Combating Loneliness on the Road

Combating loneliness during solo travel and solo vanlife

Is Solo Vanlife Lonely?

Whenever I tell people about Vanlife and how I travel the country solo, without doubt, one of the first questions I get asked is "Don't you get lonely?" Well duh, doesn't everyone get lonely from time to time? I could be lonely sitting in an apartment by myself, or I could be lonely watching sunset over the Grand Canyon. Which would you choose? Honestly, most of the time that I'm in amazing places, I don't really feel that lonely. I'm just so excited to be there, all while living an amazing lifestyle.

When I started to turn my Vanlife dream into a reality, obviously I considered that it would be easier if I had a partner, and sure, I'd love to share all the memories with someone, but that just wasn't my situation at the time. I wasn't going to put my dream on the back burner until I had a partner. So I set out to live my life on the road and learned a few things about loneliness and being alone along the way.

First, let's talk about loneliness

Everyone gets lonely sometimes whether you're living in a van by yourself, if you have five roommates, or if you live with your significant other. It is ok and completely normal to feel lonely some of the time. Learn to embrace it. Use the time you're alone to do things outside of your comfort zone. This will help with self-growth and build confidence. I also find that when I'm alone with my thoughts, this is also the time I feel the most creative and can tackle a project I've been putting on hold.

I am a very extroverted person, but one that enjoys alone time, so being by myself a lot of the time doesn't bother me. I'm very ok with spending time by myself. I actually enjoy it. So moving into a van wasn't that big of a deal for me in the sense of living and traveling by myself. If you're they type of person that always needs to be surrounded by your friends and family, full-time Vanlife might not be for you, and that's ok, it isn't for everyone. But if you're thinking about Vanlife and you're ok spending a lot of time by yourself, then I'd say go for it!

I will admit that living by yourself in a stationary home is different than living by yourself in a van. Prior to Vanlife, I lived on my own for 6 years. At that point I knew I was ok living by myself. The difference was while I was living in a house I was still seeing my co-workers daily and my friends multiple times a week. I was also only 1-3 hours away from most of my family members. Moving into the van was different, because I'd constantly be changing locations and not having the same people consistently in my life.

The times I feel most lonely

After some time on the road, you will learn what triggers your loneliness. Once you are aware of it you can do something to embrace it or prevent it. There are a few events for me that trigger loneliness which I bet are similar for a lot of people so I will share them.

For me, feel the most lonely on the road the day (or a few days) after a Vanlife visitor leaves. After having a few visitors on the road, I've learned I usually need to allow myself a few days to mope around. Some people might say that's not healthy, but I've learned it's what I need. I usually stock up on my favorite foods and wine and binge watch tv. After a few days, I feel back to normal and go on with my normal Vanlife ways.

I also feel lonely when I want to go on an adventure, but feel it's too risky to go alone. This makes me feel like I'm missing out on something I really want to do, but can't because I'm alone. To overcome this, I usually call a friend and talk it through. This will help me realize if it really is an adventure I can do by myself. Perhaps, I just need pep talk and a person to check in with after. For some extreme adventures like hiking Grand Canyon's 24 mile Rim to Rim or climbing up Yosemite's Half Dome, I planned ahead and invited a friend to join me. I was able to tackle an amazing goal, spend time with a friend, and share my lifestyle.

Lastly, it can be hard to see your friends and family back home all getting together and you're missing out on it. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real! It's just something you have to accept. I always try to plan my routes to be back "home" around the big holidays and making sure I have enough money to fly home for the important stuff like weddings.

female coping with loneliness while traveling alone

Combating Loneliness

Facetime with friends or family. When I first moved into the van, I was Facetiming people

almost daily. I think I talk to some friends and family more now than I did before Vanlife. I think it's so important to maintain friendships even when you can't be physically near each other, plus it made me feel like I wasn't on this journey alone.

I love going to local breweries anyway, but I found that when I needed human interaction, I would pop into a brewery and sit at the bar. Without failure, every time I would end up talking to someone and meeting some pretty cool people. A few times, I even met people who wanted to join me on a hike or offered me a driveway to sleep in. This same theory also works in coffee shops!

Whenever I'm hiking by myself, I say hi to everyone I come across (unless I get a bad vibe from them). Sometimes saying hi turns into a brief conversation; other times I've finished the hike with new friends. I still keep in touch with some friends that I've made on the trail.

I visit a lot of National Parks and I always end up talking to a dozen or more people. This can be through hiking, striking up a conversation with people camping next to you, or grabbing a drink in the lodge. Also in National Parks, if you leave your sliding door open in the van, 90% of the time someone will stop by and want to see your conversion van. This can lead to pretty cool conversations too.

Breweries, hiking and National Parks are at the top of my list for connecting with other people, but the same concept of striking up a conversation works just about anywhere. Adjust it to fit your hobbies and lifestyle. Beaches, dog parks, skating parks, rock climbing, surfing, camping, and ski resorts are all great ways to meet people.

Advice on avoiding loneliness while traveling by yourself

Keeping busy also combats loneliness. Between working, Vanlife chores, driving, and adventuring, I never have time to be lonely or to just sit alone with my thoughts. Most of the time I'm just so excited and thankful for my lifestyle that my happiness outweighs any loneliness.

Whenever I'm just hanging out in the van, I do like to have some background noise from the TV or music. When I'm driving, audible books are my go-too. Reach out to me if you want some book recommendations!

Lastly, the Vanlife community is the most amazing thing on the road. There are people living in vans (and RVs) literally everywhere. Since we're all crazy enough to live in a van, we're also usually very like-minded and get along. Usually if I see another conversion van, I'll stick around to see who's in it. Every once in a while it's someone I follow on Instagram and we finally get to meet in real life. Also from Instagram, you kind of know which Vanlifers are in the same area as you. You can plan to meet-up or caravan together. When I'm camping on BLM land, there's usually a handful of other nomads around and I love striking up conversations with them.

Additionally, there are organized Vanlife meet up events. The events are are a blast, a great way to meet people, and leave with a lot more knowledge about Vanlife than you came with. The Vanlife App has a list of all future events on their app. The community is actually one of my favorite parts of Vanlife. I didn't really know about it when I started, but immediately felt the embrace of it and feel so thankful for all the friends I've made on the road and all the nomads that have helped me.

Through all of these things, I never really feel alone, even though I'm technically traveling alone. I have so many interactions with people and have made so many friends during my time on the road. Most of the things I listed to combat loneliness are part of my routine and hobbies so it doesn't feel like I'm going out of my way to interact with people. So to answer the question, "Is solo Vanlife lonely," to me, it isn't. I always feel like I'm on this journey with so many people.

Combating loneliness by joining the vanlife community.

I know some of the things I do to connect with other people are more difficult right now due to Covid-19, but I have high hopes that this won't be around forever, so I'm still including the social scene in this post.

Safety is also a major concern when it comes to traveling solo, so make sure to check out my blog post: Safety Advice for a Solo Female Vanlifer.

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