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Travelling and camping as a solo female

I’ve been going on camping holidays for as long as I can remember. My first memories of being on holiday involve a campsite somewhere in Italy. What started as holidays with family when I was little, transformed into holidays with friends as I grew older. I bought a small car and tent and would go travelling around Europe and take solo camping trips. Solo travelling is for females too – I promise.

Author: Anna Bourgeret from the blog reiselustig

Find your camper!

As I returned from three months spent in Australia and New Zealand after my studies, it was clear to me that I needed a small camper and that I didn’t want to wait long to get one. I’d been playing with the thought of combining a normal car and traditional campervan for a while and the idea of getting a VW Caddy had been on my mind. In September 2018, I arranged to test drive a VW Caddy together with my father and, well, what can I say? By the end of the day, the contract of sale was signed and I was over the moon! We were able to pick up my Caddy two weeks later and start getting some ideas together on how to fit it out.

Interior design

My whole family really put a lot of thought into how to fit the Caddy out as, with small campers, you have to make every centimetre count. We pooled all our camping experience and could finally get things underway at the end of December. My father and I spent the following weekends working hard, taking measurements, sawing, tightening screws, making adjustments and taking countless trips to the DIY store. After around five weeks, the finishing touches had been made and we were extremely satisfied with the outcome! We worked a lot with Euroboxes as they’re very robust, sturdy and, above all, stackable. To save us the effort of building drawers under the bed, we used these boxes instead. As a base for the fitout, we fixed a panel to the floor of the Caddy with two screws, taking the greatest care to match it to the Caddy’s shape almost perfectly. The Euroboxes are super functional and, for its size, my Caddy has plenty of storage space. It was also important to me that my Caddy felt warm and welcoming: from the fairy lights to the curtains and from the hanging decorations to the kitchen equipment, everything is colour coordinated and means that Hedwig is like a cosy second home on wheels. Yes, you heard it, my Caddy is called Hedwig after the owl from Harry Potter, because my van is also white and we fly across the lands together!

Travelling with Hedwig

After we had finished kitting Hedwig out, I couldn’t wait to hit the road. Shame that it was still February! Barely one month had passed before I got itchy feet and set off on my first short trip to the ITB Berlin, followed by a visit to Saxon, Switzerland. I didn’t even think about inviting anyone to come with me – I had to experience this first trip on my own. I wanted to have Hedwig all to myself! What’s more, I’d seen so many girls on Instagram going solo travelling and camping and I thought to myself: I want to give that a go! It was only a six-day trip, so I wasn’t worried about it feeling strange and in fact, it was the total opposite! I really enjoyed my time and felt as well-rested as if I had spent three weeks away. And so I officially caught the solo travel bug and immediately decided to also go solo travelling for my main holiday in June. Until that time came, I spent countless weekends travelling solo in Germany and Holland with Hedwig.

Thoughts and feelings

When June came, I was so happy to finally be able to do a bigger trip alone and I set off to Croatia and Slovenia. However, during my first evening in Croatia, a few doubts started to creep in, which was something I hadn’t expected, and I found myself getting scared by them. Surrounded by families and couples, I found myself feeling dreadfully alone and wondering what the hell I was doing there. Spending the following two and a half weeks fending for myself, day in day out, suddenly seemed a somewhat scary idea and I crawled into bed with a very strange feeling in my stomach. The next morning, I spent a while chatting to a German lady who had come up to talk to me. That happens to me very often when solo travelling: people simply come up to me and ask if I’m really on the road alone, if I’m scared or if I’ll get bored. On the whole I find it very friendly and enjoy the chat, but when I have to reiterate for the hundredth time that, yes, I really am travelling alone and, yes, I’m doing so of my own freewill, it can also get annoying. I repeat time and again that I’m not scared and that boredom is an alien concept to me. Many people then say to me that they couldn’t do what I’m doing. But they’ve never tried. I think that people tend to think and say that they can’t do something only because they may be lacking confidence in themselves. But sometimes it’s simply worth taking the leap. Of course there are moments when I feel a bit uneasy being all by myself, but I wouldn’t really call that fear, I’d say that’s a healthy respect towards certain risks. You shouldn’t play Russian roulette and when I’m alone, there’s many a risk that I wouldn’t take.

Choosing a place to park wisely

I’m very precise when it comes to choosing a place to sleep when I’m not on a campsite. I would never spend the night alone at the side of the road and never in a million years would I sleep in motorway lay-bys – then again, I wouldn’t do that in a pair either. In actual fact, there’s nothing I really have to be scared of – nobody would actually know that I was in the car alone. They would’ve had to have been keeping a watch on me beforehand to know that. And if things get a bit eerie in some way and I see someone lurking around my car in the middle of the night, I can always hop over into the driver’s seat and simply drive away.

Tips for parking and spending the night

My biggest worry when I’m not parked on a campsite is that the police, or anyone else, will come and move me on in the middle of the night as wild camping is actually forbidden almost everywhere. If I’m not going to park on a campsite, I mostly use the app park4night to find my park ups. It’s a very practical tool, as people often leave reviews on the individual park ups so you can get some kind of idea what it’s like before you arrive. Campsites are shown on the app too. As for being cautious and respecting certain risks, this also goes for daytime, as well as nighttime. Having said that, fear has just as little an impact in the daytime as it does in my everyday life and I go about my travels without worry.

A few tips on being cautious

I take the same safety precautions when I’m parking up my Caddy alone, as I would if I were in company: I take all valuables with me and leave the glove compartment and any other storage compartments open so everyone can see that there’s nothing there to take. I learnt that from my parents early on and it may well be a controversial move, but we’ve never had anything stolen, even in areas where lots of car break-ins have been reported. I think that if a car contains lots of things that are obviously hidden, under a cover, for example, it looks like an excellent target for a break-in, whereas if you make it blatantly clear that this car basically contains nothing of interest, the prospects are less exciting for thieves. With the Caddy, I have the obvious additional advantage that all the rear windows are blacked out and you can barely see in, as well as the fact that my baggage is stowed under the bed away from view. What’s more, a Caddy doesn’t really look like a campervan per se and therefore may be of less interest than a real campervan would be.

The beauty of solo travel

One of my favourite things about solo camping is the solitude. It can be both extremly liberating and relaxing. On the one hand, you really have to know how to keep yourself occupied – something that people prefer to avoid in day-to-day life. And on the other hand, you are so completely free and flexible that it’s sometimes hard to comprehend. When do you ever actually have the opportunity to just do whatever you feel like doing at that given moment? It doesn’t matter what you do, how long for, when or why. I love the absolute freedom.

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