Anyone that knows me knows that travelling is literally one of absolute favourite things to do! So as adventurous as I am, solo travel was never a matter of ‘if’ but just a matter of ‘when’.
A lot had changed in my life towards the end of this year and I had been feeling very overwhelmed. Honestly I just needed to escape, take a breath of fresh air, be alone with my thoughts and feelings and reset for the new year ahead.
The States has always been like a second home to me but I’d never been to the East Coast so I figured why not. I didn’t fancy a typical ‘sun and sea’ holiday. I just wanted to go somewhere that spoke english where I could just be a tourist and learn their history and culture.
The army plays a huge part in American History as so many of the worlds biggest conflicts have contributed to the multicultural United States we see today. So I decided to check out the US Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum at my first stop in North Carolina
I had never been to any type of war museum before so I really enjoyed this experience. Especially since my Uncle is in the US army and has been to some of the most dangerous parts from Afghanistan to Iraq. It was so fascinating to learn about how so many different wars throughout the last century have impacted the American people and how the different races that exist in this nation. My favourite part of this visit was going on a flight simulator ride which felt a bit like being on an indoor rollercoaster I was tossed in the air surrounded by giant cinema screens simulating being on the battlefield in the air, on land and at sea.
One of the interesting parts of solo travel is actually figuring out how to navigate around the country. I didn’t want to rely on being driven around in Ubers everywhere so when I arrived in Washington DC after a 4 1/2 hour drive from North Carolina, I figured I’d hop on the Metro and get used to how the locals get around the city.
I initially found the metro map a little confusing as its slightly different to the trains in the UK but I began to figure it out soon enough and actually really enjoyed the ride and seeing the city when the train went overground.
Seeing as DC is the capital, I knew I wanted to see all the famous landmarks including the White House of course. A Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour was definitely the perfect way to see multiple attractions in one day without having to book an Uber to each location.
Seeing the city at night was absolutely stunning and I got to see everything from the Lincoln Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington monument, National Mall and of course the White house! I was surprised how cold DC was at night! Being from cold and rainy London you would think I would be used to it but the climate zone is different to the UK so it hit me harder than I expected, but the experience was so worth it!
Before going to The States I had been informed by my friends over there that there was an ongoing debate over ‘whose burger was better’. I had seen several videos on social media of 2 hour long drive through queues of people waiting to try the new Popeyes spicy chicken burger, whose rival could be found at Chick-fil-A. As a foodie, I knew I had to try both so I could make my own verdict lol. I have to say I ended up being #TeamPopeyes. Not only was the burger sooo good, but the fries were amazing! We don’t really have flavoured or heavily seasoned fried (or ‘chips’ as us British folk say) so I was in love with how good they tasted!
The hospitality on the East Coast was genuinely amazing. Whether it was at my hotel or a coffee shop being British really seemed to work in my favour as all the staff loved my accent and would always go out of their way to help me or introduce me to something new! The menu in Starbucks for example was so different to one in the UK. But since I taught the staff some British lingo and made them try English breakfast tea, they also introduced me to a ‘Refresher’ which I really loved and gave me a huge energy boost! Shoutout to the Starbucks staff in Virginia!
Can we talk about the portions though! Us Londoners have always known that American portion sizes are a lot bigger than ours but seeing it in person is a different ball game. Though I had been to other parts of the States before, I had never been to the cinema so I was excited to see what it would be like. The first thing I noticed was that die-hard fans (regardless of their age) will really show up to the cinema in head to toe costumes of their favourite characters! The second thing I noticed was just how different our portion sizes really are! Essentially our large is their small lol. The third thing I noticed was their obsession with butter popcorn. For us Brits sweet and/or salted is our go to with other flavours such as toffee or caramel being optional. However, I found that everyone here was getting butter popcorn and they have separate machines to pour even more butter sauce and salt onto the popcorn! I tried it so I could see if I liked it, but I think its safe to say I will be sticking to my regular ‘cinema sweet’ flavour from now on! lol
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was hands down the best museum I have been too so far.
FUN FACT: The Ghanaian lead designer of the museum David Adjaye noted that the buildings unique design is inspires by the three tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa. The building actually consists of 3 underground levels before reaching the three levels we see from the outside. Starting from the bottom each floor chronically documents African history from the Transatlantic Slave Trade until present day.
The adventurer in me decided to end my trip on a high- literally. Indoor sky diving was always something I had wanted to try as I don’t think ill be jumping out of a real plane anytime soon lol. I literally had the best instructor and I enjoyed every second of the experience.
In some ways it was metaphorical for me. Each time I would try again, I had learnt a new skill and had figured out how to overcome another obstacle, so I was able to fly higher. The key was I trusted that I would get there and I never stopped trying. It goes without saying that that is something I can apply to so many other areas of my life.
In between all the solo morning worship sessions, travel, food and adventures, I had a lot of time to be alone with my thoughts and just reflect, address and plan. There is sooo much more I could say, but ultimately It was an extremely therapeutic and special experience for me. It boosted my confidence, allowed me to try and experience so many new things, meet new people and also reminded me that there is a beautiful world out there and to never stop dreaming big !