I see a lot of myself in Lisa and her van journey. For that reason, I wanted her to write about her experiences solo traveling. Like Lisa, I get asked if traveling as a woman is scary. It can be an uncomfortable question to answer simply because I wish it didn't need to be asked in the first place. Lisa reflects on this past year living in a van by herself and the lessons she's learned along the way.
Lessons from Solo Female Traveling
Written by Lisa Jacobs of Vacay Vans
If you looked at my life last year compared to my life today, it’s almost unrecognizable. Last year, I had a growing interior design firm and had just purchased a starter home in Austin, Texas. My boyfriend and I were living in our house and planning a future together. From the outside, it looked like everything was going in the right direction. But I had a nagging feeling that something was off. I felt stuck and unfulfilled in my work and relationship, but I didn’t know why or what to do about it. I had no idea that the solution would be to donate most of my things and move into a campervan.
I live and travel in a van, and everyday is a new adventure. I see a poster for an upcoming festival in a nearby town, and I impulsively decide to go. I drive by a sign advertising a local attraction and I head in the direction to check it out.
Every day is a new and unpredictable opportunity, and I’m learning to open my eyes to the signs around me.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from being a solo female traveler.
1. Fear is a choice
People always ask if traveling solo is scary and my answer is always the same. I choose to not be afraid. But if I said I’ve never been afraid in my van, I’d be lying.
My first night solo in my van, I was terrified. I didn't have any road trip travel skills and I didn’t know about resources like freecampsites.net or iOverlander. While trying to find a place to park for the night in a small town near a Colorado highway, fear got the best of me. Everywhere I considered parking looked potentially dangerous in the dark—a creepy old house or an abandoned trailer. I was certain that I was going to be abducted and never heard from again. I eventually settled on a parking spot by a streetlight. I triple checked my door locks and curled up in bed in a ball of worry.
In the daylight however, my perceived surroundings and reality could not have been more different. I woke up in a quaint, small town surrounded by friendly people, all of whom were smiling at me.
I’ve chosen to feel in control and to not let fear get the best of me. With this perspective, solo travel isn’t scary; it’s empowering.
2. Vanlife comes with a sharp learning curve
Vanlife is different in day-to-day living. It can be overwhelming to start an adventure with so many foreign terms and concepts—graywater, propane and boondocking. I’ve learned by doing new things, such as enhancing my power tool skills and troubleshooting electrical issues. I've become a pro at monitoring my water and propane consumption.
I’m still honing my skills for finding good places to stealth park. And admittedly, I often resort to Walmart and urban camping much more often than I’d like to admit. That said, I'm taking baby steps. Today, I’m nervous to spend too much time without cell service. But, maybe in a few weeks, I’ll feel ready to go off-the-grid for a long period of time. This lifestyle comes with a steep learning curve.
3. This lifestyle is a vehicle for change
Vanlife is literally and figuratively a vehicle for change. The things you see and the people you meet are always changing and evolving, which has resulted in internal growth and change. When you strip yourself of your familiar comforts—such as your home, things, friends and city—you look at what’s left behind with a much clearer lens. This has helped me assess so many things in a new light, such as my beliefs, preconceived notions and relationships. I’m able to look at the things in my life and ask, "Is this (place, relationship, material thing) helping me live the life I want to live or is it weighing me down?"
In this way, the van is a vehicle for self-discovery.
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Produced & edited by Kathleen Morton.
Words & photos courtesy of Lisa Jacobs.