by Aliza Sherman Risdahl - The Original Travelgirl
It was the Year 2000, and I began dreaming of driving cross-country, getting away from New York City where I had lived for over ten, fast-paced, high-pressured years.
So I did what any Internet savvy woman would do. I went online to research cars for my mythical cross-country drive. Then, on a whim, I began looking up RVs, as in recreational vehicles, motorhomes. Even though I had never even seen an RV up close, I reasoned that my drive across the country would be more affordable if I could live in my mode of transport.
In August 2000, I bought a 23-foot, 1977 Dodge Apache Class C motor home. Class C motor homes look like U-Haul trucks with a bunk over the cab of the truck. Class A motorhomes look more like buses and Class B motorhomes are converted vans.
As I drove out of New York City in September of 2000, I welcomed the simplified lifestyle and compact living space of my RV, taking only my two Chihuahuas and some carefully selected possessions.
Interested in taking a road trip? Here's some ways you can make it happen.
Before You Leave:
1. Assess your work situation. Can you take time off work? Can you afford to leave your job or business entirely? Or can you telecommute from the road? At the time, I had two books coming out the same year and several steady freelance writing assignments. Being on the road meant I could do book signings to promote the books and having some writing work meant some money in the bank each month.
2. Assess your bank account. Can you spend the next 3-6 months skimming some money off of each paycheck and tucking it away where you won't touch it until you leave? Tax return checks are great for the Road Trip Fund. I took part of the advance for my third book and bought the RV, with about $1000 left over for repairs and supplies.
3. Assess your vehicle situation. Do you have a roomy SUV, mini-van or station wagon where a foam mat and sleeping bag could fit comfortably? Or can you trade in or sell your current vehicle to purchase a new or used RV? I hadn't owned a car for over a decade while living in New York City so I paid $5500 cash for a used RV from its third owners.
4. Assess your travel tolerance. Do you like to drive? Remember: Road Trip means driving, even if you share the wheel. Since driving a big RV was a physical challenge for me, I made sure my daily road time was under 6 hours and took breaks every 2 hours or so.
5. Assess your solitude tolerance. Can you stand to be alone? If not, plan your trip so you have a mix of alone time and social time. I made a point of camping mostly at KOA Kampgrounds (www.koa.com) because I knew they were clean, safe and had a nice group of campers who I could socialize with if I wanted.
Traveling alone can be both exhilarating and a little scary. I devised several strategies to stay safe on the road including:
1. Don't talk to strangers. Unless they were an elderly couple or I was at a "safe" location like a KOA Kampground or are other women alone. While I wished I could have had the same freedom afforded a man traveling on his own, the reality was, I'd rather err on the side of caution than end up in a compromising situation. Other women I know talked to everyone they encountered and never had a problem. Only you can know what is right for you, but whatever you do, be smart.
2. Wear a wedding band. A woman alone attracts lone men. At almost every gas station, men tried to strike up a conversation or even invite themselves on the road with me. I'd always suggest that I am NOT traveling alone and that my husband was in the store/in the RV/in the bathroom. Then their eyes would move to my hand and see a fake wedding band I had purchased just for these occasions and they'd walk away.
3. Have a good cellphone plan. For the road, I found that AT&T Wireless had the most comprehensive coverage at the time which was not only helpful from a safety standpoint but meant I could also get online almost daily with a cellular modem and my laptop. Believe me, an affordable cellphone plan that has limited coverage doesn't seem worth the savings when you break down on a deserted road at night. Don't be afraid to call 911 if you even sense trouble. Better safe than sorry.
4. Choose reputable campgrounds. There are several great campground directories such as Trailer Life and Woodalls that you can get online or order at any bookstore. Both rate and review the campgrounds. You can also order a KOA Kampground directory from their website (www.koa.com) and will find locations around most major cities and right off of most major interstates. State parks can be very affordable and a little more rustic, but before camping for the night, take a look around at your neighbors. Sometimes, I found that I was the only woman there and chose to drive on to the next campground.
Going solo on the road is a great way to see the country and discover a little more about yourself in the process.