• Hilary Bird

What is solo female vanlife?

Updated: Jul 3

Like it sounds, solo female vanlife is full-time or part-time van life traveling as an individual woman. Typically, safety questions are the first ones that pop up around this lifestyle. But safety questions don't need to–and I believe shouldn't–be the first ones that pop up. Because for any well-prepared woman using her intuition and common sense, it doesn't pose any higher of a risk than living in a van with someone else or going tent camping.

Am I prepared enough to do solo female vanlife?

Only you can answer that! But what helped me answer that question for myself was reflecting on how I was already living. Because there's how you think you'll live and how you actually live. Take a hard, critical look at exactly how you spend your time everyday right now, first. Moving into a van won't change the things that bring you happiness and the things that frustrate you. If anything, it will probably amplify them.

Questions I asked myself before deciding to become a van life solo female traveler:

  • Do I mind spending lots of time alone? Nope, I still love hanging out with friends, going out, and playing volleyball–but I recharge from being alone.

  • Am I comfortable in the unknown? Yep, I've always loved traveling whether if it was a few hours from home or across the world. I don't need–and don't want–a set agenda because seeing where the day takes me is half the fun.

  • Am I mentally and physically well enough to be in a van where help could be tough to get right away? This one was uncomfortable to answer because I consider myself physically and mentally healthy, but I had anxiety around the idea that I'd have an anxiety attack in my van in the middle of nowhere! That's the funny thing about anxiety...I get anxiety about getting anxiety. #likewut?

  • Do I want to do this full-time or part-time? I knew I wanted full-time because it would help force me to make the switch to completely working remotely, which is something I'd been wanting to do for a while. There are plenty of weekend warriors, though.

  • How will I financially support myself? This is probably the biggest question that comes up after safety. Especially after the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many employees to start working from home, companies are more accommodating than ever to making a remote switch–which is good news! There are also loads of other options for making an income on the road. Seasonal work, online teaching, writing – here's a link to more work examples. For me, I was already in digital marketing so switching to remote work was easy because my job can be done 100% online.

There are a lot more questions that can be asked depending on your specific situation, but having a very clear understanding of why you want to do this will help you decide if it's the best choice for you. For example, if your sole reason is to save money and lower your cost of living, you can ask yourself: what am I spending money on right now that I know I could give up, or not live without?

How do I stay safe if I want to live solo female vanlife?

I know, I know–I started this article saying that safety doesn't need to be the focus of solo female vanlife. But that doesn't mean it's not critically important, just like in any other form of travel! It all comes down to your mindset.

The biggest safety precaution you can take doesn't involve carrying a weapon or knowing Jiu Jitsu – it's just trusting your gut and being hyper aware of your surroundings. It's the small safety measures you take that can be the most beneficial because realistically, if you were attacked, a weapon or self-defense may be much harder to use than you think once in the moment. Here are some tips I've learned on my own or gathered from other solo female travelers:

  • Leave a pair of big men's boots outside your van at night, to give the impression of a couple people in the van–and at least one big burly dude.

  • Wherever you're spending the night, get there before dark so you can properly evaluate the area, know your surroundings, and plan a quick exit route if needed.

  • When parking for the night, face your van towards the exit so you don't have to first reverse and turn-around.

  • Keep your keys right by your bed, as well as a flashlight (and, if you choose to have a weapon, that as well!)

  • Remember to LOCK ALL DOORS AT NIGHT! While I'm sure this is a given, it's easy to park your van, get out for a quick second, then get back in and forget to hit the lock button again.

  • Minimize trips between your van and the restrooms / wherever you need to get out. The more times you leave your van, the more opportunity for people to see that you're in there alone.

  • Minimize using your interior lights and/or put shades over your windows as soon as possible, so you aren't giving any passersby a free to show to inside your living space.

  • Trust your gut! If an area feels too remote, or the crowd feels unnerving, move on.

Ultimately, I want to help empower women to make the leap to solo female vanlife if it's something they've wanted to try. Life is too short to not try something you want, and as someone who initially didn't think had it in her, I am so grateful I made the leap. Never hesitate to email me at hilarygbird@gmail.com with questions.

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