Do what you want, when you want.
Be in total command of your worldly destiny. Sounds pretty good right? Your solitude will also provide in terms of self-reflection, relaxation, and the ability to sort a whole bunch of shit out. I recently spoke to photographer and friend of MC, Laura Austin, who is no stranger to going it alone. Over the years she’s developed an addiction to solo travel, documenting her adventures from the United States to Europe, and everywhere in between.
So before you bail on your friends and hit the road, scroll through our interview with Laura then go and buy her book, SOLO: A Guidebook to Traveling Alone.
Laura, how’s it going? What’s been happening?
Good, keeping busy with work and trying to move out of my place at the end of this month. I’m talking to Airstream to see if they’ll give me a trailer that I can tow behind my car, so I can live out of that for about a year.
Life on the road?
Yeah! I’m trying to sort all of that out and consolidate everything I own into a storage unit—just take what I need and put it in this tiny trailer and hop in my car.
I just moved out of my place into a smaller house, basically culled my life by 70 percent, threw it out and started fresh. But I guess you’re taking life consolidation to the extreme.
Yeah, getting rid of your stuff is quite the therapeutic thing to do, but it’s quite daunting because I have so much shit.
I guess that’s going to help with your solo travel chronicles. Let’s get into your book, can you tell me a bit about it and how it came together?
I started doing solo travel out of a necessity. I was going through a rough patch, a relationship, and I knew if I stayed at home in Los Angeles I would just melt into another puddle of self-pity. So I just took off on the road by myself—just a spur of the moment thing. Not knowing what I would do, just knowing I needed to get the hell out of Los Angeles.
That trip provided so much clarity and was a very healing experience at that time, so solo travel has kind of become a tradition for me anytime I’m lacking inspiration or just going through a rough patch—I tend to just take off on my own. Some people may say I’m chickening out and running away from everything, but from my perspective, I’m forcing myself to confront whatever it is that’s on my mind. Because when you’re along that long, you’re kind of forced to deal with whatever it is in your head. Over time I’d build up all this content surrounding solo travel, and that seemed to be what a lot of people that follow my work gravitated towards, so I decided it would be nice to package it all into a little book.
You spoke on the reasons why you pushed yourself to go on these solo adventures, but what it about these trips you love so much?
I think I’ve become a bit selfish in the way I travel if I’m going to be completely honest. It’s difficult to travel with other people if they don’t share similar views and how they want to travel. I can do exactly what I want, when I want to do it, and I’m not being led astray and going in different directions depending on what other people’s needs are.
Also, there’s a therapeutic quality of it when you’re alone. As a female travelling alone, there’s a stigma associated with the safety of it. There have been many experiences when I’ve hit adversities, and overcoming them when I’ve been alone has given me a new sense of confidence. I guess I use that kind of travel as my form of therapy.
Do you think your time on solo trips has enhanced your adventures with other people?
Yeah, definitely. I don’t want people to think that I’m just like ‘fuck everyone else’ and don’t travel with other people. I think by having the know-how of what’s required with travelling alone, it’s allowed me to do and overcome things I wouldn’t normally have been able to. One time I was on a trip with three other girls in the middle of Turkey and we got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. None of them knew how to change a tire, so without thinking I hiked up my dress and lay on the dirt and got it done—it’s little things like that that I’ve learned on my own when I can’t rely on anybody else.
What are some things that you need to take into account when photographing these trips?
It’s interesting shooting solo travel. I imagine if anyone from the outside saw me and my set-up shooting photos of myself they’d think I was crazy. I have a remote that I hook up to my camera, then have to set my camera on a tripod. Then perfectly align the shot, set the focus and where I’ll be. Then running back and forward until I get the shot is kind of a pain in the ass (laughs), but I guess that kind of adds to it all.
Any standout trips that you always look back on?
There’s this place called White Sands National Monument in New Mexico and these all white sand dunes which look like snow. You can run around in summer in very minimal clothing, it’s such a surreal landscape when the image looks like people should be bundled up in the cold. Big Sur in California is right up there, such a magical place. And as for international solo trips, I think the only one I’ve done is Scotland which was quite the adventure. I was on a photoshoot for work out there and had some time in between, so went out and covered the Highlands of Scotland which was pretty incredible.
What’s on your list for the future? Small trips or big once-in-a-lifetime adventures?
Japan is number one on my list right now. I haven’t been anywhere in Asia yet. Tokyo seems like everything would be so foreign and from there I want to go snowboarding in Hokkaido, I’ve heard it has some of the best powder in the world. Then heading to some of the smaller cities like Kyoto—Japan would provide everything from crazy city adventures, to beautiful nature, then also a bunch of outdoor activities.