Tag Archives: solo travel

Fear Is Often a Lack of Knowledge (an Interview with Blythe)

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Blythe is a vivacious woman in her 70s who spends part of the year traveling solo in her van and the rest of the year living in a fifth wheel in the desert. While not currently a full-time traveler, she’s nomadic and moves with the seasons. She’s spent time on the road since she was a kid with a truck driver for a dad and has crisscrossed the United States countless times in the last 30+ years.

I met Blythe at the 2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous and found her to be a sweet and caring person. I’ve been able to visit with her more once we found ourselves spending winters in the same area. At the end of November 2018, I sat down with Blythe on a warm desert day and talked with her about her rig, fear (and the lack of it), and her advice to older women who are considering solo travel in a van.

Rubber Tramp Artist: I know that now you’re not a full-time traveler, but you are nomadic, and you travel with the seasons. What months do you do most of your traveling?

Macro Photography of Black Sunglasses on SandBlythe: In the perfect situation, it would be during the summer, but…it depends on when I’m going to the VA for appointments, when I go to see my daughter in one part of the states , and then I go on the other side [of the country] to the other daughters. It just depends on a lot of stuff, but primarily I try to do it around late spring and late summer.

RTA: Do you go pretty much the same route every year to do your visiting?

Blythe: Pretty much because I’ve been doing it for a really, really long time, but not from here so long. This is the third year [from] here.

RTA: If you go to the same places every year, how do you keep your travels from getting boring? Do you stop in different places? Are [do you have a mindset of] “I just want to get from Point A to Point B without a lot of stopping”?

Blythe: It depends on what’s going on [and] why I’m going. I stop and see my sisters in Montana . I stop along the way. I stay overnight here and there. Primarily when I go up I go the same way because it’s quick. I stop…and stay at a little lake…I stop a lot actually, when I think about it…

It used to be that I just drove a lot but I always varied everything. I traveled for 20 years back and forth from Seattle to Florida because I had one kid in Florida and two kids in Seattle. I would go to my mom’s in Montana, then I’d drop down and go to Albuquerque to see my brother…I had land in [southern] New Mexico , and I’d stop there for a week or two and relax and then I’d head to Florida. I did that for 20 years, and I did it sometimes twice a year…Otherwise, I never would have seen my grandchildren or my children…I just enjoyed myself and went back and forth.

RTA: So you started traveling often as a way to be in contact with your grandkids?

Blythe: Yeah…I traveled before that because my dad was a truck driver and he used to make me drive with him. I started out real young.

RTA: Tell me about your rig. What do you travel in?

Blythe: A Ford van. It’s one that was built specially for traveling.

It had a bed in the back that was horrible. I took that out. One of my friends and her husband and son and grandson, it took them three hours to get it out because [the bolts were] so rusted in. They finally got it out. Then I built another bed in there. Just recently I built another bed.

RTA: Do you have a kitchen in the van?

Blythe: I don’t really have a kitchen. I have [space] where I can cook if I need to, and I can cook outside of course. But [the van] is pretty big. It’s a lot bigger than the last van I had. The last van I had was a minivan. This one [her current van] is a lot more comfortable and has a lot more room.

RTA: It looks like [your van has] a bit of a high top. Can you stand up in it?

Blythe: I can because I’ve been shrinking so much. All I have to do is tilt my head a little bit, and I can stand up, which is wonderful, the only good thing about being old I can think of!

RTA: What are three things you love about your van?

Blythe: It’s a nice old van, and it’s faster than the last one I had. Before that I had a Chinook motor home. It was a ’76 and… the size of a Toyota pickup. So [the current van] is a lot bigger than that one.

I really like Fords. They’re my favorite kind.

It’s really sturdy, and it’s been flipping around for a while.  I’ve had it almost four years.

RTA: What year is it?

Blythe: It’s an ’89…It only cost me $1000. One of my friends got it in trade for horses. She called me and said, “I got a van for you!” [Laughs]

RTA: Awesome!

RTA: What are three things you’d like to change about the van?

Blythe: [Long pause] Not too much of anything, actually. I’m pretty satisfied with it. I want to keep it going for another ten years. I’ve been doing a lot of maintenance work on it. In the last month I’ve had all kinds of different things done to it. I’ve got one more thing to go and then it will be pretty well set for quite a while.

It’s got a really good motor. That’s one of the reasons I like Fords…because their motors last a long time…If there was anything [I wanted to change], I’d just change it. I get attached to my vehicles.

The minivan I had for ten years. I kept saying “This is the last trip. This is the last trip,” and it kinda just gave up finally after all those last trips.

RTA: [Laughs]

RTA: Why do you prefer to travel in your van instead of flying or taking a train or going on the bus?

Blythe: The van will go places that the train and bus don’t go. I couldn’t stop to see a lot of people. Pretty soon I’m going to start flying though because I am getting older. It’s not as much fun to drive anymore. I think if you drive your whole life and you drive a lot you get sort of tired of the whole thing.

I’m thinking about flying to Montana and then flying over to Washington and then down to Eugene where my girlfriend lives or else taking a train down there is always fun.

[Traveling in the van] is just easier because of the weird places I go…I don’t like hotels or motels. I find them really yucky. You never know who was there before you!

RTA: Do your kids worry about you when you’re on the road?

Blythe: I think they kinda do but not really because I’ve been doing it for so long…It would be different if I’d just started. I think that’s a whole different ballgame, but if your mother’s been going across the United States for the last 40 years and driving and never having that much problems, and the problems I do have haven’t been so bad Bokeh Shot of White and Gold Ceramic Angelthat I couldn’t get out of it…[The kids] get used to it.

I asked… my oldest daughter , and she said, “Oh, I know you run around with this angel on your shoulder, and I don’t think there’s anything that could get you.”

RTA: Where do you stay when you’re not traveling?

Blythe: At this RV park that we’re in right now. This is sort of new because I stay here most of the year.

I’m thinking about trying to find a place in Northern Arizona so that I can be there during the summer. I hate staying with my children more than a month at a time because I feel like I’m taking advantage of them, and I don’t like to do that. They say, “Oh, you’re not [taking advantage]. You’re not! We’re fine with it.“ They have their own lives. Why should they have their mother looking over their shoulder?

RTA: So, we’re in the desert and I’m thinking that your concern is that it gets too hot here.

Blythe: It gets pretty warm.

RTA: For about six months of the year…

Blythe: No, not six months.

RTA: Not for you because you like it really hot…

Blythe:  Yeah

[Both laugh]

Blythe: I feel good when it’s warm. Probably four months out of the year [it’s really hot].

RTA: So maybe you’re thinking of transitioning to traveling less because maybe now you’ll be flying…

Blythe: Yeah. Yeah.

Green Grass FieldRTA: So you’d want a place to go sort of in those…I think they call them in…the travel industry the “shoulder” months when it’s still too hot to be in the desert.

RTA: How did you decide on this place in the desert as your home base?

Blythe: It offers a lot of stuff that most places don’t. I don’t have to move around [because she can leave her RV on her lot all year long]. I’ve got an RV that’s pretty good size.

There’s water [where she stays when not traveling] and there’s shower houses and all kinds of stuff to do and nice people and it’s just a good place. It’s a real good place.

RTA: Before you got this fifth wheel that you have now, were you living full-time in your van other than the times you were visiting [people]?

Blythe: At times. Like I said, it’s been a long time. The first van I had was given to me because this girl’s grandmother had died. Her name was Maggie; we named the van Maggie. It had a bed in the back and a refrigerator, and a stove, and it had a little closet…I drove that until it literally almost fell apart. I used to take my grandchildren all over the place…with it. I lived in that [van] quite a bit…over the years…

RTA: Before you moved into this fifth wheel, were you living full-time in the van?

Blythe: Yeah. Except for I lived up around Seattle…I was up there 18 months this last time…It’s very, very expensive up there…Without living somewhere that’s less expensive, I had to think about every penny I spent. Every penny! Literally. I got sick and tired of that. I just thought, well, I’ll find someplace else. Then I heard about this place.

RTA: What do you like about living and traveling solo?

Blythe: You don’t have to talk to somebody about where you’re gonna go, when you’re gonna go, where you gonna eat, why you’re gonna eat. All the stuff that you have when you have other people traveling with you in your van, which I can’t even imagine, except for my grandchildren, and they’re grown now so I don’t have to worry about that.

Traveling with other people in their own vans is a lot more fun, but you still have to worry about where you’re going to meet them or if they take off and you don’t know where they went. Like I had a situation where someone took off and I hadn’t even looked at the map because I didn’t think I needed to. Then we ended up not knowing where we were going. The other person I was traveling with didn’t bring a map and neither did I.

RTA: Ooops!

Blythe: It turned out to be a lot of fun, but still…You don’t have to worry about that when you’re on your own…You just figure it out on your own.

RTA: Is there anything that you don’t like about living and traveling solo?

Blythe: [Long pause] No. I have never had fear because I wasn’t brought up with fear when I was a kid. My dad always told us there was absolutely nothing we couldn’t do. He also told us that being girls, we had to react like men to fear instead of…reacting to fear with fear like women are taught to do. React to fear with anger. That does tend to help…

I’m very careful. I never, ever take any chances. If I feel like there’s something wrong, I just get up and turn on the motor and leave…If you have any inclinations that way, you should listen to them. I always told my kids that. I was in a place in Texas and I got really uncomfortable and I thought, Oh, I already paid for it and blah blah blah…Then I thought, If I was talking to my kids, I’d say “Get out of here,” so I just got in the front and left.

RTA: What advice would you give to other older women who are considering doing solo travel in vans?

Blythe: [Begin by] tak[ing] little trips because if you haven’t done it like I have my whole life, you need to get acclimated to it. Fear is often a lack of knowledge about what you’re doing so if you do it, then you get…really comfortable and it won’t be this big scary thing. [It becomes] something that’s fun and easy to do. It is very simple to live this way. You don’t have to have electricity. You can have solar lights that charge in your window…You can even just have [lights that use batteries]. It’s not a big deal. You just have to get used to it.

This interview was edited for clarity and length. Blythe approved this version of the interview before it was published.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/macro-photography-of-black-sunglasses-on-sand-1209610/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/bokeh-shot-of-white-and-gold-ceramic-angel-40878/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/america-arid-blue-boulder-434501/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/map-maps-american-book-32307/.

10 Must-Have Items to Pack for Every Solo Trip (Guest Post)

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Shallow Focus Photo of World Globe

Today’s guest post is for everyone who’s always traveled with friends or family members and relied on other people to fill in their packing gaps. When these folks go solo, they need some packing help. Here are some reminders of what solo folks should take along on their journeys.

Are you an adventurer who enjoys traveling alone? There is an incredible feeling of freedom and liberty when you travel solo that one perhaps cannot replicate on a family holiday or if you travel with friends. Having a solo trip allows you to explore the world at your own pace and style, and to truly immerse yourself in the culture and mingle with the local population. You can do everything that you want, how you want it, and when you want it.

If you are traveling alone, you need to make sure that you pack everything that you need, as you cannot rely on your partner or friend to bring something that you forget. So make sure to list down everything before going on an adventure, and plan what you take so you don’t find yourself caught short.

1. Documents or Copies of Your Important Documents

It is essential to have certain documents with you anywhere you go, including your travel insurance, travelers Person Putting a Passport on Bagchecks, credit cards, plane tickets, and hotel reservations. Always bring your license or ID, your passport, and of course, your visa. Make sure that these documents are kept in a waterproof bag or envelope. Our advice is to keep all of your documents together in a wallet so that you know you have them. Also, keep photocopies of these documents in a separate location, like your suitcase or backpack. If you lose the originals, being able to access the information via the copies will speed up the process of replacement.

2. Your First Aid Kit

Be sure to prepare a first aid kit. The kit should include daily medications, water, alcohol, aspirin, paracetamol (acetaminophen), Benadryl, Lactacid, and Imodium, as well as cough and cold medicines. You can also add band aids, antibacterial ointment and cotton balls. A first aid kit is particularly important to have if you are traveling to a remote location where you may not be able to find a chemist.

3. Toiletries and Detergent

Make sure to include a basic supply of detergent and toiletries in your bag. Normally when we travel, we take an antiperspirant, an eau de parfum, and some travel detergent, that can be used to wash your clothes in your hotel’s sink, particularly if you run out of underwear, as you inevitably will!

4. A Contact Card Containing Emergency Numbers

Wherever you go, you should have an emergency card in your wallet. This will help people recognize you should an accident occur. This could be your passport, though you may want to keep this in your hotel in a safe place, or a simple card with an emergency contact, which can help the authorities contact your next of kin in an emergency.

5. Interesting Books

If you are bookish, you should definitely take a few books with you on your travels. We recommended you 2 Book on Brown Wooden Stairtake at least one guide book to help you find interesting places at your destination, and a novel that you can read whilst you are catching rays on the beach or while traveling by bus or train.

6. Spoon, Fork and Glass or Water Bottle

Bringing your own spoon, fork and glass or water bottle will mean that you always have these items no matter where you go. Packing these items may actually be necessary if you go to a remote destination without the most basic amenities or if you are going on a adventure holiday.

7. Safety Whistle or Safety Alarm

In case of an emergency, it is necessary that you memorize your phone number. You must also take a safety whistle or safety alarm wherever you go. If you do find yourself in an emergency situation, you can always alert passers-by and gain their help with a safety whistle or alarm. If you are alone, you can use the whistle or alarm to attract the attention of others if necessary.

8. Portable Charger

Bringing a charger is necessary when you travel. This is particularly true in the modern world, when we use social Grayscale Photography of Person Using Smartphone While Chargingnetworks to document our trip, Spotify to soundtrack our holiday and Google Maps to help us to find our hotel. It will keep your phone alive, thus your family and friends can reach you anytime. With a portable charger, you’ll always be able to keep your phone charged so you can keep your lifeline with you everywhere you go!

9. Portable Power Bank and Inverters

You might also need a portable power bank or a power inverter. These are useful when you need lighting, music, or to listen to the news whilst on the go. As stated previously, your devices have never been more important, and an extra battery will mean that you never get cut off, even if you cannot access a power outlet.

10. Motor homes are cool to bring too.

You may also bring your RV with you, even if you are just alone. Some prefer bringing their campers and motor homes for a safer travel. It is also perfect for overnight camping. Your motor home or RV can give you an even greater sense of freedom, allowing you to ‘set up camp’ in any place at any time. What is more, it will to help you economize, as hotel prices, particularly when you are alone, can be expensive.

For hassle-free travel adventure, make it a habit to list everything that you need. This will certainly save you time and energy.

Mia is the author of this post and owner of InvertPro.co. As a keen traveler Mia started InvertPro after struggling to find the right kit to stay in touch in an increasingly connected world. Mia has travel every continent and plans to visit them all again.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/shallow-focus-photo-of-world-globe-1098515/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-putting-a-passport-on-bag-842961/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/2-book-on-brown-wooden-stair-159675/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photography-of-person-using-smartphone-while-charging-1308749/.