When I tell people that I’ll travel for weeks at a time in a campervan and call it my home, they’re a little surprised, to say the least. Firstly, because they couldn’t imagine travelling in a small van for so long. Secondly, because they couldn’t imagine me travelling alone. Solo female van life might be scary for some people, but it really doesn’t have to be!
A campervan is pretty tiny, but I’ve honestly lived in bedrooms that are smaller, particularly when I was a student in a big city. You have the space you need, and with campervan travel, you don’t actually spend that much time inside your van. You follow the sunshine and enjoy being outside. I’ll open up the back of the van, and it suddenly feels vast. Plus, how often do you get to enjoy the sea view from your bed? You’ve got enough space for the things you need. And you don’t have to sacrifice any luxuries; I have a travel hairdryer tucked away and a freezer for ice cream.
And in terms of travelling alone, it’s definitely an adjustment. My mum was terrified at the mere thought of me solo travelling in my van, and honestly, I was too. But I think van life is the best way to solo travel as a female. You get to be fully in control of your transport and accommodation, and you’re not reliant on anyone else. You get to meet people really easily but also enjoy space and time to yourself. I’m a total introvert at heart, so I need those hours in the van to wind down and recharge my batteries.
So here are my top tips for solo female van life, to keep you safe and sane on the road:
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6 top tips for solo female van life...
1. Try before you dive in
Van life is amazing! Nothing beats the freedom of having everything you need right there with you. But that being said, van life isn’t for everyone! Some people find it stressful or cramped; some people find it lonely, while others have met the best people during their travels. It truly depends on the person.
So before you book a month-long trip or buy your own van, try solo female van life on a smaller scale first. I recommend booking a trip for a weekend to start. This will allow you to see how much you like van travel. Take into consideration that it takes getting used to and practice makes perfect, but even that first weekend can highlight if this is definitely not something for you.
A shorter trip also highlights what you actually need in a van. What aspects and amenities did you use and which did you not? Was a two-berth van big enough, or did you feel cramped? What did you forget to pack? This helps you know what you want when you buy or build your own van! Read about Mollie’s van conversion here.
Take a practice run before you dive into van life so that you can feel prepared. I took my test run with Goboony – a motorhome sharing platform. This allowed me to hire directly from a private owner so I could ask them all of my questions. Hiring a van for a weekend showed me that I prefer smaller campervans as they’re easier to drive, and that even thought I don’t need that much space, I really need a little freezer!
2. Learn the basics
You don’t need a mechanical engineering degree, but before you embark on solo female van travel, I recommend learning the basics. You never want to be stranded, and you don’t want to spend your entire trip terrified at the slightest noise – because campervans make a lot of noise! So get to know the basics of how your van works, such as what to do if you see smoke, if the battery is empty and how to change a tire. Make sure that you can take care of yourself so you’re not reliant on others. Make sure that you’ve got a basic tool kit in your van in case you need to repair anything on the road!
Here’s a list of essential vehicle checks you should make before you go on a road trip.
Also, make sure to pack a list of necessary phone numbers and have them accessible in the van. This includes insurance, breakdown cover, local emergency services and an emergency contact. On this list, include anything you really need to know about your van, e.g. the dimensions, so you don’t try to squeeze it somewhere it doesn’t fit! If I were you, I’d back this physical list up electronically too, just in case.
You can also make sure to learn all about van life! There is so much out there on solo travelling in a van, so educate yourself before diving in.
3. A complete packing list.
Aside from your regular camping packing list, like clothes and toiletries, there are a few things I recommend carrying with you as a solo female traveller embarking on van life. So here’s my must-pack list:
A good power bank! Invest in a proper one, as this can be a lifesaver. Make sure you can always have your phone charged. I’ve never been in a situation where I needed to make that emergency phone call, but knowing that I can helps me to sleep soundly at night. Even if I’m walking around and feeling a bit uncomfortable, I like knowing that I can call a friend for a chat.
A physical map. I’m all for Google Maps, but I never want to leave things to chance. There is also something fun about going old school. So always have a map tucked away in your van in case it’s needed. If you find yourself without a physical map, remember to download the offline map on Google Maps! Check out our Google Map legends here.
Additional security. There are plenty of ways to beef up your motorhome security. Personally, I’d recommend a steering wheel lock and a wheel clamp. I like knowing that my campervan won’t be moving when I’m away or even when I’m sleeping.
Offline entertainment. To truly enjoy van life, make sure you can also get off the grid and enjoy the time alone. You’ll have a lot of time to fill, so bring books, crafts and more.
But my main packing tip for solo female van travel is to bring whatever makes you feel comfortable. Maybe that’s a whistle or pepper spray, or something else that keeps you in control. For me, it’s bringing a fake wedding ring. I shouldn’t need it, but I like having it on when I go somewhere in the evening, and if questioned, I can say my partner is waiting for me. So whatever makes you feel comfortable, bring that, so you can focus on enjoying your travels.
4. Not so solo...
Now this tip won’t be for everyone, but I think it’s important to mention! I have never felt so comfortable travelling alone as when I brought my family’s dog. She’s a golden retriever, and she was the perfect companion. It was nice to have someone around while still retaining the freedom of solo travel. Also, I liked that people knew I had a big dog with me that would bark if someone got too close to the van. So if you’re really doubting solo female van life, consider bringing a dog! They love it too as it’s plenty of time spent outdoors exploring. Van life with a dog with you also ensures you stay active and go for plenty of walks.
Another way to enjoy your solo travel adventure and feel safe would be to share your itinerary with family or friends! Yes, you’re still on your own, but it gives you the piece of mind that someone knows where you are, and that you can check in regularly with them. Facebook travel groups such as the We Are Global Travellers family are also a great way to meet people on the road!
5. Stay alert
You don’t want to be caught off guard during solo female van life, so never spend an entire day driving, as then you might become too tired. Make sure you can be ready at any moment to move your van, especially if you’re wild camping or no one else is around. Keep hydrated, eat plenty of snacks and don’t overdo the driving. I personally aim to drive a maximum of three hours per day, and that includes having plenty of breaks! Van travel is about the journey, not just the destination, so enjoy plenty of stops.
Avoid arriving at your camping spot after dark. Instead, get there before sunset (not only to admire the view!) so you can explore your surroundings and settle in, perhaps meeting fellow campers, so they’re aware of you. This also ensures you can still move if you feel uncomfortable, which brings us to our final piece of advice…
6. Trust your instincts.
Listen to your gut! We get that niggly feeling of discomfort for a reason, so always listen to your intuition. If you don’t feel comfortable somewhere, then move. If you don’t trust someone, get away from them. Follow your instincts even if they seem silly or unnecessary.
I always like to find fellow travellers that I get a good feeling with, perhaps women or a couple, and mention that I’m travelling alone. This ensures that if they see anyone near my van, they’ll know that it’s an intruder. People also tend to check up on each other, so it’s good to have introduced yourself.
If you follow these tips, then you shouldn’t have any issues travelling alone in a campervan! Solo female van life allows you to go anywhere, anytime. You can adapt as you go. It’s a learning experience, subjective to each traveller, and it’s just about finding your own rhythm. You’ll start to understand how long you like to stay at a place, where you feel most comfortable, and how you want to fill your days. But everyone should try a solo van trip at least once in their life.
Now, the only things left is to consider where you’ll go… perhaps on one of these incredible road trips in Europe?
What are your top tips for solo female van life?
Any advice for solo travelling in a van? Anything you’d add?
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