How I Travel Rachel E. Cargle Has Great Advice for Solo Trips
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How I Travel: Rachel E. Cargle Has Great Advice for Solo Trips

We peek into the airport routines and bizarre quirks of the world's most well-traveled people.

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In her new bookA Renaissance of Our Own, the activist and educator Rachel E. Cargle devotes a chapter to the reimagining of rest and relaxation. Travel is one such way Cargle—who also founded the Loveland Foundation, which offers free therapy to Black women and girls—calms and reconnects with herself. “In Puerto Rico, I found this butterfly garden, and in Japan it was at the bathhouses. In Jamaica, it's by the river,” she says. “I'm very inspired by finding new ways to get grounded and be restful in my relationship to exactly where I am.”

With her self-described “memoir and manifesto” out this week, Cargle spoke with Condé Nast Traveler about crafting in airports, hotel swims, flying solo, and more. 

How travel helps her writing process:

I find myself to be a very curious person, and travel is one of the clearest ways to indulge in that. I'll also say that as a writer, travel seems to be a portal for my creativity, because I do some of my best writing when I'm on a plane, a bus, a train, going from one place to another.

The way she makes herself at home on the road:

I like to try to completely unpack. I really love music—it grounds me—so I usually bring a little speaker with me. I have a morning playlist that I really enjoy at home while I'm making my coffee. It's very jazzy. And then I have a get-ready playlist with a little more pop music. Obviously you can play it through your phone, but when I have the music filling the room with a mini speaker, it gets me in the place I want to be.

What she brings on the plane:

In my carry-on bag is usually a book, a crossword puzzle, my lotions, and my lip glosses—the things that will keep my skin comfortable. Earphones, usually some sort of vitamin, an immune-something that will ease me when I hear people sneezing all around me. I also really love to bring yarn and a needle, because I like to crochet while the plane boards.

The most memorable trip of her life:

In 2016, I got fired from a job and I decided to just travel the world for a while. All I had was a carry-on, and I was doing virtual work. I asked people if I could be a virtual writer for them, or a content creator, and I found a few who said yes. I was living literally paycheck to paycheck; as soon as I'd get paid, I'd buy another ticket to somewhere new. You remember Workaway, where you stay at hostels and work for your room? I was working the front desk and cleaning. I went to Hawaii and Phoenix; in Japan, to Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto; and then I went to Thailand. That was my first time traveling internationally and I was by myself, and I had a really wonderful time.

The hotel amenities she focuses on:

I love a good room service menu. And I really love swimming laps, so whenever I can get a place with a pool, it really means something to me.

A city she thinks more travelers should see: 

I really feel like Kingston, Jamaica is underrated. When people go to Jamaica, they want to go to Negril, they want to go to Montego Bay, which are all really wonderful, but people don't know how wonderful Kingston, the city, is. People just want to go to the beach. I have a place of my own in the hills of Kingston, and the mountains and the hills of Kingston are, for me, just as glorious as the beach.

The place she could go to a million times and not tire of it:

Sedona, Arizona. I feel like Black people don't really have that much experience in the West, and Sedona is such a magical place. My friends and I have been saying forever that we want to make Sedona the new Martha's Vineyard, an annual gathering space, a summer destination. 

Her best advice for traveling alone:

My tips for traveling solo is to make a list of what you want to get out of it, because there's different ways of traveling! For me, solo traveling is a time to read, a time to discover new music, a time to explore the niches of art—[as it’s when] I can't really find anyone else who might want to visit that particular museum with me. It really can be a time of self-indulgence and introspection. One of my favorite things about traveling solo is it pushes you to meet people. I made lifelong friends with the person eating noodles next to me at a hostel in Japan, and then we ended up traveling and meeting somewhere else. It really opens you up to new friendships and new connections, because you're not just focused on who you came with.

The places she recommends in her hometown of Akron, OH (in addition to her own bookstore):

Sweet Mary's Bakery—it's so good, it's ridiculous. They make these savory croissants that really stress me out because they're so good. I would also absolutely visit the Akron Public Library, which is, I think, one of the best libraries in the country. Right across the street from that is Akron Art Museum, which is really fantastic and has outdoor space as well. Then the Metro Parks: you can go hiking, kayaking; I like to bird watch. I have never seen anything like the parks in all the places I've been.

Where she wants to go next:

I really would love to go to Rwanda. There's so much diversity in the diaspora, and I haven't been able to take in that much of east Africa. I get so many specific experiences from being in the American South, in Jamaica, in Accra in west Africa. I'm interested in how [Rwanda] will pour into me and my understanding of my Blackness.