Travel Stories: Hiking the Grand Canyon Solo
How to take the solo hiking trip of a lifetime, even if you don't have a travel buddy.
Welcome to the first post of the Travel Stories series! So excited to kick these interviews off with my first featured traveler being none other than my badass mom. Back in May of this year, she went on the solo trip of a lifetime from Buffalo to Phoenix to hike the Grand Canyon for an entire weeklong (yes, week. long.) experience- see where I get the solo travel fever from?! Today we touched on some super interesting topics about her first solo travel experience, plus some advice to anyone out there that might want to try something like this themselves!
What inspired you to get out there and go in the first place?
I just reached a point in my life where I knew I liked travel, and I didn’t want the fact that I was on my own to hold me back. I started researching solo travel and combined that with my interests of being active and being outdoors. I found a bunch of different companies, and FitPacking just seemed like the right fit for me and had been in business for a while with a lot of great reviews.
What really sold you on FitPacking as a company, and how did you know they would be a good fit for you?
Well, they definitely had great reviews, first of all. But they also had different levels of hiking trips from beginner to advanced. They rate their trips on a star system from 1-5 stars with 1 star being beginner and 5 stars being the most difficult so you would really know what you’re getting into. Not only just that, but I loved the way they encouraged and educated about health and wellness. Not only did they take you on the trip, but they really taught you how to hike professionally. Before I went, I was a little above the level of a casual hiker, but I didn’t know how to go hiking for 6 day long trips while staying in a tent and everything like that. I wanted to get to the next level, but by myself it was kind of intimidating. Plus, every time I reached out to ask questions, they were always quick to respond and super personable with me, which I loved.
That’s awesome! So what level of difficulty did you decide on for yourself?
I personally picked 4 out of 5 stars to start out. It was a good level for me, but I definitely took the time to prepare and take it seriously. If I hadn’t, it would’ve been harder. Me being ready and taking the time to physically prepare myself made the trip so much more enjoyable for me. It was like I was sore, but it was a good sore from like working out or something, not like I had hurt myself and couldn’t go on.
That makes sense. So definitely do your research. Any other advice you might give to someone that would want to take a trip like this?
Yeah, definitely research what you want to do and look into all of your options as far as companies go, and look into other people’s feedback and reviews. Especially for a trip like this, find out what the companies values and focuses are, and make sure they line up with your own. When you do something that aligns with your own personal likes, you’ll have a lot more fun. That, and take your gear with you on hikes before you go. There were so many people that couldn’t go as far because their brand new shoes they bought for the trip weren’t broken in yet, so they gave them blisters, or their new backpack straps were irritating them or something.
Oh no! I feel like that’s something that not everyone would think about before going on a trip as physically demanding as this. So glad you thought of that. Did you have a favorite moment while you were there?
Yes, the best moment was when I hiked all the way from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to the north rim and back. When I got to the top of the north rim with my friend Ellen, who is amazing- 70 years old, one of the first female firefighters of Utah, and still hiking everywhere. It just felt like holy shit, I did this, I actually made it. Some of the group was injured so they stayed behind that day, and only Ellen and I made it that far. We had lunch and then headed back- hiking back down was actually really scary, scarier than hiking up!
That sounds amazing. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like. So what do you think is one of the biggest things you took away from this trip?
Honestly, with being disconnected from technology and just off the grid, I learned to become a lot more resourceful. Instead of reaching for my phone to Google something, I had to either problem-solve and think it through myself or network with my group to figure out whatever information or answer I needed. After a couple of days like this, things and ideas came clearer quicker to me. That, and the way that I became much more connected to people- I had to either write questions down, try to remember them for later, or have a conversation with either my team or my guides about them.
Also, sounds- I noticed sounds were a lot sharper to me when I got back from being literally in nature for that long. It might even just be a primitive survival skill, but I could hear everything while I was outside. One of the first couple nights, I would hear like, a raccoon sniffing by my tent and would get freaked out, but then on the fourth night a deer walked through camp, but I noticed how it sounded like something a lot lighter was walking through the woods, so it couldn’t be a person. Before, I would have just been scared that something was there.
That’s so interesting! You mentioned your guides- how many stayed with the group on the trip?
We had two guides that stayed with us, one male and one female. We used them for a lot of questions and they were always super resourceful and helpful.
Awesome. So all in all, good experience? Would you do something like this again?
YES, I definitely want to take a trip like this at least once a year from now on. I would do it with this company again because I felt comfortable and safe with them. I want to look into other trips with them too, Hiking Mt. Whitney in California and Mt. Rainier in Washington are on my list next.
Nice! What do you think was the biggest challenge for you through all of this?
The biggest challenge for me was going by myself. It was a complete mental thing to have to get over. Like, okay, you’re going to this place you’ve never been to with people you don’t know. It was really tough getting there but it was great learning about everything, myself, and having to live with different personalities. It was nice knowing you didn’t have to live with them that long at least!
Haha, true. I felt the same way when I first started solo traveling! Especially on a trip like this, I feel like a lot of people would have said something like oh, it was the physical demand that was the toughest, but for you it was all in your head. Super interesting. Alright, anything you want to add that we may not have touched on?
Just that if you have something that you’ve always wanted to do, do it. Figure out what it’s going to take for you to get there. Save up if you have to. Make it work. I buy everything with my airline credit card so my flight points added up for my flights to be free, which alleviated a lot of the issue of cost. There are also other ways around things, if you problem-solve and think about them enough. Your fears will always come up with excuses, and you need to take those excuses and think of a way to get past them.