A couple of months ago I travelled from my exchange university, Humboldt State University in California, to Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland, as part of a week’s break I had in the first semester. Here’s how I got on!
Before I left I was a little bit nervous as I had never travelled anywhere completely on my own, but I was also really looking forward to exploring new places and the confidence this trip would give me to travel to more places in the future. I also did quite a lot of research, watching YouTube videos and reading up about other people’s experiences and tips for travelling solo. I found that I quickly enjoyed the adventure in this experience and although I had moments of worry and fear, these moments didn’t last long.
Travelling such long distances in buses and small planes was really fun and quite different to anything I had experienced before. On the small bus I took between Crescent City, CA and Medford, OR (a 3 hour journey) I met quite an eclectic group of people. This included a woman who was travelling to pick up her car from a garage in the hopes that she would be able to drive home. She told me a lot of random facts about the area as she continued to talk to me for almost the entirety of the journey, which was a bit exhausting for me! I don’t know if her car worked and she made it back to feed her horses. I also met an artist who had spent 6 months travelling around America in remote areas and was on his way home to Colorado. It was strange to be travelling so far on such a small bus and have people from all sorts of different backgrounds there with me.
^ The little bus that took me through the mountains to Medford
Once I got to Medford I checked in my bags and I was then told that I needed a visa to stay in Canada for 5 days, but very luckily for me I could apply for this on my phone in a few minutes and it only cost CA$7 (about £4). This was definitely a bit of a wake up call for me on what I need to do more research on before visiting a country…! From there, I spent 8 hours in Medford airport as my flight was delayed to the point where I had to change airlines to get a flight to Vancouver where I could make a connecting flight in Seattle. Luckily this all worked out fine, I learnt that there isn’t much to do at Medford airport, and I am very grateful for my friend picking me up from Vancouver in the middle of the night, 5 hours later than we originally arranged!
^ Vancouver at night. This amazing view can be seen from the top of my friend’s block of flats!
After the day of travelling I arrived in Vancouver and I had a really great time staying with my friend and her family. It was so nice to catch up and explore the city, especially when I got to spend time with my friend and other people, hiking or having a meal together. I really missed this once I left to travel back down to Humboldt.
^ Exploring the nearby hiking trails and Stanley park with my friend.
Travelling solo can get lonely, especially as I only stayed in Seattle and Portland for a couple of nights each, so I didn’t go out to make friends with the people I met, but it also means I was able to take as long as I wanted to explore the places that I was interested in. I also learnt that it’s okay to just sit in a coffee shop for a bit and that you don’t have to do everything a city has to offer. In the end I really enjoyed Seattle and Portland, even if I didn’t do all of the touristy things I really enjoyed walking around and exploring these places.
^ Different sites in Seattle and Portland, some which were really far from the touristy areas – I did an awful lot of walking!
After all of this travelling and hours on buses and coaches I was very happy to get back to my dorm room in Arcata. As well as being a great adventure, it taught me a lot about what I enjoy doing, rather than what I ‘should’ enjoy doing, and it also made Humboldt feel more like home as it was a comforting relief to return to the towering redwoods.
Travelling within the year abroad was a great experience, and I would recommend anyone who is going on an exchange to try and travel and explore the country they are in!
I made a short video of this trip which you can watch below:
If you would like to read more about my experiences on exchange in California, feel free to check out my blog here – https://www.efolio.soton.ac.uk/blog/pjk1g16/