In May of 2017 I moved into a van, alone, just my dog and I. At that time my life was turned a bit upside down. I was working through a breakup, moving out of a home, selling everything, and it all was moving so damn fast. This van life idea came to fruition within a month, seriously, one month!! I had this idea of van life, but that really wasn't the dream. The dream was this idea of solo travel. I had been on this search for something, something more, some spark that was missing within my heart. I knew deep down in my heart that entering a solo adventure would lead me in the right direction.
My first night alone on the road I was on my way from Portland to San Francisco. I was going to stay with friends there and then head out on a ladies trip with the wonderful Trail Mavens crew. I had planned on stopping somewhere along the way to sleep. I checked out Google and found a road off of I5 and near a lake that I thought would be perfect. I ended up driving around this 'perfect' lake for probably about 2 hours, I over thought every turn off. I finally stopped, turned off the car, crawled into bed, multi-tool in hand and then I laid there. I didn't close my eyes, instead I had a minor break down. There was a wind blowing and I could have sworn it was someone next to my van. So, after about an hour of this breakdown I decided to move because this place was for sure unsafe (it was for sure safe). Then I drove for awhile, and found another spot. Crawled into bed, multi-tool in hand (you guys a multi-tool is NOT going to save me!) and once again lost it. I didn't know what I was doing, why was I so scared, what is wrong!? What sort of idea was it to move into a van? I was in a serious downward spiral, to say the least. So, I moved again. At this point it is close to 4 am, I was exhausted and I pulled over on some dirt road, near some farm houses and laid down once again, multi-tool in hand. Rhodie heard dogs barking and sat looking out the back window as I tried to sleep. Pure exhaustion finally took me out, but I maybe slept 2 hours that night. All I could think was really?! Why did I think I could live in a van, alone with my dog! This is crazy! I quickly got to San Francisco and was so thankful to have a friend with an open futon. I don't want to say I gave up, but I was very happy for a 'home'.
These minor breakdowns didn't end. For about the first month they continued. I would drive around for hours looking for a 'good' spot to sleep. I didn't know what I got myself into, I was so scared. Where was the glamour? Where were the perfect river spots? I knew this lifestyle wouldn't be easy, but I felt so lost and so alone very quickly. But, in my heart I knew I was in this for a reason. There was something there, something I was looking for, that spark. So, I continued, and I quickly became more comfortable with this lifestyle.
Six months later, I have had some wonderful experiences that have helped me overcome many fears. Give me a dirt road, or random roadside pull of and I now feel at home. I mean, I even find little slivers of home on city streets and Walmart parking lots these days. I never imaged that would be real six months ago.
Although, really this story isn't about learning how to find somewhere to sleep. It is about that void I was feeling five months ago. Moving into this van wasn't about the perfect van photos or the dreamy river camp spots. It was about diving into connection. I wanted to let go and be fully in, fully in to meeting new people, experiencing new places, connecting, stepping outside of my comfort zone, and being all in to life. I fear stagnation in life and this lifestyle was the furthest from stagnation to say the least.
I now look back on the past six months and all I can do is smile. Solo travel isn't easy. I have found myself in some of the most challenges situations of my life. I have found myself scared, I have found myself asking why am I doing this, why do I keep moving in a direction alone. It would be so easy to follow the pack, to stay in one place and feel safe. But that safe place isn't where my soul shines. My soul shines in the moments that I overcome fear. The moments that I connect with new friends. And my soul shines it brightest now that I have fully connected with myself.
Solo travel is real. It means I spend a lot of time alone (and talking to Rhodie). Six months ago I set the intention to be open and to connect with anyone and everyone. And I set the intention to deeply connect with myself. I feel so much pure love for myself. I feel like I know myself so deeply and because of that I can show up into any situation as myself whole heartedly. That is new, and it is beautiful. I feel this swell in my chest and it is filled with so much gratitude and care for myself. Solo travel allowed for this growth.
People have their doubts as well as their praise for solo female travel. So, to the guy in Kansas who asked "when will you get over this and be ready to move into a real four walled home" - I am in it, I have the most beautiful four walls not only in my van but within myself. To the women at JJ's Cafe in Old Station, CA who said " you are the most fearless badass women" - thank you, your words fill my soul. To Jay in Canmore, BC who said "wow, I just thought you were with a guy, no girl travels on their own" - I am with the best guy in the world, his name is Rhodie and he is my best friend and best adventure partner.
Most of all, to each and every dear friend and family member of mine who encourages me, you all are my rock. Cheers to the ones who call when they know I am broken down on the side of the road in Utah and tell me that this is still the best life for me. Cheers to the ones that remind me I'm living my best life, every damn day. Cheers to the ones that say I am an inspiration. Cheers to each and every one of you who remind me that we only have one life to live, so we might as well start following our hearts and step outside of fear.
So, did I find that something I was looking for? YES!! That spark I was in search of, I feel it every single day and it fuels me to dive deep, to connect with others and to continue this connection with myself. But do know, it has taken me months to really dive into that and open that suitcase full of sparks, it wasn't an easy path.
And what has solo travel really taught me? It has taught me that this story is our own to create. The fear, the social norms, the naysayers, it is all there, but it isn't your story. Let that go, be you and be all in. If you are searching for something, searching for a spark, I have a feeling it is sitting within your heart, you just have to dive in and connect with yourself. Solo travel stretches you to find it. You have the power within yourself to overcome anything, you just have to be all in. So, be all in, that suitcase full of sparks is sitting within your heart waiting to be set free!