Solo Female Vanlife: Your Questions, Answered - Tips and Stories from Long-Time Nomadic Women

September 29th , 2022
Solo Female Vanlife: Your Questions, Answered    

Tips and stories from long-time nomadic women

by Anouk, Simpler Ways

Have you been considering getting a van and hitting the road on your own for some time, but you haven't been able to pull the trigger just yet? I've been there. As a woman, the idea may seem scary, and you probably still have a lot of unanswered questions. I interviewed a few nomadic women and gathered some of their tips and stories to create a resource I wished existed when I was considering it.

I’ll be honest: for a long time, I was thinking I needed a partner to start my dream of buying a van, converting it into a tiny home and traveling around the country. But I eventually decided to embrace what I wanted most: hit the road and explore. Five years of solo vanlife later, I can assure you it isn't as complicated or scary as I thought it would be. These past few years have taught me so much — from using power tools to build the van, to simple mechanic skills or even map reading to find the perfect camp sites. Living and traveling in my van on my own has been the most inspiring and empowering experience. I sincerely hope this article will help more women to take the leap.

Cover photo: @Emma.goes

What made you hit the road solo?

Ryan, travels in a Subaru Outback 

"When I first began traveling in my rig I had a partner in crime. We began exploring the South West for months at a time, living out of a car. We did our first few trips in a Mini Cooper! My partner at the time would do all the heavy lifting such as setting camp up, driving, cooking and so on. My job was to do all the research on where to go. So, when that relationship ended, it forced me to go out on the road solo. I was terrified. It sounds so silly but I didn't know how to set up the table and stove. So after a while of feeling sad for myself, I found the courage to go back to the South West and since then I haven't ever wanted to stop. Traveling solo opened up a whole new world for me. I could do anything I wanted, when I wanted. I was completely on my own schedule and I loved it."

Emma, travels in a 1997 Ford Econoline 

"I simply wasn't going to wait to find the right person or situation to live the life I wanted to. You also experience so many different opportunities when you travel solo that you wouldn't necessarily experience traveling with a partner, or with friends. I find that there are a lot more opportunities to be spontaneous and meet different people." 

Jennifer, travels in a Ram Promaster

"It’s not so much that I didn’t want to travel solo... but rather that I didn't want to not travel because I was solo! I was tired of waiting for people to do things with me, so I decided to do it on my own. When my dog died, new life opportunities presented themselves, and I decided to sell my house, buy a van and travel solo." 

Tiffany, travels in a Chevy G30 

"When I started my solo journey on the road it didn't cross my mind that I was solo,  I was just living my life. It started as a two-week road trip with my dog, Rugger. I was going to head back home, but I realized home didn't feel like one anymore. I met someone who lived in a van and it opened up my world to this new opportunity. I lived in my car and a tent for 3 months, then found a dog and decided that I needed a bigger space, and then bought a van… and here we are, two years later, traveling in a Chevy G30. "


Pictured: Ryan. Follow her adventures @ry_44

I didn't want to not travel because I was solo. I was tired of waiting for people to do things with me, so I decided to do it on my own.

Jennifer

What do you love the most about it?

Tiffany:   "One of the best thing about vanlife is to have my own space. I am in my mid 30’s and having something that is just mine and the freedom to do what I want when I want without sharing my space with anybody else than my 3 dogs is amazing to me! I get to adventure and travel to see so many beautiful places that I never thought I would see. It is giving me this newfound sense of redemption, which is why I named the van  Geulah   — "redemption" in Hebrew."

 Jennifer : "What I love the most is the unconventionality of it. The fact that I don't feel trapped in the standard American lifestyle. I really didn't enjoy living alone in a house and always loved traveling, so when Covid hit, I decided to travel more. I love that it allows me to travel and explore new places easily."

Emma: "The ever changing nature of this lifestyle is my favorite part. I've never felt comfortable or fully happy staying in one place when I know there is so much out there to see and do. Traveling full time allows my life to look drastically different day to day."

Ryan:  "It is truly so empowering to be out on the open road. After a day of traveling, when I sit down at camp and overlook whatever view I chose to sleep at that night, I can't help but feel so good. I got myself there, with no help. In moments like these, I find myself crying, thinking about how lucky I am that I get to explore this beautiful world, slow down, get out of my comfort zone and be in touch with nature."


Pictured: Tiffany. Follow her adventures @tiffanylaneneptune
Photo by Rory @savatgy  

What were the biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?

Emma: ""It can definitely get difficult when your rig needs to be in the shop for days, or you need to get yourself out of a difficult situation all alone. But it's taught me that the kindness of strangers shouldn't be underestimated."

Ryan: "My biggest challenge was finding the courage to go! After my break up, I kept telling myself I couldn't do it without him. How would I set everything up? What if I got lost? What if something happened to my rig? The list went on as to why I shouldn't go. One day, I drove onto the highway and headed to my favorite place in Utah, sobbing. I overcame my fear, and just went for it. It's been way more beautiful than I could ever imagine. "

Pictured: Anouk. Follow her adventures @frenchyinavan
Photo by Kelsi @kelsidailey

Follow your guts. If you feel unsafe the beauty of living in a vehicle is that you can just drive away and go somewhere else! 

Tiffany

What would be your safety tips?

Tiffany: "For most of my time on the road I haven't felt unsafe, mostly because I do my best to stay in nature. Cities sometimes make me feel a little bit uncomfortable. I travel with three dogs and every time they hear something a little abnormal they bark, so having the dog help me feel extra safe. I always try to let at least one person know where I am, and also try to share my location with trusty friends. My main advice would be to always follow your guts. If you feel unsafe, the beauty of living in a vehicle is that you can just drive away and go somewhere else!"

Ryan: "Safety is an interesting topic for me, because truly I feel most people in this world are good. I have never once felt not safe on the road. Sure, when I'm deep in the desert I get spooked. Traveling as a solo woman, I make sure to never post on social media where I am exactly. I let my parents know when I'm going on a hike or where I'm camping without service. I always have backup chargers for my phone in case I'm ever in that situation. I also have a battery that can jump my car in case it dies. Overall though, it's easy for people to scare you out of doing things — especially if you are a woman — but the nomad community is a very safe one. Just be smart."

Jennifer: "No one knows you are solo in a van unless you give that information. I keep my front cab clear of any personal type items, so it looks like a basic clean work van. You can also leave a man's hat or boots in the front, or outside your door. If you are in remote locations, having a satellite GPS communicator device is a great option to give you a peace of mind."

Pictured: Jennifer. Follow her adventures @thisveganwonderlust

Tell us a story: the most stressful or exhilarating thing that ever happened to you during your travels?

Emma: "I got stuck very deep in sand in New Mexico in 2021. I was fully bottomed out for two whole days, and no one would come help me ⁠— not AAA, not local tow shops, not even the police. I ended up joining local off-roading groups on Facebook, and someone finally agreed to take their truck out and help me. He ended up not being able to do it alone because I was so deep in the sand, so he called his brother to come with his truck and they both chained up to my van and ripped me from the Earth. It was simultaneously stressful and hilarious. Now it's a great story. Again, the kindness of strangers is amazing. Especially strangers with trucks."

Ryan: "The last time I decided to hit the road, I headed to my favorite place in the world ⁠— Moab. I drove 13 hours straight from central Oregon. When I pulled into my favorite camping spot, it started raining and thundering while the sun set. The most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen arched over the La Sal mountain range. I pulled over and danced with the pups in the rain, while we listened to thunder in the distance. After setting up camp, I played my favorite tunes, drank a yummy beverage and cried hard. I cried because I felt it was the universe welcoming me. That rainbow was a sign telling me I was exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment. A reminder to always listen to that gut feeling telling you what to do."

Pictured: Ryan. Follow her adventures @ry_44

You experience so many different opportunities when you travel solo that you wouldn't necessarily experience traveling with a partner or with friends. There are a lot more opportunities to be spontaneous and meet different people.

Emma

 

 

What's the most valuable thing you learned on the road?

Ryan: "I have learned that I am capable of truly anything I put my mind to. That I can do things on my own, even when I'm scared. "

Emma: "I've really just confirmed what I thought to be true all along: life is vast and meant to be lived. I could never imagine not wanting to explore and see the world. Living differently has brought me so much joy and has opened so many doors. I wouldn't change a thing."

Tiffany: " I've learned so much, it has reassured me of how strong of a person I am. I feel  less introverted than I used to be, and this lifestyle allowed me to become myself instead of living the shell of myself."


Pictured: Jennifer. Follow her adventures @thisveganwonderlust

"Just go for it. Take a step toward it, however small. (...) Anything you can do to get a taste of this lifestyle and see if it's for you is a step in the right direction."

Emma

What would be your top tips for someone considering traveling solo?

Tiffany: "Be yourself. It's so easy to enter any sort of group and start to conform. Never forget to be yourself, trust your guts and do what you want to do, and set healthy boundaries for yourself. Take the time to slow down, enjoy the places you drove so far to get to, and live in the present moment."

Emma: "It's cliche, but just go for it. Take a step toward it, however small. Car camp with your friends, rent a van for a weekend, buy the plane ticket. Anything you can do to get a taste of this lifestyle and see if it's for you is a step in the right direction. It's not for everyone, but it's worth finding out if it's for you. People tend to think they have time to do things in the nebulous 'someday.' But we really only have now."

Ryan: "Just do it! Stop listening to that voice that keeps telling you everything that could go wrong. Think about all the things that could go right! Stop listening to others who think it's a crazy idea. They are just projecting their own fears onto you. This idea to travel solo came to you for a reason. Listen to it and get after it! I understand it's scary, but if it wasn't, it probably wouldn't be worth doing ⁠— and everyone else would likely be doing it, too. So just go. Do your research. Surround yourself with a community of people who also love to travel. Get inspired. Listen to podcasts or read books on the topic. Then just go."

See you on the road

Vanlife essentials

Simpler Ways is the one-stop shop to equip rolling homes of all shapes and sizes. We offer a carefully curated selection of home goods and outdoor gear designed for the modern downsizers.

Feminine hygiene

Products particularly fit for your life on the road

GoGirl™ - Stand-up urination device

GoGirl™ - Stand-up urination device
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Divacup - Reusable menstrual cup

Divacup - Reusable menstrual cup
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Marley's Monsters  - Reusable pads

Marley's Monsters  - Reusable pads
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Kula Cloth™ - Antimicrobial Pee Cloth

Kula Cloth™ - Antimicrobial Pee Cloth
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Personal care

Here are some of our favorite eco-friendly products for your personal care on the go

Burt's Bees® - Eco-friendly Facial Cleansing Towelettes

Burt's Bees® - Eco-friendly Facial Cleansing Towelettes
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Sierra Dawn - Campsuds Bath Soap & Shampoo

Campsuds Bath Soap & Shampoo
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J.R. Liggett's - Eco-friendly Shampoo Bar

J.R. Liggett's - Eco-friendly Shampoo Bar
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safety on the road

We don't sell dogs... but having deterrents in the van will make you sleep better at night

Counter Assault - Bear Spray

Counter Assault - Bear Spray
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Orion - Air horn

Orion - Air horn
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More for your home on wheels

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy - Jenny Odell

How to Do Nothing - Jenny Odell
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Marley's Monsters  - Reusable facial rounds

Marley's Monsters  - Reusable facial rounds
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ava Linens - Woven Wonders Flax/Hemp Travel Hand Towel

Lava Linens - Woven Wonders Flax/Hemp Travel Hand Towel 
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KĀMA - Foldable outdoor mats

KĀMA - Foldable outdoor mats
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BruTrek™ - Collapsible Pour Over

BruTrek™ - Collapsible Pour Over
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Venture Libre - Handmade Oaxacan Van Rug

Venture Libre - Handmade Oaxacan Van Rug
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Nowhere for Very Long: The Unexpected Road to an Unconventional Life - Brianna Madia

Nowhere for Very Long - Brianna Madia
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Coco and Seed - Hydroponic Mason Jar Garden Kit Set

Coco and Seed - Hydroponic Mason Jar Garden Kit Set
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