Turning 30 and Venturing into the Wide Open

Brooke Brown vannypacktravelsAs a part of our developing Solo Female Traveler eBook, which will offer stories and advice from well-known Instagram female travelers, we are compiling their experiences into individual posts first. Here is the compelling story of solo female traveler, @vannypacktravels. Brooke travels throughout North America bringing her home with her everywhere she goes! She steadfastly lives by the motto, home is where you park it.

Why did you choose this lifestyle?

I chose this lifestyle because I am very passionate about traveling and van life was the best way for me to do more of what I love.  It also forces you to have a minimalist lifestyle, which was really intriguing to me.  I sold all of my furniture and moved the rest of my stuff into storage.  I must say, I don’t even remember what’s in my storage unit and I don’t miss anything.  Living minimally has been so peaceful.  I have everything I need within 24ft.

How did you start this journey?

I started this journey right after I turned 30.  I was living in an expensive apartment in downtown Denver with no yard and no ownership of any properties.  I was ready to make a change so “van life” was very appealing because of the whole idea of “home is where you park it.”   Now, I can have any backyard I want, I own my car and home (combo deal) and I still get the luxury of living alone but without the high rent and noisy neighbors.

What do you love about it?

I love the views I get to experience and all the wonderful people I meet along the way.  Each state is filled with its own unique style and way of life and it’s fun to bounce around from place to place and live as the locals do for a few weeks.

What do you hate about it?

The only negative part about traveling full time is when you have engine issues or RV/house issues because it’s always a big “to-do” to get your vehicle into an RV shop to have it fixed.  I have found most RV shops will get you in the same week or at least within 2 weeks of your call.  However, any time something slows you down on the road, it’s always a little frustrating.

What were the challenges you faced to get where you are today? Do you still face these challenges or are there new ones?

I’ve faced several challenges since I started my journey but they’ve all been major learning lessons for me and I’ve truly grown from each one.  My biggest pain point has been my engine battery.  I’ve had several instances where I’ve had to jump start my van because my battery was dead.  Luckily, I bought a portable jump starter kit (DP Power) before I left on my trip because I’ve had to jump start my van a total of 10x in 2 months!  My van was in the shop 4 different times before we figured out the issue.  Thankfully, the issue that was causing the battery drainage has been repaired and I got a brand new battery.  The take away was I learned how to jump start a car for the first time (and 10x after that) and I learned a lot about my batteries and engine.  However, my new challenge is trying to keep my fridge from losing power after boondocking for several days so with the help of my friends from Go Power!, I am hoping to add an additional solar panel to fix that problem.

I tackle each challenge the van brings with a smile though because it’s an opportunity for growth for the lifestyle I am choosing to live.

Do you feel being female RV’ers/travelers poses a different scenario than being a male RV’er/traveler

No.  Both parties face the same challenges and have to take the same precautions when it comes to safety on the road.

Who are your biggest supporters for this lifestyle?

My friends have been extremely supportive. My parents took a little more convincing but once I took them out on their first adventure in the Van, it was easy for them to see why I wanted to try this lifestyle out.

If you could do it all again, would you?

100% This has been an experience of a lifetime and the best part is, it’s not over!

Is there anything you would change?

Yes, next time I will outfit my own van.  I have a lot of bells and whistles on my Sprinter Van that I don’t need and I am missing certain equipment that would be really good for boondocking, which is the main type of camping I do on this road trip.  I would make sure I had enough solar power to sustain all of my equipment for weeks at a time.  I would also take out the tanks and make my water and bathroom set up more conducive to dry camping so I don’t have to worry with flushing tanks and visiting dump stations etc.

Do you need to have a lot of money to do this?

I have seen used vans, tow behinds, used RVs and even truck campers for as little as $1000-$3000 USD.  I don’t think you need a lot of money to live this way but you do need some savings for incidentals when those arise, especially if you have a used vehicle or RV.

How do you support yourself while on the road?

I work remotely, full time as an IT Recruiter so my job is mobile too! I primarily work out of Starbucks and other coffee shops that offer free wifi.

What would be your advice to those women who are looking to begin their journey as a solo female RV’er? Would this apply to both those who may travel for a week, to those who are looking at months to years on the road?

My advice would be very similar for those who are traveling for just a week and for those who are traveling longer.   I think the first piece of advice would be heavily centered around safety.  Safety is hugely important when you are on the road as a solo female traveler.  My safety tips would include:

  • Have roadside assistance on speed dial in the event of a breakdown or flat
  • Always have a form of protection for self defense in any given situation
  • Have a way to communicate when you don’t have cell phone service because you hit a lot of dead spots when traveling.  The Garmin InReach and the SPOT Gen3 are both wonderful products.  If you really want to go the extra mile, attend a self defense class or watch tutorials online.
  • Always lock the doors (no brainer)
  • Keep your keys by you at night and the walkway clear to get to your drivers seat fast in the event of any disturbances.
  • Have multiple ways of keeping your devices charged if you are boondocking. I have the DBpower pack and a Jackery battery to insure my gadgets stay charged without draining the battery from my house.
  • Trust your gut instinct.  If an area feels unsafe, do not stay there.  It’s important you feel safe in the area you choose to park and as a last resort, park at a Walmart or hotel where you know you are surrounded by people and help if needed.

What is the longest amount of time you have spent continuously on the road?

I have been in my van for 3 months continuously now and I have no plans of stopping this indefinite road trip any time soon.

How did you learn how to drive an RV?

The van drives very similarly to any other diesel vehicle but the blind spots are more blinding and your turns have to be much bigger and very carefully executed.  Reversing was also a challenge at first but you quickly learn that your side mirrors are your best friends.  I use my side mirrors A LOT!  Accidents will happen though so be prepared for any scenario.

Any tips, tricks or hacks that you may be able to offer those who are just starting out?

My biggest tip would be to understand the type of camping you want to do before you purchase your van.   If you are going to do a lot of boondocking, I’d suggest making sure you do your research on solar panels and a water system that will be ideal for camping without hook-ups.  I also suggest doing the buildout yourself so that everything is custom to your liking in the van and set up for what you want to do and where you want to take it.

If you are in areas that receive a lot of snow, I would highly recommend a 4-wheel drive vehicle or getting a good set of snow tires if your vehicle is AWD, front or rear.  Also, if you don’t have a 4-wheel drive set up, make sure you always carry snow chains in case you hit inclement weather.

Can someone message you if they have any questions about starting the RV/Van life?

Absolutely!  Please send a direct message through my Instagram @vannypacktravels or through Gmail at vannypacktravels (@) gmail.com