A Woman Traveling & Living Solo in a Van – Why?

I am a 50 year young, God loving divorced mom of one adult son. I have spent most of my

life working far more hours than I should. I am very responsible and have always worked

myself to the ultimate (& at times ridiculous) to build other people’s businesses… and I

have been pretty successful at it! At the same time, most of my life I have been a single

parent, so though I made a decent income compared to many women in my shoes, living on

one income and paying all the bills solo, I didn’t have anything extra for savings. Often I

felt like I worked from can ’til can’t, and the only thing that kept me going was the ongoing

motivation to provide a good home and environment for my then “growing up” son.

I have gotten burnt out from time to time amidst the mad crazy pace of management and

business life, but I’ve always ended back in the rat race due to the responsibilities and

demands of being a single mom for the most part. Since my son is now grown and a man on

his own, after my current corporate management “gig” is over (I plan to make that happen

before my next birthday) I will then fulltime and travel using my van as a home base while

supporting myself primarily through my online businesses, occasional consulting and

speaking engagements, and my true passion: writing.

How did I come to discover this free (& honest) nomadic gypsy spirit that lives inside of

me? First, I always have been drawn to small spaces inside, and wide open scenic vistas

outside; love nature, love scenic beauty, love exploring, love uniqueness and discovery of

all kinds. I loved every movie I saw with the actors living in a well kept RV or travel

trailer… actually, although I don’t remember the names of the movies, those are the “clips”

that live in my head: an older woman with a bird on her shoulder sitting at the table of the

nice travel trailer she lived in since her husband died, she was happy and at peace though

others didn’t understand her choices. Another movie I remember vividly was about 2

women who traveled the country heading to Canada (with breathtaking footage along the

way). An unhappy waitress who joins them along the way has a very unique personalized

(too pink and frilly for me but cool nevertheless) travel trailer that she just gives away

without thought when she meets the “man of her dreams”. (What????? Don’t give that

away!!! What was she thinking???) As long as I can remember I have been drawn to the

gypsy life, from the travels to the ornate cozy gypsy wagons, travel trailers, and small

RVs and campers to the biggest perk of all: Independence and Freedom to live life

outside the “societal box”.

When my now adult son was from the ages of 7 to about 14, we often went camping in

various places on many weekends. Not having much money for extras, we also vacationed

as campers. Two of our most memorable vacations camping, were at The Great Smoky

Mountains NP in NC & TN and at the Shenandoah National Park in VA.

I guess where the casual weekend camper took on a whole different mode was in the

whole pre-Y2K frenzy. I found my natural survival mentality becoming more and more

immersed in the preparedness and survival aspect of it all. At that time I thought, “Hey

whether Y2K brings on anything difficult or not, the bottom line is I am living week to

week, what if something catastrophic happened in my life; how would I take care of my

son?” I was supposed to receive $100 a week in child support for many years but long

story short (not worth writing or talking about) I never did. I pursued it for a while

through the courts and child support agencies. But after their not securing anything

worthwhile, the state agency wanted me to sign papers to pay for their costs in finding my

ex “once again” to make him comply! I gave up! Things were very different back then with

the courts and compliance. So I didn’t look to anyone else but myself (& God) to help me. I

ended up buying a $1000 travel trailer and fixing it up so that no matter what happened

we would have a roof over our heads. I didn’t talk about it to people because I knew that

if one didn’t follow the societal guidelines of a big home with a white picket fence or at

least a nice apartment, people thought you were out of touch with reality! But when my son

reached 16, we moved out of our nice luxury apartment into the 24 ft. travel trailer when

they were enforcing a rent increase from $600 to $700 a month (which was pricey for SC

in ’98).

I found there was a beautiful resort campground near the infamous Charleston gardens

and historic antebellum homes on the outskirts of Charleston, SC not too far from my job

as a purchasing manager for a national high-tech manufacturing company. I spoke with my

son (who was always very adaptable and always ready for a new adventure) about how

much I could save. I took him to the beautiful resort campground with a large lake, White

Ibis and Blue Heron nests right behind the area we would be parked in, and beautiful

amenities all housed in cedar wood buildings. On top of all that we were only a couple miles

from where the islands and swamp areas merged with the ocean and all of it in the up and

coming area of town with trendy and new shopping areas and restaurants. We stayed

there over a year. We thoroughly enjoyed it there and I was able to save enough money to

fund much of his first year of college as a result of the reduced costs. After I moved

back to upstate SC, and to a new job we were in not so beautiful grounds and it wasn’t

nearly the same experience, but still worked out fine for the time.

There were a lot of things I learned about myself between the Y2K revelations (and the

time period thereafter) and moving from the beautiful grounds to not as nice facilities in

SC as I was saving monies for my son to go to college. I found that people were generally

pretty enjoyable to get to know. I loved that everyone seemed to be on the same level

when out in the camping world… whether doctor or janitor, people were people without the

normal dictates that society normally labels people with. (That’s the way it should be

everywhere in my opinion!) As far as the travel trailer, I adapted very well to the small

space and made it homey and enjoyable just as I had prior to our apartment.

I remarried during my son’s last year of college and moved out west. Unfortunately, it

became a bit of a nightmare. About 2 1/2 years ago I found myself in a crazy, dangerous

situation and as a result left my now ex husband, and traveled back across the USA by

myself in a 97 Dodge Dakota with a truck camper. I literally left everything behind and

was very short on money. That was right after “Katrina” so gas was high (about what it is

now!) so I only stayed in a hotel one time in 3 months and stayed in camp sites about 5 days

total. Most of the time I stayed overnight at Walmarts and Flying J’s and while still in the

west; at a few Casinos. I always tried to park near other RVers so I wasn’t out there

isolated. One time at one of the casinos there was a man picking up a vehicle for someone

at the casino and saw me step out of the back of the camper and started flirting with me,

soon followed by trying to talk me into he coming in to the camper with me to “visit”. He

kept “nicely” trying to work his way into the camper. I finally got in a few words and told

him “my husband” was due back any second, “no thanks” and went back in and shut the

door. It was at night and I was going to go into the casino to use the restroom and maybe

get a bite to eat. I decided not to take the walk to the casino with him out there. I was a

little uncomfortable but the story about a husband to return any second seemed to do the

trick.

I found everyone other than that man, to be very kind and genuine to me and I never felt

threatened other than him. I did feel scared a few times until I found everyone so kind to

me. Even when there were more truckers around me than RVers, they seemed to be more

protective of me than threatening in any way. I do think that a woman traveling alone

should make sure she is not isolated if at all possible for safety reasons. When I go

fulltiming I will be using my van instead of a camper or RV that is more conspicuous. Being

in a van, I feel more comfortable to park in more areas as it is so unassuming as compared

to a camper or RV. Even if I go out of the van I can use the driver side door to exit if I

feel it necessary, so no one will know I am basically living in the van unless I feel

comfortable enough with others for them to know.

A few safety targeted suggestions especially geared for women:

If possible park near other campers/RVers/ travelers at campgrounds, Travel

Centers (IE: Flying J’s), Walmart or Casinos.

Consider an inconspicuous (stealthy) rig/vehicle. (I personally prefer a van

specifically for this reason.)

Once you locate your spot to park don’t go in and out of your rig any more than

necessary.

Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself, especially when boondocking/dry

camping. (IE: If like myself, you have magnetic business signs on a white van, remove

them before you arrive to where you will park.)

Although we have free choices in life, some choices may speak what you don’t really

mean to say. So be aware of your clothing. If you wear daisy duke shorts and a top

exposing your naval and hips and/or a neckline cut “way down to there”, you will most

likely draw attention to yourself that is not safe for you!

Be prepared for emergencies so you don’t have to unnecessarily exit @ night: Keep a

portable “potty” of some kind in your rig. I have a non-flushable Reliance Hassock

Toilet that uses disposable bags.

If you have windows in the “living spaces” in your rig, as I do in my van, make sure to

prepare your vehicle to reveal as little light as possible. (IE: Apply a dark tint to the

back windows, additionally cover them with shades, etc.. Also, put some kind of

divider between the front and back of your rig or put sun shades on the windshield

and side front windows to keep anyone from being able to see into your living areas.

Keep the noise level way down. If you watch TV or listen to music, use earphones.

Stay aware of the sights & sounds around you. Know where you are parking and what’s

near your parking site. Also, only use one side of your earphones so you can hear if

someone comes near your vehicle.

Have some kind of protection available. I am personally not one to carry a gun, so I

have pepper spray handy just in case. Have you ever been sprayed by that stuff?

OMG!!! It is definitely effective enough to buy you the time to get safely away if

needed. Keep a cell phone charged up, with service in range and within your reach if at all

possible.

Most important of all: Exude confidence (not arrogance) that you are where you are

supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing. If you give off fear and

uncertainty, that will most likely concern others around you. However, if you smile and

wave and give off confidence in who & where you are, that will go a very long way to

keep you safe and alleviate suspicions of passers by.

I have now lived and traveled in several “portable and mobile” dwellings (travel trailer,

pick-up camper and van) for various reasons, as well as enjoyed camping and the

community that stems from campers, frugal travelers and RVers. I have always loved the

freedom the portable lifestyle offers. For many years (since the pre Y2K days) I have

been the member of RV, Camper Van & Boondocking online groups, browsed newsletters

and own tons of related books. Now my spare time is filled with preparing to go back out

there, but this time for an extended time period, maybe forever… who knows? From

building businesses online to making preparations with the basic gear needed, including a

few extras like a laptop with a long battery life & a cell phone with national coverage, to

sprucing up my 97 GMC Safari Van to ready it for travel, and yes even finding cool

products to live well along that venue… My eyes sparkle and a smile settles deep within as

I get closer and closer to my life becoming more and more mobile/portable and less

dependent on the normal bricks and mortar of society. I am preparing with anticipation to

the soon coming day that I take my life full time on the road. By my 51st birthday you may

pass me down the road, or maybe we will sit next to each other at a little mom and pop

diner in a quirky little town… or just maybe we will meet each other at a planned get

together with others of like mind along the way! I look forward to it! See you along the

way…

By: Brenda Curtiss of http://www.LordandCurtiss.ws

Read More by Brenda Curtiss

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