Do you ever do something scary just to prove to yourself that you’re brave? That’s what my solo weekend in Seattle was- a personal challenge.

While I’ve traveled solo to 12 countries in Europe and Asia, I’d never traveled solo in the U.S. So I figured, why not now?

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I tried to dress like a local, and donned a beanie and a flannel. Yeah, I’m a dork.

While I loved Seattle, my trip wasn’t perfect. It reminded me why I have mixed feelings about solo travel, as I often felt bored or stressed.

But there were also moments when I remembered why I love solo travel, as strangers will take you under their wing, and you end up in bizarre and exhilarating situations. More on that later.

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Friday night I took a cab to my Airbnb in Capitol Hill, a grungy, bohemian neighborhood. Funny enough in Denver I live in Capitol Hill, a grungy, bohemian neighborhood. Granted it’s not the most unusual name for a neighborhood, but still.

My first order of business was obviously coffee. So the next morning I popped in Broadcast Coffee Roasters and ordered a shot in the dark, black coffee with a shot of espresso. Because clearly what caffeine needs is more caffeine.

Seattle_Coffee

From Cap Hill I walked to Pike Place. Once I arrived I beelined inside for seafood, something I sorely miss in land-locked Denver.

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And I wasn’t disappointed. Inside I saw glistening piles of Alaskan King Crab, halibut and oysters, as well as lots of bright fall blooms.

Then it was time for lunch. I met up with fellow blogger Ashley at Pike Place Chowder. After waiting 30 minutes, I ordered the market chowder in a bread bowl AND the Dungeness crab roll. Whoops.

The market chowder was delicious, full of mussels and clams in the shell. The Dungeness crab roll was tasty, but didn’t come close to the lobster roll Ashley ordered. PLEASE order the lobster roll if you’re ever at Pike Place Chowder.

Seafood_Pike_Place_Chowder Seattle_Public_Market

After lunch I parted ways with Ashley and walked along beautiful Puget Sound to Queen Anne, a trendy, hilltop Seattle neighborhood.

I stopped in Kerry Park because Instagram. Is it just me or does The Space Needle look exactly like the Jetsons?

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After my *cough* strenuous hike up the hill, I felt I deserved ice cream. So I popped in Molly Moon’s, an adorable old-school ice cream parlor where I ordered two scoops- the wild honey and pumpkin clove. The wild honey was one of the most unique ice cream flavors I’ve ever had- floral, creamy and nuanced in flavor. Yum.

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I was starting to feel a little lonely, so I decided to do the saddest thing ever- I took myself out to a movie on Saturday night.

At least the theatre was cool- I LOVED Big Picture. It’s an old-school movie theatre with 60’s lounge decor, where they serve you cocktails during the movie.

Despite my growing loneliness, I felt pretty damn content as I sipped a “Can You Direct Me to My Yacht?” while watching The Martian.

Next, I dragged my sorry self to Umi Sake House, one of Seattle trendiest sushi restaurants. As I sat at the bar, I thought to myself, “Am I really at a sushi restaurant by myself at 9 PM? What is my life?”

But then fate, or a group of doctors from Michigan, stepped in.

“Are you eating alone?”
“Yes.”

“At a sushi restaurant? At night?”
“Er… yes.”

They very kindly insisted I have dinner with them, and then we went clubbing. We had a blast- we ordered bottle service and danced until closing.

After the club closed I walked the streets with a creepy German guy, talking about our lives and WWII until 4 AM. As you do.

Seattle_Friends

I returned to my Airbnb and slept until 10:30. I woke up exhausted, hungover and slightly panicked- I had to leave my Airbnb and I had NINE HOURS until my flight. Where would I go?

So here’s a new low- I rented a car so I could sleep in it.

Well, that’s partially true- I also wanted to drive to Ballard.

Seatte_Ballard

Ballard is a quaint and historical neighborhood- the neighborhood of my dreams. It was once a town but was later annexed by Seattle, and still maintains a small-town feel.

In Ballard I had brunch at The Fat Hen, and it was amazing. I loved my latte and eggs alla boscaiola- two eggs baked in tomato sauce with pork sausage, mushroom and mozzarella.

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I then treated myself to a chocolate macaron after because clearly breakfast wasn’t enough. And then I attempted to sleep in my car.

After a brief failed nap, I forced myself to walk around town. I loved the homey, autumnal energy in Ballard: the fallen leaves, the mist in the air, the bar-goers cheering on the Seahawks. I didn’t have much to do, so I breezed in and out of shops and strolled the farmers market.

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After another pitiful car nap, it was time to go home.

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As I was flying home, I thought a lot about solo travel.

At its best, solo travel is confidence-building and empowering. At its worst, it’s frustrating, scary and depressing.

What I learned from this trip is that solo travel is better internationally than domestically. In your own country, it feels strange to travel without your friends when they’re so close-by. The backpacker culture in the U.S. is lacking, so you don’t have built-in friends. Plus, it’s expensive, so you have to plan more.

Also, you have to explain over and over again to strangers that you decided to travel alone, which warrants many “Oh… really?” reactions. Basically people think you’re a weirdo.

In a way my trip to Seattle was a failed experiment. Nowadays I don’t have enough vacation days to gamble them on solo travel, as there is always a chance solo travel will be stressful or boring.

But still, I’m glad I went to Seattle, because hey, at least I have a wacky story to tell.

Have you ever gone on a solo trip in your own country? What are your thoughts on solo travel in general?

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Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel blogger and freelance writer who moved to Paris at 21, traveled the world for a year and now lives in Denver. She's usually in pursuit of skiing, languages and perfectly ripe cheese. Her writing has been featured in National Geographic, Viator and Jetstar Australia.
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