The $40 Solo Day Trip

Back when I worked at Amazon, you would work four ten-hour days and had three days. It was the best and worst job I’ve ever had. It was the best because of the fun we had and because the three days gave me some freedom with my travels. It gave me plenty of time to take some day trips. I got to visit some of the Florida springs in Central Florida. I also got to see the nature reserves in Southern Georgia. The best part was, all I needed was $40 to enjoy it all. I have a flash drive full of memories due to trip planning and cheap budgeting.

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PRE-TRIP PLANNING

It makes a good habit and plain common sense to plan your trip. In my opinion, going on a whim is reckless. You never know what can happen to you on the road. Are you willing to take that chance? You have to be prepared for breakdowns, getting lost, and other wild card situations that may pop up. Not only is it reckless, but you could easily spend two or three times what you should have budgeted. If you live paycheck to paycheck like most of us in this country, you can’t afford to blow half your earnings on impulse buys.

St. Mary’s, GA

The night before a day trip, I take an hour to plan where I want to go. Since I travel solo, I know eventually I can get drowsy behind the wheel. I don’t want to spend most of the day driving. I usually go somewhere about one to two hours away from my city. (Remember, you have to drive back from where you are visiting. A two-hour drive is actually four). Once I know where I’m going, I use Google Maps, Trip Advisor, and social media apps to see exactly what is at the place.

Fort Clinch

$20 FOR GAS

Now you may think $20 for gas is a lot for a day trip that’s only one to two hours away. Well, obviously, this depends on the type of car you have. I do it for peace of mind. As I said, you never know what you’re going to run into. I want to make sure I have enough to go and come back, considering traffic or excess use of the air conditioning. (I live in Florida, it’s to be expected.) These twenty dollars are also where you can have what I call “budget play.” If you know for sure that you only need $10 for your trip, this gives you $10 to spend as you want or need. Now you can spend a little more on food (or leave a better tip), or you can spend a little more on souvenirs.

Hillsborough Lighthouse in Boca Raton, FL

$5 FOR ENTRANCE FEE

This is tricky. I’m an outdoor person. I visit state parks to hike and explore, but my day trips also include museums, festivals, flea markets, art walks, and nature conservations. Most of the entrance fees to the state parks near me are about $5. It’s always wise to take a little more. One state park I went to cost $17. Museums depend on admissions, so naturally, they’re going to be more than $5. That’s where that “budget play” from the gas money comes from. Once again, you never know what you’ll run into.

Dames Pointe Park

$10 FOR FOOD

If food is at the center of your day trip, then you want to adjust where this is the focal point of your budget. For example, if you’re going to a shrimp festival, then the bulk of your budget should be focused. The food will be a more expensive than Captain D’s or 2 for $20 at Red Lobster. These festivals are run by small business owners who are looking to make a profit with their specialty foods as their business card. Don’t expect to go and spend $5 on a platter. You can expect there to be seafood cooked in ways you’ve never thought possible. You may want to try that out so be ready for it. Now, if a food isn’t the focus of your trip, then maybe a $5 sub combo from a sandwich shop will hold you over until you get back home.

St. Simon’s Lighthouse. St. Simon’s Island, GA

$5 FOR SOUVENIR

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need t-shirts, large posters, or some giant statue to remember where I went. That’s what cameras and memories are for. My memories mean more to me than any physical object. I use my camera to make sure I never forget those memories. BUT, it doesn’t hurt to take a little souvenir. I have an obsession with postcards. Postcards are always the first thing I look for when I go to a gift shop at the nature park or museum. Postcards are usually only a dollar, so ten dollars allows me to splurge on something you may not find online, like local art sold through the gift shop. Treat yourself… It’s worth the trip.

I know, I know. You may be thinking that you will need a hell of a lot more than forty dollars to enjoy your day trip. You may be the type who likes to “go big or go home.” Perfectly fine. You’re the captain of your ship. You spend how you see fit. But it’s much more enjoyable to take a million affordable day trips than several big-budget day trips. Numbers don’t lie. In my three days off, I can afford two-day trips for under $90. OR, think of it this way, if I take one day trip every weekend, that’s $160 a month in traveling (more or less depending on how much you spend.) That’s not bad if you’re a lover of traveling as I am.

The Blue Ridge Mountains

As long as you discipline yourself and stick to your budget, you can enjoy yourself. At the end of the day, it’s not about the money you spend but the memories you make.

Welcome to Dungeness Ruins

One of the highlights of Cumberland island, besides the amazing horses, are the Dungeness Ruins. You can approach the ruins from many trail paths but what fun would that be? I prefer going right through the front gate.

I try to use my imagination every time I visit. I pretend I am coming to visit the tenants of the mansion. I stroll up through the stone gates and browse around at the massive front yard. I’d imagine workers tending to the yard keeping the place looking posh and neatly. I imagine approaching the large building awaiting my invite to tea. I take a detour around the side and gaze through the iron gates, there is a courtyard decked out with a fountain and bold blooms overfilling every flowerpot. There are proper small children playing chase and tag, a governess nearby steady clapping her hands telling the children not to play so rough.

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I continue on the fence to the ever-expanding back yard. It is a dream how it stretches to the edge of the island with the Atlantic waiting just beyond the shore. The grass is healthy and bright green. Horses graze gracefully on the grass. Turkeys stroll in packs as they make for the cover of the distant forest. I stand there a moment taking in the ocean of green and nothing else feels better than this.

Suddenly, the the perfect home disappears. I am left with decaying bricks and a fallen home. The horses remain, the grass continues to sparkle, but the life is gone. The children’s voices fill my head, but they are gone until I see them again as I cross the yard to the family grave.

A Moment in the Woods

Today was one of those, “screw it, let’s go somewhere,” kind of days. I had a half of a tank of gas, I was off work and couldn’t do my writing at the library because it was a federal holiday. I downloaded an app called AllTrails where you can discover, record and share hiking trails. I found one that was on a preserve. I soon realized that because of the federal holdiday, it would also be closed. Crap. I took what gas I had and decided to just take a back road drive that I’ve taken several times.

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After about two and half hours of just back road, I stopped at a bird-watching station for the Osceola National Forest. I’m not into bird watching but there was a hiking path I could walk so I could admire the view. The narrow path was barely visible because of the tall grass that overshadowed its direction. The most fun there is to being in one of these forests are how the trees look. Its a much different view than the cluster of trees in my neighborhood “forest.” Here, the trees are all alike and grow in perfect lines. You can actually see in the distance beyond the trees. At home, you couldn’t see one foot in front of you because of the hundreds of invasive plants and vines that cover the trees. It’s nothing more than a mass of vegetation. Here, I feel like I could run forever between these perfect trees and never get lost.

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Though I was literally only there for five minutes, I had more fun in those moments than I knew I would have staying at home with nothing to do. I took photos, played with my selfie stick, walked around a bit, admired the wild weeds attacking my legs and allowed the EDM music blasting through my headphones create the soundtrack of moment.

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my travel mascot Comey

I realized after my trip was over how much I missed my short adventures. Trying to build a travel blogging career, I seem to have lost my way into thinking bigger and more elaborate traveling. I forgot that just a moment in the woods is just as much worth a travel than any travel to the Grand Canyon or the Blue Ridge Mountains. Five minutes in the Osceola National Forest did more for me this week, than any music, meditation or hangouts with friends could have ever done. I suppose I pass that piece of advice on to anyone. Go find random adventure somewhere, you’d be surprised what it would do for you.