Certainly, this year’s new travel restrictions have halted overseas trips and delayed plans alike. But the public’s interest in wanderlust is still strong. One of the most popular ways to travel nowadays is on the open road. Better yet, it’s popular to travel (and live) in an ultra-modern, refurbished van. Meet the new travel trend — “vanlife”.
An increasing following of these ‘vanlifers’, or travelers, are millennial women who embrace the mystery and thrill of solo adventuring. In fact, the hashtag #vanlife has generated more than 6+ million posts on Instagram.
To help prepare for liberating journeys on the open road, and truly embrace the vanlife spirit, here are the top things to know.
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Use Campsites Often
When it comes to journeying the open road, without rest stops and regular opportunities to stock up, you can quickly feel the fatigue. Yet, plan to make use of campsites, because they’re one of the most valuable resources to a traveler.
Campsites are like waypoints, if not sometimes the destination itself. This means they can help you navigate the open road or give you some needed relief along the way. These will often appear as remote, rustic, and faraway sites. They may be nestled in the woodlands, or a field, or hugging the coastline. At some point in your travel, the road will lead to a campsite.
When planning and preparing for travels, assess campsites locations and map them out as waypoints, connecting up dots to create a journey. Be aware that campsites aren’t typically free for pitching up either. Instead, plan how pitching fees might affect your budget and compare sites for different price points online. Some campsites require membership too, especially if it’s a caravan club site. These will run privately on either invitation or pre-booking. Lastly, research if the campsite is seasonal, which will affect opening times and availability.
Plan for the Unexpected
Planning seems routine and possibly easy. You’ll need food, sleeping equipment, and so forth. But what about the unexpected? Did you pack a spare tire? Or bring along contingency supplies (like bulbs and batteries)?
On the road, things happen unexpectedly. Rather than feel undefended, plan for the moments that might catch you off-guard. Bring along batteries for you torch, a spare tire for your van and a few spare bottles of water too. Importantly, bring along a map. This will not only help your narrow down your journey, and understand it more confidently, but you’ll often be ‘offline’. You’ll find dead spots where reception and signals will fail you. And so, keep a record of your route offline and to hand.
Many accounts from the open road come from women who have left behind corporate roles and mortgages for new freedoms and a spirit of adventure. One of those, recalled in the national press, having “safety precautions” as a means of navigating the unknown by herself. She notices that from the road your sense of comfort can quickly disappear if you begin to feel unsafe and you should always be prepared for the unexpected events. Be prepared to settle down only if it’s safe to do so. Safety in this type of travel is something more adventurers are planning for.
If you’re stuck on route planning, map out your journey in reverse. It may be that you’re planning for an undefined destination, one that slips the mind at the moment of preparation but keep yourself moving forward by planning backwards. This means, simply, that you draw up where you want to go and visualize the best route in getting there.
To narrow down your journey, plan it out on a map. Start at your destination – a big “X” on the map. After that, map out a journey that connects up places along the way. Physically writing this down means that you can learn the route much quicker. Some of the journey might even absorb into memory.
The “vanlife” hashtag for many fellow female travelers represents a lifestyle. With all the baggage of being on the road, there’s also the etiquette. It may feel like you’re anonymous when your somewhere unfamiliar, but the traveling community still has its rules to respect.
Be prepared that it’s not like a holiday. Those are often quick, comfortable and convenient. Whilst it’s full of delightful surprises, #vanlife is something more than just a jet-setting visit overseas. It implies that on and off the road you be respectful of those around you (including nature itself).
Those who travel will treat their vans like it’s a second home. On a campsite, then, treat it no different than a suburb, or a place where other people live too. Be mindful of the natural setting, leaving it undisturbed and as you found it. These sites can be shared, public spaces, which means that resources will likely be communal. It’s a great moment to connect with those around you.
Take a companion
Being on the road can be a lonely experience. But it can also create encounters to make friends. Finding companionship on the road can be about joining in the community of like-minded fellow female travelers. Or, you could bring along your dog. A travel companion can help with the lonely moments of the journey, by sharing moments and making it feel safer. A dog, as a great companion, will enjoy the outdoors opportunities along the way, too.
One of the growing pieces of advice from female travelers is how social media is bringing people together. One published account mentions that “vanlife” exists beyond a hashtag now and has Facebook pages with advice and stories that help illuminate the road forward. It’s referred to as a kind of “community”, so that in times of travel and isolation, there are people living similar stories that are never too far away. This kind of testimony suggests that people have learned new skills, picking up tips as they travel from veteran adventurers. Be prepared to learn from others by reading and listening from their stories, before telling your own.
From mountaintops, to low valleys, there’s something out there for us all.
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