I know what you’re thinking.
“But, Sally, if I’m traveling alone, shouldn’t I want to meet people, not avoid them?”
To which I respond: Umm, okay, if that’s your thing.
And if that is your thing, there are tons of really helpful, informative blog posts out there all about how to meet people while you’re traveling on your own. (Like this and this.) Heck, I’ve even written one myself. (Although I would never classify anything I write as either helpful or informative. Unless you’re the type of person who finds excessive cat links helpful and informative. In which case, all I have to say is: YOU ARE MY PEOPLE.)
But, let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that you are an antisocial hermit-person whose thing is avoiding any and all large crowds of people, especially large crowds full of screamy, little people in strollers. NOT THAT I KNOW ANYONE LIKE THAT. (I am totally like that.)
Well, friends, I’ve got you covered. Behold my tips for avoiding ALL THE PEOPLE! (Mind you, you should not take this as a sign of my being helpful and/or informative. After all, I would hate to ruin my street cred as the most useless person on the Internet.)
Tip #1: Have a Plan B. (And by “Plan B” I mean “PLAN BLERGGGHHH! SO MANY PEOPLE! GET ME AWAY FROM ALL THE PEOPLE!)
When deciding your day’s activity, it’s always a good idea to have an alternative option, should you show up at your desired destination and find that it’s closed/not-quite-what-you-expected/so-incredibly-packed-full-of-people-that-it-makes-you-feel-stabby.
After spending my first day in Munising, battling the disgruntled elbows of my fellow back-deck boat-riders on a sunset cruise of the Pictured Rocks, I decided a little peace and quiet was in order for my second day there. And what better way to get a little peace and quiet than with a nice nature hike?
After perusing a list of possible day hikes in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I decided on Miner’s Falls Trail. It was described as having a gorgeous waterfall and stunning views of the sandstone outcrops that make the Pictured Rocks so famous. As I drove towards the trailhead, I imagined being surrounded by trees and silence with only the sound of birds and rushing water to break my quiet revery. And then I pulled into the parking lot and OMIGOD THE HUMANITY!
Parents were unfolding strollers while their offspring waited nearby, hitting each other over the heads with sticks. A pair of half-dressed dudes with kayaks tied to the top of their wood-paneled station wagon were drinking what appeared to be beer. Silver-haired couples wielding walking sticks marched past.
The parking lot was so full, I couldn’t even find a place to park. This wasn’t a problem because I had no intention of getting out of my car and throwing myself into that mosh-pit masquerading as a hiking trail, anyway.
I promptly turned around and kept driving, until I reached the trail to Au Sable Light Station. This trail didn’t have any waterfalls or sandstone outcrops. In fact, despite being part of the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore, there wasn’t a single Pictured Rock in sight. Which meant there also weren’t a whole lot of other hikers in sight because, really, who comes all the way to a park named after rocks to go on a hike where there aren’t any actual rocks? Well, besides me, that is.
This trail did, however, have a lighthouse at the end. And we all know how much I like myself a good lighthouse.
And there were periodic signs along the trek, telling you where you could spot shipwreck that had washed up along the beach. Yes, SHIPWRECK!
Who needs stupid sandstone rocks and waterfalls when you have ACTUAL REAL LIFE SHIPWRECK?!?
Tip #2: Timing is everything.
When deciding the time of day to visit a popular tourist destination, it’s a good idea to figure out what’s the most convenient time for the ordinary human-person to visit that popular tourist destination. And then, whatever you do, do not go at that time.
After all, you are not an ordinary human-person! You are a lone wolf! You are not confined by some silly time schedule! Instead you’re confined by your intense hatred of screamy people.
I guess we all have our crosses to bear.
After my relatively solitary hike to the lighthouse, I decided I could put up with a screamy person or two, so I stopped by Miner’s Castle on my way back to my campsite. The brochure I had picked up described it as “the most famous rock formation” in Pictured Rocks.
I was pretty sure this also meant “the most horribly packed rock formation where I will probably want to kill everyone including myself.”
And then I arrived and discovered I had the entire place to myself. I suspect this was because it was around seven o’clock in the evening. It was about the time most normal human-people would be at home eating dinner or out on the town drinking or doing whatever it is normal human-people do at seven o’clock at night.
Apparently, normal human-people do not take selfies in front of rocks at such an hour. But, luckily, I do.
Tip #3: Be prepared to rough it. Also, be prepared to contract a disease or two.
There is a reason why most hermits live in caves and broken down huts in the middle of the woods and not, say, five-star beach resorts with cabin boys serving them pina coladas.
Caves and forest-huts are gross and full of things most people don’t like — like bats and fungus and ticks and rabies-infested raccoons.
Not that I’m saying you should go live in a cave or a shack in the woods. Although that does sound really nice and peaceful right now, doesn’t it?
On my last day in Munising, I decided to do something I hardly ever do — I decided to go to the beach. I am not a beach person. I sunburn too easily and in a way that’s splotchy and unattractive. And I don’t like sand getting all up in my business.
Besides, most people tend to like beaches. And, as I’ve hopefully established already, I tend to not like most people.
But I had heard Munising’s Sand Point Beach described as one of “the top five summer beaches in America,” and I wanted to check it out. I armed myself with sunblock and a huge beach umbrella to prevent myself from becoming sunburnt. And an Oprah magazine to prevent myself from becoming a curmudgeonly crankypants. It’s pretty much impossible to be filled with people-hating rage when reading an Oprah magazine. That’s just how Oprah magazines work.
True to its reputation, Sand Point Beach was indeed beautiful and full of fine, white sand. It was also full of people.
I quickly made my way to the not-so-peopley part of the beach, where instead of fine, white sand, there were big chunks of driftwood, debris and discarded trash.
This was most likely not the part of the beach which had earned it the title of “the top five summer beaches.” Unless they meant “top five summer beaches where you’ll probably get tetanus.”
But nobody else was there. Besides, you know, Oprah.
Tip #4: Get off the beaten path. And on to the totally dork-ball path.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my last ten years or so of traveling, it’s what most people like to see when they travel. Basically, most people like to see sights that wow them — geological wonders, historic treasures, buildings that defy physics and engineering. These sights don’t require that you have a lot of background information or context to understand and appreciate them. I mean, nobody goes to the Eiffel Tower to read the historic plaques. (Do they even have historic plaques at the Eiffel Tower? Or are they like, “Whatever. It’s the Eiffel Tower! No explanation is needed!”)
Most people do not like to see stuff that requires a lot of reading and makes them feel like they’re on some kind of sixth grade field trip.
Luckily, I’m not most people.
The last stop on my Upper Peninsula adventure was Fayette Historic State Park, a former iron-smelting town which has been restored and turned into a museum. You may have deduced from the words “historic” and “museum” and “iron-smelting”, that this was the least popular place that I visited on my entire trip.
It was also, not so coincidentally, my favorite place I visited on the trip. Partly because I am a huge dork-ball and love nerdy historic stuff. And partly because hardly anybody else was there.
Unlike Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which had been packed full of other campers (loud, screamy, Steve-Miller-Band-listening campers), the campground was relatively empty and quiet. And unlike Munising, which is full of touristy things to keep you busy like boat rides and kayak excursions and pasty shops, there weren’t a whole lot of things to do. In fact, the only thing to do was poke around the restored buildings and read the educational displays on fascinating stuff like iron smelting and the economics of company towns.
After spending a few hours learning about the intricacies of the iron smelting process, I spent the rest of my day in Fayette hanging out at my campsite, napping, drinking beer and eating canned ravioli by the campfire because I’d run out of all my good camping food a week before and there weren’t any shops nearby to buy new food.
Besides, there was nobody around to impress anyway.
Which is exactly the way I like it.
When you travel do you prefer to be a social butterfly and meet people or be a hermit-person and avoid them all together?