So, you live in your car — how long have you been doing that and what’s the story there? Where were you living before?
So—I live in my car! I’ve been out on the road since June of this year. My company announced we were going fully remote for a year (or more) due to the pandemic, and I’ve been wanting to try out the nomad life for a while now. Once the announcement sunk in, it took me all of 48h to put together a plan, research how to travel safely, sketch some storage and sleeping solutions, and get moving on the build.
Before this I lived in San Francisco, and was an avid weekend warrior. Not having to “go home” at the end of an adventure anymore is just the best.
What do you do for a living? Do you travel solo or with a partner?
I’m a content strategist and copywriter, currently working full-time for a startup. Our platform and service helps small businesses run payroll and administer benefits—needless to say....it’s been a really packed but rewarding time to be in that field.
I’ve been traveling solo most of this trip, with a few friends who have popped in along the way! Being a solo female traveler presents an interesting set of rules you have to live by, but it is so empowering and rewarding.
Tell me more about your experience being a solo female traveler!
I grew up in a big family, have a solid crew of friends, and have had several long-term partners in my adult life. This is honestly the first time I’ve just been around me. Making decisions solo, getting stuck, problem solving, and then getting un-stuck by myself has been so freeing, rewarding, and worth it. And I’ve met so many friendly people (always with masks, from a distance nowadays)! Folks usually see me get out of my car...and then look around for someone else. When they realize it’s just me, they’re so interested and excited. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they wish they’d done this “when they were my age” and older women being excited that younger generations are reinventing what life can look like.
On the safety side of things: being aware and prepared is a better plan than not, and I recognize that I have the privilege of feeling safer on average than BIPOC womxn who travel alone. I learned a lot from the other solo women in the VanLife community through my research. Things like: always have a good amount of gas in your car, never sacrifice safety for scenery, back into your spots so you can jump in the driver’s seat if needed, letting people know where you are, etc. I always find that I feel safest around nobody at all, or around a lot of people at a site.
That said—I haven’t had a single moment where I’ve felt unsafe. I’ve been lucky to have a fantastic experience so far.
Where have your travels taken you so far? Where to next?
In the last three months I’ve been to every state in the west! So far it’s been a big wandering loop: California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon. Got chased out of OR and back into Idaho by fires, tagged Wyoming for a hot second, then back down to Utah. I’m currently in Colorado for the next few weeks. Fall colors are popping and the air is crisp!
Utah and Idaho are my current favorite spots. For Utah, I’ve always been drawn to desert colors (and the heat!), and Idaho just has everything—lava fields, mountain ranges, glacial lakes, farmland...it’s insane.
What made you choose the Luno Air Mattress over another sleeping solution?
Packability, and the half-inflate feature! Most people have ½ inch foam mattresses in their rigs, but living in an SUV I needed a smaller-impact option. The flexibility to sleep on one side for a quick overnight stop or all open for longer stays is huge—and when I have extra gear in my car for adventures being able to roll up the Luno and stow it is major.
What else did you build out your CX-5 with? How long did it take?
I built out a simple, modular platform with two big drawers and storage cubbies—it works like a dream! I wanted my SUV setup to be “stealth” and not have to worry about people getting into a trailer/skybox when in cities, so having everything fit in my car is great.
Concept to completion was about two weeks! I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my folks, who came in with enthusiasm, a driveway to park the car while we were building, and all the tools/saws I obviously didn’t have in my San Francisco apartment.
How has the Luno Air Mattress influenced (or elevated) your travels? What’s your favorite feature?
Both influenced and elevated, for sure. Having the Luno Air mattress in my car means I’ll get a good night’s sleep no matter where I park my car… so my options are wide open when I’m choosing where to go next!
I’d say I have two favorite features: the adjustable inflate valve is awesome because I like a “softer” mattress, and the ability to fold the Luno Air in half and only use one side has been a major win. I usually just fold all my bedding in there, throw a tarp over, and my car is ready to roll in 10 minutes or less.
Any tips (or advice) for car campers who want to do what you’re doing?
Oh man, so many. The biggest piece of advice is simple though: if you have the opportunity, just GO! You can spend your life in research and wishing mode. Make it work, and do the thing.
On the topic of “research mode” though: definitely do your homework! The internet is full of awesome people doing cool, unconventional things. Fall down a few YouTube and blog rabbit holes, learn how to do the main functions (get water, keep your food cold, harness the sun for power, find a spot to sleep) and you’re golden.
Some of my favorite “get started” resources are:
- Gnomadhome.com - these folks have a blog post on literally everything. I learned so much from this site.
- Parkedinparadise.com - great videos, ideas, and links.
- @solidwoodworx - for creative build ideas in any car
- @divineontheroad - for solo female vanlife tips, hilarious commentary, helpful maps and links.
Do you have a favorite (or secret) car camping location?
There are tons of forest service roads to the west of Glacier National Park in Montana with insane views. Hard to go wrong up there, and it’s so fun poking around the woods for a prime dispersed spot. Go explore, and have fun :)
Vehicle: Mazda CX-5