If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram you probably caught a glimpse of my recent #vanlife adventure in an Apollo campervan. As it was a short-notice trip to visit family and friends James couldn’t get the time off work to join me. So, I spent 6 days touring Victoria on a fly-in,-fly-out solo trip.
I got a few comments about my plans to travel solo. Concern from family, words of warning from strangers I encountered on the trip. Travelling as a single female can be a daunting prospect, I understand. But it doesn’t have to be! You do have to be smart, but being a single female shouldn’t stop you from heading away on your own adventures! After my Victorian ad-VAN-ture I wanted to share a few tips with other women considering travelling alone.
Do your homework.
You can never have too much information! I’m a firm believer of this in general life, but when it comes to camping this sentiment is even more important. I highly recommend researching your travel options and where you’ll stay as thoroughly as possible.
If you’re planning a fly-in, fly-out trip like I did, look into what kind of campers are available. Are you going to be comfortable driving it? Do you need something with an ensuite? Are they going to get into the campsites you want to stay at? Are you even allowed to take them where you want to? I was limited to 12 kilometres of unsealed road (at a time) to get to a campsite. In addition, the van had very low ground clearance. That axed quite a few campsites I’d been considering staying at! However I still did manage to stay at some beautiful free campsites on my trip. Airbnb’s, motels, and caravan park cabins are great alternatives if you’re not keen to camp alone.
If you’re planning a solo trip in your own vehicle, make sure you know it inside out. Do your homework about common issues. Carry spare parts, basic tools, and be prepared to make easy repairs on the road if you’re travelling remote. Also know your camping set-up. Make sure you can set it up alone and you’re comfortable with it. Read up on tips to make set-up and pack-down easier on your own and implement the changes before heading off.
Research is incredibly important when choosing a campsite. We use WikiCamps a lot when we travel, and this trip was no different. I took the time to read the comments on WikiCamps about any campsite I considered, and made the effort to check out campsites in the daylight.
Keep others informed of your plans.
When travelling solo it is so important to ensure you have friends or family back home who are aware of your plans. Let them know where you intend to be each night, and ensure you update them if your plans change or you’ll be out of contact for a few days for any reason. If you fail to check in as expected, it is these people who can raise the alarm and inform local authorities that something might be amiss.
Likewise, ensure you have the necessary means of communication to get yourself out trouble in an emergency. I recommend taking a look at our post about emergency communication options. I carried our satellite phone on this trip as a back-up, even though I rarely left mobile phone reception.
Be conscious of what you share.
Another suggestion is to consider whether or not you want to advertise that you’re travelling alone. If you saw our #vanlife trip on Facebook or Instagram, you’d be forgiven for thinking James and I had been together on the road. That was somewhat intentional. I used the wording “we” and “us” instead of “I” and “me” in posts about my travels. My intent wasn’t to deliberately deceive, but instead to avoid drawing attention to the fact I was travelling alone. As our blog is usually our travels, I knew people would assume James and I were together.
Likewise, consider holding off posting your location until after you’ve moved on, or using a less precise location tag. When travelling I often snap photos of the campsites we stay at, tagging them and sharing them in our Instagram Stories. However, on this trip I’d opt to tag the closest town instead of the exact campsite, or would wait until the following day to post the photo. The same rule applies for Facebook groups. If you’re staying at a campsite you want to recommend to others, consider waiting until after you leave to share the full details, rather than widely advertising that you’re still there and travelling alone. Many camping-related Facebook groups have members in the tens of thousands – even if they are closed groups – and sadly you can’t guarantee everyone has the best of intentions.
Make smart choices, and trust your gut.
I cannot stress the importance of this point! You know that good old female intuition? Make sure you use it in your travels! If you pull into a campsite and don’t feel safe for any reason, please move on! You’re not locked into staying at a free camp (or even a caravan park or paid campground). Your safety comes first! I’ve chatted with other travellers who have packed up and left a camp in the middle of the night after feeling uneasy about a late arrival. I, myself, have avoided sites where I’ve got a bad vibe, even if there wasn’t a clear reason to explain it.
Also, consider carefully your sleeping arrangements. While roughing it in a swag might be fine in some places, it does draw attention to the fact you’re travelling solo and isn’t as safe as something you can lock. When planning this short trip away I had originally considered checking my swag in as additional baggage on my flight and hiring a regular car instead of a van. However the van had a number of benefits. For starters, it was far warmer than a swag would have been! But the main reason I selected the van was for the added safety. With the curtains drawn and van locked I was safe inside. I’m not saying that a van or caravan is the only way to go as a solo traveller, but it was the safer option for me for the areas I was planning to stay.
Practice, practice, practice!
They say practice makes perfect for any skill you’re trying to master. This also applies to camping. If you’re completely new to camping I certainly don’t recommend starting out with a solo remote trip! Get a group of friends together and head off somewhere for a “shakedown” weekend or short trip. Test your gear, practice using WikiCamps to find campsites, get some tips from others with more experience, and have a few laughs together. A few short trips with friends will give you the opportunity to become comfortable with your set-up and the resources that you’ll use when travelling solo.
Our first experience with free camping was our Cape York trip. We travelled as part of a group of 6, with three vehicles on that trip. None of us were particularly familiar with free camping. At the end of the trip we’d grown comfortable with “vetting” campsites we found on WikiCamps based on the comments. Having the opportunity to learn how to do this, while having safety in numbers camping with others, was invaluable!
Just have fun!
Most of my advice is focused on making sensible, safe decisions. Your safety is paramount! However, a holiday should be fun and relaxing. Make sure you aren’t so worried about your safety that you forget to enjoy yourself! Once you find that perfect campsite and you’re all set up, take the time to kick back, relax, and take in the beauty of your surroundings.
Have you travelled solo? Do you have any tips you can recommend? Drop me a comment below! I’d love to hear about your experiences.