Benefits of Traveling Alone

By Kate Riley March 9, 2017

For me, travel is the best form of education. I find I learn and grow so much when I place myself in environments outside the one I live in, the one that is so familiar. I’m an independent person so I’m pretty comfortable being on my own. Journeying halfway around the world last month reminded me of the many benefits of traveling alone. On the long ride home I jotted down some thoughts on the topic.

I’ve taken dozens of business trips on my own so I’m comfortable getting around and relying on myself, and last week I returned from a trip to Australia, a trip I took without friends or family.  A friend of mine expressed on my return how nervous she’d be if she was on her own and how I felt about traveling alone. Years ago I was inspired to begin taking trips alone after reading Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gift from the Sea, a short and easy read but still relevant and inspiring even though the book is over 50 years old. It’s about a woman who spends a week by herself in a cottage on the ocean and in the book she reflects on motherhood and how we complicate our lives too much. I try to read it once a year.

Traveling alone takes confidence, it requires courage and stepping outside your comfort zone even in the face of nagging insecurities or fears. You can practice being brave by traveling alone. You can learn so much about yourself by exploring the world without a travel partner.




Too often as mothers and wives we get stuck in the routine and everyone’s dependence on us that we feel either guilty for leaving, or unable to because of our circumstances. Perhaps the kids are still too young to leave or there are more important things to spend the money on. My children are at an age where they’re just fine without me for a few days or even a couple of weeks, and knowing myself and my love of travel, I always save up a little money each month for a future trip I want to take. I’m lucky to be in that stage of life.

There are many legitimate reasons to avoid traveling alone like time and finances, but nervousness shouldn’t be what holds you back. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is where so much personal growth occurs. Some of my favorite perks of traveling alone are:

You Can Go At Your Own Pace. I love waking up when I want to, whether it’s early to catch a tour or late because I can sleep in. When I was in Salzburg last year I took the Sound of Music tour on my own, something that would bore my family. When I was in Melbourne, I visited art galleries and ducked into boutiques at my leisure. I love being able to stop and look at something for as long or as short a period of time as I want. I love to walk when I’m in big cities, and I can go for miles (these shoes help!) and when I’m on my own I need only worry about my own level of fatigue and no one else’s.

It’s Cheaper. One plane ticket, one shuttle ride, and one day of meals costs one fourth the price that it would if I went with my family. If there is someplace I really want to see, I plan ahead, work out a schedule with Matt, and off I go, and he does the same.

No Need for Conversation. When I’m with someone I always feel that additional pressure to be pleasant company, to make polite conversation, to have something interesting to say or observe or a funny anecdote or story to tell. When I’m alone it’s just me and my thoughts and I only need to speak when I’m ordering a meal! I can spend hours in silence listening to the sounds on the streets or the music on my phone without worry or care for anyone else’s conversational needs.

Meeting New People. Without a travel partner, I’m more likely to strike up conversations with others. The bartender, the concierge, the cute family sitting next to me in a restaurant. I’ve made so many friends this way and had some of the most delightful conversations with others, ones I’d likely not have at all if I had travel companions. I feel more connected to the human race when I do this.

Maneuverability. I find I can duck into corners at events or in restaurants and get a better view or seat when I’m alone since I only have to worry about the space that I take up! You can get lucky with “sold out” events too if you’re a single!

Etiquette. We’re all attached to our smartphones these days, myself included. When I’m with someone else I don’t look at my phone during meals or when I’m spending time with them, but when I’m alone there’s no guilt in browsing Instagram over lunch or editing photos on my phone in the pub.

Food and Beverages. When I travel alone I can eat whatever I want, whether it’s from a local fruit stand mid afternoon or dim sum at the local dumplings bistro or a cocktail at the hipster bar with that cool vibe. I never have to worry if they have chicken nuggets on the menu :)

You Get the Bed All to Yourself. This is one of my favorite perks, when I check into my accommodations, falling flat on my back on the bed and doing imaginary snow angels on the covers in celebration of the fact that it’s mine, it’s all mine! :) Sounds selfish, but when you live in a house with several people and pets, having a bed all to yourself for a few nights is a welcome indulgence.

You’re More Interesting. The more I travel the more connected to the world I feel. Travel has opened my eyes on so many topics: poverty, healthcare, lifestyle to name just a few. When I meet someone who’s from a place I’ve been to or visited it too, we share an instant connection. My favorite thing to talk to people about is where they’ve been and what they’ve seen in the states of my country or the nations of the world. When I meet someone from a different place I always want to hear what they think and learn how they live. When I meet someone who shares a passion for travel, I find them more interesting.

I loved this article rounding up inspiring quotes on reasons to travel more. I encourage all of my friends out there to take the opportunity to travel alone and if you’ve never done it, start small. Book a room in a city nearby, one you’ve always wanted to visit, sleep in, take yourself out to lunch, walk around, or go to that art exhibit you’ve been wanting to see. You’ll return home with all the benefits, I promise!

How many of you have taken trips alone? What did it teach you?

Galley Kitchen Remodel

By Kate Riley March 7, 2017

This is kitchen renovation #2 completed in partnership with the Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), a local non-profit that services homeless people in my community. This home is used as a transitional home for our veterans. (I featured the first home’s kitchen makeover and family room in January.)

This galley kitchen was challenging in its design because it is a pass through space and doesn’t hold its own corner in the house. Just beyond is a bedroom and the exit to the backyard and people will be constantly walking through it when others are cooking so I kept the design as clean and simple as possible.



When we started it was one of the worst “before” kitchens I’ve seen, not only was it dated but falling apart too. Warren, my project partner over at COTS declared it was a gut job and I could have my way with it. Music to my ears!

We were on a super tight budget supplemented by a grant for veterans donated by Home Depot. Given their generosity, we purchased everything from Home Depot from the flooring to the light fixtures. (Links to products below). Here’s the right side of the kitchen before demo, you can see the cabinets were broken and old and it was a mess.


I was tempted to try something really different in this kitchen since I had free rein with style choices but then came back to a modern yet classic look as I always seem to do :) after all, it’s a kitchen and therefore needs finishes that will look good for decades. I chose a combination of dark cabinets below and white above for contrast.


Before in the entrance there was just a strange shelf, so I substituted a chunky dark wood bench and petite tulip table for dining or for visiting with a cook. The window was a hint too low to continue the lower cabinetry to the other wall so a small breakfast corner with a bench and table made sense.

Sending a huge thank you to World Market for donating this table and bench, they’re perfect in size and style for the space!



The design began with the black appliances that I had to work with, specifically two black refrigerators necessary to service the large household. They had to stay. To work with them I chose dark java wood tone cabinets below to ground the space and opted for white above. Here’s a look at the left side of this galley kitchen before and after the remodel:






The flooring is new, it’s the Allure luxury vinyl plank in a weathered wood finish, very easy to install. (source below)


The cabinets are all budget friendly shaker cabinets from Home Depot chosen for their simple style and affordability. The wall cabinets are the white versions and the lower cabinets are the java color, a dark espresso wood tone.

When placing the cabinet order we also ordered toe kick for the bases, and 3” filler pieces for in between the upper cabinets and refridgerator where there would be gaps since these cabinets only come in standard widths. For me an all white kitchen would have been too stark for this pass through space which is another reason I went with java base cabinets.



Though it cost a little bit more, I insisted on a white hood to fit in seamlessly with the white upper cabinets and backsplash. I love it! Let’s start a white range hood trend, shall we?



The backsplash is a raised prism hexagon. I love that it’s a geometric pattern yet a modern alternative to subway tile and that the subtle raised shape of each tile catches the light with its glossy sheen.




The cabinet knobs are rectangular raised prism style to mimic the backsplash and the pulls are from the same collection. (I can’t find the link on HD for this hardware but I’ll look at the order forms and find out.)






The white granite sink is paired with a polished nickel faucet.








Last but not least, this countertop. You guys, it’s so good!  It’s Formica’s Calacatta Marble pattern in Etchings finish, it was generously donated by the company for this non-profit kitchen remodel. This is a bolder pattern than the Carrara Bianco featured in this kitchen and I’m so crazy about it! It looks like the real thing, I’m so impressed with this pattern.




I chose all the finishes and helped install the backsplash, however I must applaud Warren and his partner Jimmy from COTS and give them so much credit for doing most of the labor in this space, well done! It was a great group effort and a transformation to be proud of! The veteran tenants move in soon so I was happy to see it completed in time.


Hope you enjoyed the tour of this budget kitchen renovation!

Sources for products used below (with the exception of hardware):

flooring / cabinets / sink / faucet / range hood / backsplash tile / countertop