not once did I ever feel unsafe or stressed. In fact, after spending almost a little less than a week there, it started to feel a little familiar.
“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer
If you truly understand yourself, you won’t have to feel lonely. To have the freedom to be alone and listen to your thoughts is very peaceful and empowering. I would gladly do another solo travel again if the opportunity presents itself. I think the best way to go about it is to just embrace the idea and freedom that comes with it. It is important to try and feel comfortable with just yourself for company. Let go of all your preconceived notions and fears or anxieties from traveling alone and just let the experience take you where you want it to be. You just might be surprised.