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Solo Female Traveler Planning US Road Trip 2020

My name is Sarah and I am 23 years old from Colorado. I am planning a road trip for myself this summer (if everything is safe and healthy due to COVID-19) and am looking for help planning from anyone that may be experienced. I’m planning to road trip solo across the entire US with the purpose of deciding where I would like to live and move to, because I do not wish to stay in Colorado any more. I will mostly be visiting cities in the USA and not as much nature areas. I could use help with anything anyone is able to advice me on, which may include (but is not limited to):

-How to live in your car while road tripping
-What gear to pack to stay light and compact in your car
-how to potentially refrigerate and cook food in your car (I plan to eat healthy, and cannot afford eating takeout every meal. But I also don’t want to eat “backpacker” food the whole trip)
-hygiene (including washing clothes)
-how to meet new people in a new city
-how to stay safe as a solo female traveler road tripping in your car (including preventing break ins while sleeping in my car, and where to park)
-how to stay in shape while road tripping (I was thinking getting a membership at like a Lifetime Fitness or something)

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7 Replies

@sarahpaty thanks for reaching out to our community about your upcoming adventure! Wondering if you'd see this earlier thread, on the Women's board, about traveling solo - you could always tag a few of those community members for advice on your questions! We'll also ask a few REI employees to see if they have some ideas for you as well!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Hi @sarahpaty!

Sounds like a great adventure! 

You've got some great questions to start out- it sounds like you're definitely putting some thought into this. Are you looking at staying close to big urban centers, or are you headed out in the hills? What will the weather be like in each region while you're there?(the hot, humid Southeast will have very different conditions than the rainy coastal Northwest, for example)

If you're going to spend more than a week or two on the road, I can't recommend strongly enough to set up some storage systems. This can be as simple or as complex as you want, but having the supplies, clothes, power cords, gear, etc. you're looking for easily available when you need them will save a TON of annoyance when you're on the road. The simplest option is stackable storage bins, but you could get creative and make a small wood shelf/drawer system for your trunk or backseat.

For refrigeration, having fresh food and veggies makes a big difference between happiness and drudgery. A 12v electric cooler is the tidy way to keep things cold because it doesn't need ice, but can drain your car's battery. A small, inexpensive regular cooler will get the job done if you don't mind refilling ice every few days(most fast food restaurants will sell you a huge bag of ice waaay cheaper than prepackaged bags at the grocery).

For recipes, think about easy dishes like stir-fry with minute rice. I really like simple coconut curry- fresh broccoli/squash/onion, canned cream of coconut(not coconut milk), curry powder, done. A simple 2-burner cookstove on a small folding table will give you full-kitchen function in a packable size, with fuel available anywhere. 

If you're visiting an urban-ish area, you should be able to find a franchise gym(life time, 24 hour, etc.) within a few miles of a laundromat to stay exercised, showered and be able to wash your clothes. Most yoga studios and some climbing gyms offer an unlimited first month trial for a reasonable price, if you're going to spend a week or two checking out one area- these can be great places to meet folks who will probably be interested in hearing about your adventures! (bonus note: I've never been to a climbing gym that didn't have at least 3-4 vans parked around with people living in them.. New friends!)

Parking and privacy depends a lot on what kind of area you'll be in. Getting a roll of this stuff, cutting pieces to fit each of your car's windows, and spray painting the outside surface satin black will make it less evident that someone is sleeping in a car. Even still, an unfamiliar car is likely to draw attention in places like a suburban residential neighborhood. Trust your gut- if it feels sketchy, keep driving. If you're going to a new place/town, get there early to find a good/low-key spot and make sure you have cell service where you're going to be parked. 

I hope this helps! Have fun on your trip and reach out if you have other questions!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Wow thanks a million!

Hey @sarahpaty ! I hope your epic adventure is a GO!  @REI-ReinkeM has some really great suggestions, and while I'll leave the practical/functional/livable suggestions to others, I did want to share my recommendation. A Woman Alone - is a great collection of stories from women traveling the world solo. I bought this book in 2007 with my second ever REI Member dividend and it has come with me on every move across the country since then. Some stories are inspiring, thrilling, scary; but I found each to give me a sense of empowerment and awe; it's a great companion. I hope you have an epic trip!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thanks so much!!

Hi @sarahpaty, I responded to your post in Vanlife about this same topic. Hope it helps!

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Thank you