why my solo trip to Raleigh was so much more than just orientation

Somehow I got to age 24 without ever having to take a trip completely by myself. When I found out orientation for my dietetic internship was going to be out of town for 10 days, I freaked a little. I couldn’t stop thinking about the multitude of things that could go wrong because of who I am as a person and how uncomfortable I am being alone as a woman. By the time my departure date rolled around, the excitement for starting this new opportunity outweighed the negative thought processes so I headed out a really happy girl.

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Indulging one morning with a biscuit sandwich and a donut which was pretty painful to do as a dietetic intern, but so worth it!

The four and a half hour drive wasn’t too grueling. I didn’t get stuck in any traffic and only got lost for a hot second trying to find a Starbucks to refuel. I checked in and lugged my massive suit case up to my room. I checked the closet, behind the shower curtain, under the bed and behind the window curtains for anybody waiting to kidnap or kill me. Once I realized the coast was clear I was pretty thrilled by my set up. I had a decently-sized kitchen to get me through my stay. Everything seemed clean and there were free paper towels and dish soap which made me pretty happy considering I’m a jobless twenty something.

I remembered reading in an orientation email that there was a Whole Foods nearby so I set out to grab groceries for the week. Coming from my hotel trying to get back onto the highway I encountered three left-hand turn lanes and realized I may have made a monumental mistake staying here because I am not an aggressive/even kinda good driver and was so intimidated by this place. I should probably add that I’ve never seriously shopped at a Whole Foods before which meant I spent about 40 mins weaving in and out of aisles trying to locate all my needs. It also took an excessive amount of time for me to try and fight for a spot at the hot foods bar. I really needed some of that mac & cheese that I wasn’t quite aggressive enough to make it known to the what seemed like millions of others getting their foods first. I ended up maneuvering my cart out of everyone’s way like a weirdo pretending like I was perusing the refrigerated ready-to-eat foods, but I was really waiting for people to clear out. Checking out was the worst. The trip ended with me gawking at my grand total of $171 wondering how in the world the amount of items I’d selected added up to what my boyfriend and I spend for 2 people to eat for 2 weeks. I got back in my car and almost burst into tears.

How was I going to become a real professional if shopping at Whole Foods in the capital of North Carolina felt like such a huge feat?

The first day of orientation was SO overwhelming. I had forgotten that I wrote “Dani” on my name tag and kept introducing myself as Danielle which probably confused my peers and director/coordinator. We got bombarded with a ton of info and it was incredibly hot and humid that day. Trying to maintain my composure on top of the outside conditions had me sweating profusely all day. I contemplated checking myself into the nearby hospital to have studies done on why my sweat glands couldn’t take the hint to cut it out. Somehow I managed to survive the day and make a few friends.

As I went to make dinner for myself that evening, I discovered the pans in the drawer were covered in a mildewy substance and had to go ask the front desk for more. While I was at it, I borrowed a corkscrew to open a cheap bottle of wine. By the time the front desk man brought me up new pans I realized I didn’t know how to use the corkscrew and asked him to open my wine while standing as far away from the door as I could, propping it open with my foot praying he wouldn’t take that as some kind of seductress invite to enjoy the bottle with me.

I’ve never been the kind of person who is comfortable with inviting people I’ve just met to hang out. Probably some kind of inward fear of rejection. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to be invited out for sushi with some of my peers when Friday rolled around. The place ended up having BOGO sushi and $3 Coronas so basically between that small detail and being surrounded by a bunch of dietetic interns happy to have made it to the weekend had me feeling alright.

By day five of my travels I had successfully slept alone in a hotel for four nights, shopped at a fancy grocery store, driven in traffic with 3 left-hand turn lanes and made friends all while avoiding being murdered. Adulting.

A large part of our Saturday was spent trying to find a pool to swim in and I was so amazed when one of the girls in our internship let us use her apartment complex’s pool as well as open boxes she had yet to unpack to find us enough beach towels to use to swim. Sometimes all you have to do is ask!

We went out Saturday night for Mexican food where I was super impressed by my friend’s gutsiness to order and pick up food from a restaurant across the street when the restaurant couldn’t provide her with anything 100% gluten free. I am usually so worried about what others might think of me that I don’t always do what is best for me and I thought that was a pretty kick-ass take charge kind of move, as simple as it was.

We visited a roof-top bar where we learned that summers in Raleigh provide zero relief from the heat. Last stop was dancing. We just so happened to pick a place where a wedding party was after-partying and I got groped by the groom while our group of girls danced in a circle, cause girls just wanna have fun.

My wonderful boyfriend came to visit for a few days and we had a blast. We did some touristy stuff like visiting the art museum but mostly spent a lot of that time eating AMAZING food. If you ever visit Raleigh (or any other location that has one) you have to go to the Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. We had “burgushi” and it was life-changing. I ate entirely too much and didn’t regret it for a second.

The last night we were all together, about 20 of us went out for one last social event before we parted ways. We ended up at an Irish rooftop bar where our waitress happened to be an Irish student visiting for a summer. Authentic. I was the planned DD for me and another intern but as the night continued I was convinced I should drink more and catch an Uber home. I asked the bartender how early I had to come back for my car the next morning (which turned out to be an hour too late as evidenced by my $30 parking ticket.) As much as I liked my new friends I was a little nervous to rely on them to get me back to my car in time to pack it up and make it to 9am orientation for our very last day. But for as much as I was nervous I felt even weirder about requesting an Uber at 7 am to pick up my car in the streets of Raleigh. Luckily she came through and we got ourselves together on time!

It was a bitter-sweet moment to part ways with such a tremendous group of women (and one gentleman) who I had just experienced orientation and started building friendships with. I truly felt that these people, the city and my solo traveling helped me grow as a person – realizing my ability to be a little more independent and to try and not be so uptight and pessimistic about so many things.

I don’t know if I will ever find myself there again, but I will always have truly fond memories of Raleigh and know better than to try and order tequila and grapefruit juice in that city 3x, thinking the next place would have one that tasted better than the last.