I read the Facebook comment “If you’re anywhere near Crested Butte, I’d love to say hi!!” left by Ottsworld reader, Vicki Hill. I often get messages from people/strangers wanting to meet up when I’m in their town or nearby. If I have time on a trip I LOVE to meet readers. Yes, yes I know – this is the point when most people cringe.
“You meet complete strangers when you are out traveling? Aren’t you worried they are going to be freaks? Is that safe?”
Yes – these are complete strangers to me, and I suppose it’s a bit risky, but I’ve always had really good experiences when I do it. Everyone has been normal so far and I felt an instant connection with most. Even after 12 years of doing this blogging thing, I think there’s simply a part of me that is tickled that people do actually read and follow what I write or share. I work alone 90% of the time, my interactions are mainly on screen, so it’s fun for me to meet people from my ‘work life’ in person.
Of course I answered Vicki back and said “Yes! I’d love to meet up in Crested Butte!”
Meeting Interesting People On the Road
There’s always this tiny bit of nervousness and anticipation when I meet readers I don’t know – there is always a little part of me that thinks…what if they are stalkers?! I had been messaging Vicki coordinating a time and place to meet up in the little town of Crested Butte as I was walking down the street. Suddenly a woman looks at me and says, “Sherry?!” Vicki had found me…no she wasn’t stalking me…Crested Butte is a small town with one main street, so it was inevitable that we’d run into each other. We grabbed a beer together and sat and talked. We talked about travel, my niece project, hiking, Crested Butte and the fact that she comes to CB every year and camps out of her car for a month…and that’s when my ‘girl crush’ with Vicki happened.
We sat and talked nonstop – I learned all about her life and travels and was completely mesmerized by her story. A little part of me was beaming with pride; I have such cool people following my travels and writing! I ended up meeting her again for a hike the next day and was able to spend even more time with her. I was so intrigued with her travel style and unconventional way of solo travel even though she was married, had a cat, kids, and even grandkids! She was one badass woman over 40! I thought to myself – she should be writing a blog. That’s when I decided to ask her if she’d like to be featured on my site to share her travel style and story. She said yes…and here is the rest.
You have a conventional life (wife, home, kids, grandkids) yet you have this side of you for a few months of the year where you live a completely unconventional life out of your 4Runner completely solo. What moved you to live your life this way?
The ‘plan’ backfired: The first time I traveled solo was only because I couldn’t find anyone else to go with me. I thought it would be better to go alone than not go at all, so I took off. And during that initial trip, I quickly fell in love with solo travel!
My goal for any trip is to see amazing scenery, hike every possible day, and meet new people along the way. I also chase great beer! Quickly I realized traveling was a top priority in my life. I married my high school sweetheart who is very ‘tolerant’ of my passion and he joins me for a week each year in Colorado. But my trips have slowly gotten longer (expanding to 2 or 3 months), and more frequent. Going back to the Midwest and staying home is always a bummer (but my cat is glad to see me!).
How has this evolution to the car camper life and wandering evolved? Explain your current setup and how you make it work.
I love long road trips! I’m also cheap and love the simplicity of car camping. My ‘rig’ is a 2001 Toyota 4Runner I creatively call “Camper”. I removed the back seats and she’s decked out with a single cushy bed in back, places for a food box, my gear, a cooler, twinkly lights, and my “live happy” prayer flags. It’s my home away from home!
I love to watch storms blow in when I’m tucked in at night, or pop open my door and watch the night sky. The best part is I can change my mind on a whim and move without the hassle of breaking down gear & loading it up. Having a 4 wheel drive vehicle also allows me to drive some crazy backroads to get to those far out trailheads.
I almost always do dispersed camping in the National Forests or on BLM land; it’s free, more roomy than a campground, quiet, and usually located in some beautiful spaces.
Sherry’s Note: I had the pleasure of going to see Vicki’s camper and setup at her campsite in Crested Butte. There aren’t many times where I feel envious of someone’s life, in fact I’m used to people constantly feeling envious of MY LIFE! However, once I saw Vicki’s decked out 4Runner, her serene mountain view, and her way of living – I was completely envious. It seemed perfect. I normally always worry about a situation like that being lonely. However, she had clearly carved out this routine of talking to people throughout the day; having some precious alone time, and doing the things she loved. Iwas in awe. I walked away so happy I had made a new friend who was such a badass.
What is your Typical Day like Car Camping Solo?
I am a very social person but I never get lonely while on the road. I talk to my husband daily and often Face Time with my kids and grandkids, who live on both coasts. Reading is my passion, which is how I spend my quiet evenings in camp or in the 4Runner late at night. I spend a little time updating my online travel journal once every week or two. The beauty of my surroundings and being on the trail each day, fill me up and give me so much joy. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Instead, I feel like this is where I’m meant to be.
How Do You Deal with the Car Camping Naysayers?
There are a lot of people that will be more encouraging of you to stay home and you frequently hear, “Don’t go alone!” “It’s too dangerous” “You’re a woman!” Here’s my suggestion: find others that do what you want to do. There are so many solo women travelers out there – they camp alone, they hike alone, they eat out alone, and they talk to strangers! They are willing to share information and they love this kind of travel!
Vicki’s 8 Solo Car Camping Tips
1. Have AAA Assistance …it’s peace of mind and help when you might need it.
2. Hide a credit card, cash, and a copy of your driver’s license in your vehicle somewhere and a spare key under your car. If you’re wallet, pack, or bag gets lost or stolen, you have something to fall back on and a way to drive your vehicle.
3. Carry a GPS locator device that can be used when you don’t have cell service. Mine has a pre-programed message that is sent to my husband but also includes my GPS coordinates. I send him one when I get to camp & when I get up in the morning or when I start and finish hiking on a trail. This gives him peace of mind and my location.
4. Carry a small toolbox, a tiny battery charger (in case I run my car battery down trying to keep my electronics charged), and a tire inflator/deflator.
5. When there is a glitch, learn from it. Instead of over thinking the situation, decide if there is a way to prevent it from happening again or what you can do to minimize the problems it may cause. (See #2 when I left my wallet in a restaurant. Fortunately, by the time I made it back to the place, my wallet was still there with everything in it. After a couple of times of calling myself an idiot, I came up with plan on what to do if I this happened again.)
6. Listen to your gut and intuition.
“There will be times you are afraid, but you’ll need to assess whether it’s because it’s the first time you’re doing something or if you’re truly in danger.”
Most of the time, it’s because you’re doing something new and to overcome that type of fear is powerful. It makes you mentally stronger and ready to say ‘yes’ to more things in life because you know you can go beyond the doubts that flood your mind. But if you truly feel in danger, stop, leave or turn around. Make a Plan B and change your situation.
7. Be open to meeting new people. It’s one of the best things about solo travel and with social media – it’s easy to keep in touch. It’s also a good way to ‘find your tribe’ because they are usually travelers too.
8. Embrace spontaneity! I love solo travel because I change my mind or plan on a whim. You’ll get suggestions from people you meet on new places to see or trails to hike and you can just go. You can also get lost or make lots of U-turns and no one cares or knows. It’s a lesson for life – be flexible, open, and ready for unplanned adventure!
Once again a reader meetup was completely enlightening and fun. Of course I’ll continue to meet people while I’m on the road – after all in Vicki’s words “be flexible, open, and ready for unplanned adventure!”