Solo in Seattle: The Ups and Downs of Traveling Alone in your Home Country

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.

. . . . . . . . . . .

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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Seattle_Seafood

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 a fellow blogger named 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.

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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?

Seattle_Kerry_Park

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.

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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.

Important info:

I was in Seattle for two nights and it was too short. I’d recommend staying at least three nights.

I stayed at this Airbnb in Capitol Hill. It was a bargain – only $50 a night! This will give you a $40 Airbnb coupon code for your next stay.

The food in Seattle is amazing. I loved Molly Moon’s (ice cream parlor), Pike Place Chowder (lunch place with seafood and soups), and Umi Sake House (trendy Japanese restaurant).

Pike Place Market is a must! Head there for lunch and then shop and browse after.

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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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

55 thoughts on “Solo in Seattle: The Ups and Downs of Traveling Alone in your Home Country”

  1. Loved your honesty, but as you stated, it was a good experience, and you found out that it is more fun to share the sunsets. I have traveled a few
    Times solo, and some were better than others. One of the solos was because I wanted to be alone, but generally it is more fun to travel with someone or someones. It really is hard to laugh, or say wow to yourself! Right?

    Love your bravery and your writing about your adventures
    .

    Much Love,

    Gamma

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Gamma. I do enjoy solo travel in general but it’s certainly more of a gamble than travel with friends- sometimes solo travel is fantastic, sometimes it’s god-awful. I just find it to be riskier in a way.

  2. Oh man…all that chowder and crustacean rolls are making me super hungry!! Your photos are gorgeous, as per usual, and make me really want to visit Seattle soon. While I’m sure I’d love the city proper, my main reason for hitting up the Pacific NW would definitely be for all the national parks and the Cascades. Can’t wait to finally explore the region someday!

  3. Also, as far as solo travel in the U.S. of A. goes, I’ve had positive experiences–even as an introvert!–at Hostelling International hostels in Chicago, D.C., and Houston. Whether it’s the common spaces or the free walking tours, I’ve never felt lonely; plus, the general atmosphere at those hostels was never too extroverted so I felt free to read a book/journal on my own and then hang out when the spirit led :P

    • Hostels definitely help solo travel, but is it weird if I would feel a bit strange staying in a hostel in the US? Also now that I’m 25 I feel like I’m aging out of hostels a bit. But maybe that’s just my own hang up :)

  4. Oh I love traveling solo in the US, but I can see how it’s not for everyone. I’m a massive introvert, so spending a few days surrounded by people but not having to talk to them (as I did in Boston this year) is like a dream come true.

  5. Going to see a movie alone is not a loner thing to do! (I do it loads – don’t see it as a social activity).

    You seemed to have a great time from your post regardless of the solo element.

    I’ve went solo in the UK and Ireland. It is odd, I’ll agree, but I enjoyed it.

    • I actually love seeing movies alone but only during the day- at night it feels a little weird. I’ve traveled to Ireland alone three times as well as the UK a few times by myself and had AMAZING experiences. I guess solo travel is just a gamble as I said- it can go really right or really wrong.

  6. I did a solo 5-week road trip through Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia last year, and I had a lot of the same experiences. In many of the places I was visiting friends, so it was fine, but in Winston-Salem, Charlottesville, and Richmond, it was kind of weird to be on my own. I don’t mind eating by myself every once in a while, but it got old pretty fast. And to be quite honest, I was surprised that I didn’t have an experience like you did with the doctors where I would just meet someone friendly at a restaurant or bar — granted, I did usually have my book with me, but it would have been nice to meet some locals as well. Like you said, solo travel in the US is still really weird, and not something I would do again without a concrete plan. It’s funny how we have no issues wandering around foreign lands on our own with no plan in sight, but it’s so difficult to do the same in our own backyards. Great post!

    • That’s really interesting you felt the same way. I honestly don’t mind traveling abroad alone at all, but somehow it feels really different in the US. I think the trick to meeting strangers is to be totally alone in a place where people are generally with friends- like a sushi bar on a Saturday night, haha.

  7. I agree that somehow traveling alone in the U.S. feels like a much more stressful feat than all the other countries I’ve traveled solo in. I’ve only done a little bit of it, ie road trips here and there, but I never quite do it to the extent I would abroad. For instance, eating alone in a restaurant in the States somehow feels like everyone is staring and judging. I know that’s not the case and why would anyone care so much about me, right? But it feels that way! I wonder if it’s just that we expect the stares in other countries because we’re already foreign?

    • Haha so true. It just has a different vibe. I definitely prefer solo travel abroad, though at this point in my life probably wouldn’t travel alone- like I said, it’s just too risky in terms of whether or not you’ll have fun. I don’t get enough vacation time to chance the amount of fun I’ll have!

  8. Experience is still experience, whether good or bad. Traveling solo is truly a scary thing to do but you did it pretty well.

    Looking forward for more of your stories and adventures. Thanks for sharing this travel story, Ashley.

  9. ‘Love your post and amazing photographs Ashley!

    Have I ever gone on a solo trip in my own country? Sure I have! In fact, I’m on a private press trip to Bristol & Bath right now LOL! Everyone has been lovely and loads of people kept me company in restaurants and cafes as they were amazed that I was all alone! Sometimes that’s a good thing as hubby and son are at home in Berlin, having their boys only time LOL!
    Of course, I miss them but I used to travel solo back in the day, so it wasn’t a problem and my hubby gives me some time off to do social media stuff on my own, although it’s great when they get to see me “working!”
    Have fun!

    • That sounds like a really fun trip, I LOVE the UK and would really love to visit Bristol for Banksy and Bath for the Roman baths. And I know what you mean, sometimes you just need to get away from other people, haha.

  10. I actually find travel in the United States so easy and relaxed. Tourism here just doesn’t feel as in your face as it can be other places in the world. Probably because it is not as obvious that I am a tourist when I am in my home country.

    I just started solo road tripping around parts of the United States this summer and while I agree that solo travel can be stressful or boring I also think it can be so relaxing and therapeutic. I hate having no one to talk to for hours and hours, and it is a bummer when you get lost and have no one to read the map for you, but I love being able to make spur of the moment decisions and not have to consult someone else.

  11. It was so great hanging out with you!! It looks like you had a great time though! I ended up visiting Ballard as well with the family I as visiting and loved it! Were you there for the farmers market?

  12. I’m so surprised you didn’t like dining alone! I absolutely love being able to treat myself to a date with myself… hahaha but really it can be weird being alone for more than a day or two traveling around the U.S. Seems like people think I’m more sketchy than a weirdo when I’m alone, but it could be my face ;)

  13. I moved from the East Coast to Seattle almost 15 years ago. We initially rented a place in Ballard driving into town on May 17 (Syttende Mai – Norwegian Constitution Day). I loved it immediately and have lived in Ballard ever since.

    If you come back and want to spend a bit more time in Ballard – please send me an email. I can give you all the recommendations you need.

  14. Hope this doesn’t sound too disrespectful or rude, so I hope you don’t take it the wrong way… But I’ve read some of your posts and it feels like you’re always trying to prove something to someone. Idk if to someone else or just to yourself.

    If just feels like you’re always trying to prove you’re adventurous, or fun, or brave, or just… something. Maybe you should just be. No pretending, not forcing yourself to do things you don’t enjoy – and that’s fine.

    I get we should try to do and get as much out of life as we can, but that doesn’t mean we have to live pretending or trying too hard just to show something. Enjoy life, there’s no need to impress anyone all the time. We have the right to be boring too, to do nothing if we don’t feel like it.

    Just be yourself.

    • Hi Thomas, first of all thanks for your honest comment. I’ve given it a lot of thought and think you are right to an extent. I think I have a fear of not living my life to the fullest but also have a certain way I want to think of myself, which is my I may come off the way you described. I definitely am trying to stop “proving myself” but sometimes it’s hard to feel 100% adequate, at least for me.

  15. I normally prefer solo travel because I’m very stubborn (er, independent) and like to do things when I want to do them, but I was just in Seattle actually with Scott and two friends and it was a lovely long weekend of group travel that renewed my need for exploring with people in tow.

  16. Solo travel is way more fun. There is no comparison. From my experience, those people who think you’re a weirdo for traveling solo – in most cases they’re either talking from jealousy, wishing they had the guts to do this themselves, or they live in a scripted, boring life.

    Sometimes I ask them questions such as what they do, where they live etc’ – and then ask myself “Would I trade my life for his/hers?”

    The answer is usually no… and it immediately makes me feel a lot better and confident with my decisions.

  17. Hey,
    Glad I came across your post. i will be in seattle for about 3 days this may and was wondering what can be done. I most likely will have a lot of time to go solo and apart from the space needle and park and stuff, what do you suggest I do to stay engaged?

  18. So I’m thinking of going to Seattle one because I’ve never been and two because of the Star Trek exhibit at the EMP (nerdy, I know)

    I’m going alone, so I Googled what one should do solo in Seattle and your blog was one of the top things that popped up. And then I saw that you also live in CO, so clearly you have good taste in places to live, undoubtedly it’ll translate to suggestions on travel.

    I’m gonna try and hit up a Sounders game and a Mariners game too, but I will NEED to try out that chowder.

    • I had a blast! I went to Umi the first night that I was there. Didn’t end up running into a group of Doctors but there was another guy there who was in town to Photograph a wedding, so I talked with him for a bit. Later on Russel Wilson actually ended up sitting across the bar from me. Being from Denver I have to kinda hate him for what they did to the Broncos in the Super Bowl :P
      Didn’t get a chance to go to Pike Place Chowder. But went to Ivar’s down on the pier.
      I’m a huge proponent of traveling alone now though. It was just so nice to have some planned stuff, but otherwise just picking a direction and walking did pretty well by me.

  19. I’ll be traveling along to Seattle for a conference in November. I plan to spend two extra days to enjoy the town, but I’m nervous. I’ve never traveled solo before and this is so far from home for me. I plan to stay in Capitol Hill. Did you find the area easy to walk through/navigate? I’ve only just started planning and I found your post helpful — so thank you!

  20. I’m spending a couple days solo in Seattle next month! I was there a couple years ago for a day or so but really only did Pike Place. Definitely taking some of your suggestions!

  21. I’m traveling to Seattle this coming month of September, to be honest I’m super scared and I have no Idea what I’am about to do but I already bought the tickets rented a place and a car and so now there is no turn back. at the same time I feel exited to go by my self but the again I think on how strange and weird it may be to be alone in a city I’ve never visited before. This is actually my first time traveling alone and kind of far from home. I guess I just want to get away from home have some distraction and hoping to have a good time so I guess good luck to me! =)

  22. Glad to see you enjoyed Seattle! There are so many things to enjoy in the Pacific NorthWest!!!! I am enjoying your page because I see a lot of people venture out alone. I have only tried TN (Memphis, Chattanooga, Nashville)! I took a road trip from GA and afterwards went to AL then back to GA. I am ready to try out of the country but I am super nervous. I am writing some info from others post. I just have to do it. Do you have any suggestions of simple (for the 1st time solo traveller) to try out. I am open for suggestions and top 10 things to do in that area. Also, another fear is the transportation and how I will get around not knowing the language. Also, when you come back to Seattle, you should try the coast along with Victoria and Vancouver (Canada)! Such a beautiful part of the world! It seem you really had a great time….

  23. I so wish I would have found this post sooner! I have been in the Pacific Northwest since Sunday- I stayed with a friend for my first 3 nights but she lives in a small suburb and I wasn’t really feeling it so I booked an airbnb downtown right by the ferris wheel. It is the cutest place and the perfect location but I totally feel you on having mixed feelings on solo travel. This is my first experience and I can’t say that I will be jumping at the chance to do it again…but this has definitely been an experience!

  24. Ashley,

    I stumbled upon your blog looking for some suggestions for a trip to Seattle this weekend. I really enjoyed your post, and am looking forward to learning more about your travels and life abroad.

    Wish me luck in Seattle, I am starting a Fellowship program there that will also be taking me abroad for several months.

    Thank you for a great article!

    Kelly

  25. I’m headed to Seattle this weekend and I can’t wait! I’m not so much worried about the daytime but at night. I’m staying at a hostel near downtown! Any advice of going out by yourself? I’m from a small town in Montana so I’m sort of freakin out about being by myself in the “big” city. haha

  26. I loved this post!! A few years later, but thank you for sharing. Ironically enough, I live in Denver- right by DU. I’ve always wanted to take a solo trip, but never followed through.

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