The experience of traveling solo has always been one of my biggest sources of personal and professional growth, and this past September when I traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia for the Belle Lumiere workshop I decided to extend my trip and cross another item off my bucket list – my first solo road trip. I flew into Washington D.C., and from there, spent eight days driving through the beautiful state of Virginia. Although I have spent a significant amount of time traveling outside of the United States, some of my absolute favorite travel experiences to-date have been the simple pleasures of getting to know my home country better.
Within twenty-four hours of arriving into bucolic Northern Virginia, I instantly felt like it was somewhere that I could see myself living someday. The combination of the charming towns, the European-influenced art and architecture, and slower-paced, nature-oriented lifestyle resonated with me on such a profound level, and I absolutely loved exploring the beautiful region. Driving with the windows open, feeling the warm breeze blowing through my hair as I blared my Road Trip Playlist (which included my personal favorite – Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”), I was overwhelmed with a feeling of immense freedom and opportunity. There is something so incredibly empowering about being completely alone on the open road with no set destination, and I truly cannot recommend the experience enough.
While in Northern Virginia, I was based in the unbelievably charming (and miniature) town of Sperryville. I rented the cottage 29 Main on the River, and truly could not have recommended it more! Mornings were spent at the adorable coffee shop next door – Before & After – and sipping tea by the creek in my backyard. Afterward, I would walk to Sperryville Corner Store to pick up snacks for my day’s adventure. I visited some of the most lovely towns including Middleburg, Waterford, Leesford, and Upperville, but for me, the highlight was simply driving through the stunning countryside, stopping as I pleased to snap pictures of the rambling hillside dotted with horse farms on my 35mm camera. In the evenings I would walk down the street to Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen, stopping for a glass of wine at the lovely Francis Bar as the sun set.
Instead of driving directly to Charlottesville, I instead chose the longer route down Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive. Mile after mile, I was greeted with incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and opportunities for hikes through dense woodland and golden meadows. When I was hungry, I stopped for an impromptu picnic in the sunshine. Completely alone except for the beauty of nature, it was quiet, contemplative, and incredibly restorative. At the end of my day, I drove south to Charlottesville where I would spend the next five days of my trip.
In Charlottesville, I chose to stay in an artist’s studio nestled on their beautiful estate in the countryside. Every morning I would wake up at sunrise, grab my 35mm camera, and spend hours wandering through the fields, woods, and misty ponds on the property. When I was sufficiently tired, I would head back and while away the morning with a cup of tea and a book on a hammock, often being greeted by the three adorable dogs who lived on the estate. Around lunchtime, I would hop into my car and head off to explore the beautiful town of Charlottesville and its surrounding countryside. I loved visiting a few of the many incredible vineyards including Pippin Hill and experiencing some of the region’s famous cuisine – my favorite restaurants being Oakhart Social, Public Fish & Oyster, and Feast. A highlight for me was my trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello – a truly beautiful piece of American history.
All in all, my solo road trip through Virginia was a truly incredible experience and is just one of the many countless reasons that I am truly thankful for the freedom and opportunity that this amazing career has offered me.
Interested in learning more about my solo travel experiences? Read about my solo female travel tips in Cottage Hill or pick-up Issue 15 of Flutter Magazine to learn about how traveling solo changed my life.