Until a few years ago, if you’d have asked someone to describe me in one word, that person would have never called me adventurous or fearless. Most likely, the terms used to describe me would have been cautious, serious, intense, or fearful. I liked to have fun, but I was not someone who forged her own path and threw caution to the wind. I followed the fun and went along with an adventure when my friends asked me to, but it wasn’t in my nature to plan and execute trips overseas or go on solo RV vacations. I didn’t even like walking alone into the bathroom at a bar!
About two years ago, something changed. I woke up one day and had this crazy idea that I wanted to quit teaching, start my own business, and take a solo-RV trip across the country. This RV-epiphany happened overnight. Suddenly, all I did was think about RVing. I told my husband my idea, and soon, I was dragging him to every RV show in the city. We talked, we planned, we researched, and finally, we purchased my 2016 T@B Outback.
I didn’t have an RVing plan; I just knew I wanted to see the country. I’d never pulled a trailer, more than a few miles, let alone pulled my house on wheels across the country. We had an RV, but I certainly wasn’t taking the fifth wheel by myself. Suddenly, I had to embody the word adventure, whether I liked it or not. I had to take my camper out by myself and go.
Now, solo female RVing is a thing. More and more women want to RV alone. It doesn’t matter who we date; we are single, married, divorced, widowed, and partnered women. We share the same longing, and we feel the desire to be on the road alone.
I’m a member of several RVing groups. Women ask about what it’s like to go out alone the first time or how to take the leap and leave the driveway. For everyone, that first leap is different. If you are scared about your first trip in your RV, that’s OK. Being scared is good. I’m still frightened almost every time I head out for a trip, but my fear isn’t fear of the unknown anymore. It’s just my cautious nature whispering in my ear, and I’m OK with that, too.
You’ve got to start somewhere
I was totally stoked that I made it down the driveway to the KOA for the night
How to handle your first trip alone
Listen to the noises. Some of the sounds are normal. Some of them are not. We have instincts for a reason. That damn rattling I heard during this first trip came back and scared me silly a few months down the road (literally).
Pick somewhere close to home and plan a one-night trip; if you need help, you’ll be more likely to find the assistance you need. I went 30 miles from home to the Strasburg KOA.
Try taking different routes to and from your destination. I drove on pot-holed-dirt roads (by accident), the interstate, and a toll road.
Choose somewhere where you will feel safe. I picked a KOA because KOAs usually have kind camp hosts, clean facilities, and a small store with supplies.
Pay for a large pull-through site. You will have fewer things to hit, and you will have a better chance to level your camper successfully.
Level, disconnect, and set up your camper as you would do during a long trip or multi-night stay.
Keep a running list of things you need (because you WILL forget things). Keep another running list of things you want.
Create a setup and a takedown checklist. Follow it. Add the things you might have messed up on and remove the things you don’t need. I also have a checklist for packing and a checklist that helps me review the process of connecting and disconnecting my camper to my car. You can’t be too cautious.
Don’t freak out when things don’t work. I’ve learned when I start to get worked up, it is game over. Stop whatever you are doing and work on something else for a while. Once you’ve calmed down, try the task again. Trust me, plenty of things won’t go your way the first few solo trips. You can laugh about everything in hindsight.
Print a copy of all of your manuals. I learned during my first trip that I couldn’t remember how to work my Alde heater. My manual was online, so I didn’t need to bring it with me. Wrong. I had crappy cell service, and I had no way to get the manual. After that debacle, I now keep a downloaded version of each of my manuals on my tablet. I don’t need service to access the information I need.
Use your manuals. It’s OK if you need to remember how to work something or troubleshoot a problem. I still use at least one of my manuals once a trip.
Use all of your systems. It will take two-to-three times as long the first few times you fill your freshwater, add toilet additives, operate your air conditioning, level your camper, etc… Just know that it does get easier (eventually).
Get a full hookup site. My first trip out, I didn’t realize that my site was only a partial-hookup site. I had to use the dump station near the exit, which means I could have potentially had a long line form behind me while I messed with my sewer hoses. Thankfully, no one was waiting for me, but I freaked out about it the whole time.
Anticipate questions. I have a cute camper, so people like to talk to me about it. When I check into a campground, I’ve had more than one host or clerk question me when I tell them I’m alone. Yeah. Women travel alone. No, I’m not trying to scam you out of money by lying about how many people are with me.
Anticipate (sorry men), having men ask you if they can help you. It happens to me all of the time. Sometimes I need help, and I’m grateful. Other times? I just have to bite my tongue and know that they mean well.
Do what works for you. Just because one process works for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Expect to mess up. I’ve messed up a lot. Trust me; I haven’t made the same mistake twice!
Sit outside. ALONE. Have a cold beer (or soda or wine) or two. Or three. Just relax and feel good about what you just did, ALONE.
Anticipate not sleeping well the first night. It will be a night of hearing noises, of being too hot and then too cold, of turning the fan on and off, of checking the door locks and windows a few times (or more). It happens.
Relax in the morning. Don’t be in a hurry to leave. You survived your first night out alone. Now, you need to enjoy your accomplishment. You did a big thing! BE PROUD!
You are a solo RVer
Maybe, you were like me when you left your driveway that first time. You were scared, and you were timid. Perhaps you weren’t. Now? If someone called me adventurous, I’d agree because I am. I might not jump out of an airplane or swim with man-eating sharks, but I am a solo female RVer, and I embody adventure!