This solo, van-travelling journey began as an exercise in consciously-chosen solitude.
I’m a classic introvert to begin with – I love people intensely, greatly enjoy social occasions sometimes and need time to rest after those occasions most times.
Solo travel seemed a good pursuit for someone a bit over-peopled and under-natured. Some peace, quiet and time to reflect and experience life in the nurturing arms of Mother Nature.
I’m here to tell you that solo van-travel is a lot of things, but it’s no way to find solitude!
I’m a full eight weeks into this “solitude” and have scarcely had a day to myself! I’d have better luck finding “me-time” on a sold-out bus tour for extraverts.
The connections began on-line, where I met folks generous with ideas, thoughts and stories about van conversions. I became active in FB groups, and began sharing my own experiences. No doubt I will eventually meet many of the people I have become friends with “virtually”.
Reconnecting with long-time friends became easier with a camper van, and I did a lot of it before I set off for the east coast. I made little trips to see all my important people; camping out in their driveways with the nice feeling that perhaps I was an easy (er) guest with my own bed – not that they would ever suggest that! But it felt good to me. I felt the same with family, and enjoyed some impromptu visits over the summer.
For the first time in what felt like a long time, I had something besides regaining my health to talk about. My mood improved. I did a trial camping trip to Algonquin with a dear friend who finished the electrical and water- work in the van and helped me initially by turning my vision into 3 D drawings. No matter how far away the van takes me from where he is, it will always bring me back to our friendship. Emotionally, It’s a bit like having a shared pet; a special connection.
Before I embarked on the big adventure, I parked myself at Algonquin Provincial Park and enjoyed a long weekend with the kids, who both work there in the summer. It was so much more affordable than staying at a hotel and the memories we made are now framed by tall pines, a crackling fire and a sparkling lake.
“Chance” had me connecting with all my important people!
What I was not prepared for was the random and extremely pleasant social connections that take place with complete strangers when I open the back hatch of the van in a public place.
Chance the Camper is responsible for my meeting people from all over Europe, the US and Canada. Women, in particular, want to talk with me about travelling solo. Many spent ungodly hours taxing children in a minvan; and Chance seems to represent reclaiming a vehicle that once defined them as primarily “in-service” to others. They seem able to imagine the minivan as a vehicle of emancipation instead – A “get-away” vehicle or sorts!
Some people sheepishly ask if they can take their picture in front of the van, which makes me smile. It seems to stir people’s dream-centres. I’ve been invited to see others’ creative ways of dealing with bugs, sleeping and cooking in their vans, SUVs and trailers. This community is extremely generous in their time, energy and knowledge!
In Cape Breton, perched on a cliff over a beautiful beach, I discovered that my rock-climbing-cliff-diving-solo-travelling-camp-neighbour, Mario, was also from Ottawa and we were both facing the blank-slate of our empty nest years with as much dignity as we could muster. It’s like meeting at summer camp; meeting on the road. I feel we should have matching T-Shirts commemorating the time and place we became friends. Because it feels like the sort of friendship that you just hold on to. However, the special place has the unfortunate name of Meat Cove so instead of T- shirts, we cheer each other on as we venture further into our respective journeys.
I had the delight of meeting a woman who visited our campsite at Balsam Lake because she recognized Chance from a youtube video I posted. As it turns out, she also attended school in my home town, and is now a part of my online network of new friends. Now, there’s a Chance Meeting!
In a short month from now, I’ll meet my daughter in Calgary and we will travel together for 6 weeks through the mountains to BC and down the Pacific Coast to take in some hiking. She requested this trip as a graduation present and I can’t help but think it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for both of us. We may never have this chance again, so we are taking it. I will be delivering her to the Mexican Border and she will cross alone, anticipating a year of growth and service in Central America. Another Chance- of-a -Lifetime.
All this reconnection and new connection brought on because I chose to go “solo” travelling in a minivan.
And how is this quiet introvert handling this increase and onslaught of social time?
After a very people-busy beginning to this second chapter of this adventure, I thought it wise to enjoy a couple days reflecting and writing at my waterfront campsite at Lake Superior National Park. I couldn’t see another soul on the beach. Perfect introvert conditions!
I was happily immersed in my solitude until exactly the moment came across The BananaVan, which, once unpeeled ( now I was the curious one!) revealed the lovely Kim and Dave from Alberta. They bought this awesome van for a dollar from a man 7 years ago and left everything just as he had created it. A testament to a live well lived, I’d say, judging by the concert and festival stickers still affixed. They only added the banana and have been enjoying a “Canada 150” journey, coast to coast, just as I am. Clearly one of my tribe 😉
Today, here in Winnipeg, I spent a lovely couple of hours with the delightful Debbie and her dog, Bennie. We met in the parking lot of Assinaboine Park and after approximately 30 seconds of small-talk, she invited Pip and I to walk with them. This turned into very meaningful conversation, a personal tour of the park and an open invitation to stay at her home anytime. The kindness of strangers!
Despite having this exciting new social life, I’m still an introvert by nature so did develop a bit of a strategy to balance out social vs. personal time while on the road. If I’m feeling social, I park at my campsite with the hatch to the road and if I’m feeling quiet, I open up into the woods. It’s equivalent, I suppose, to leaving the porch light on if I are expecting visitors or closing the blinds if I am in for the night.
I have to say, however, my porch light is on more often that it’s off these days.
Because, what I’ve learned is that strangers are simply friends I haven’t made yet, and the world is full of awesome strangers.
6 thoughts on “Chance Meetings”
I will see you on the road x
I love to hear from you and all you are enjoying , as I am a introvert by nature too ………. I am sad to say I will be on the road sooner then I thought.. AS my mom took a drastic turn 2 weeks ago, heart and respiratory failure at 76 years old … She has been giving me little signs all summer so glad to have her with me for the past 5 yrs , so I got hospice to keep her home with me in no pain… Happy travels my friend, till we meet up on the road one day ..:)
Ahhhh hello Elizabeth. I’m sad to hear about the turn in your mom’s health but also happy for you (and her) that you both had so much time together these last years. She is blessed to have you as her daughter. Prayers for you both for a time of peace and painlessness. X Kit
Excellent Kit, we have finished our 2-week whirlwind tour of Southern Utah and the 4 – Corners area. The rapidly-modified rental Dodge Grand Caravan was a huge success and provided is a safe, cheap, easily set-up and taken down, and completely self-contained place to sleep and way to travel from park to park. We visited 6 National Parks, 3 State Parks, 3 National Monuments, 1 National Historic Park and a Navaho Park as well as lots of National Forrest Service and Bureau of Land Management holdings to camp. We saw things that I has not imagined and all the while had our immediate lives right there with us in the van. This was and is a great way to travel, but even this perfect plan will be undergoing a drastic renovation on the next trip as we will soon be adding a third adventurer to our life. It’s a Boy!! We’ve already been discussing ways to make the adjustments to the van mod concept. By the way, your patterns for the window covers were perfect and using the reflectix windshield shades to make them worked out great. We got lots of compliments, even had a Park Ranger at Arches want to take a look. Afterwards we were able to recycle, reuse or donate everything we had used for the modification. All in all it cost us less than $600 US, for the 2-week 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan rental and mods which provided transportation and accommodation. Our camping cost varied from free to $30/night on 2 nights at Mesa Verde, (but we had hot showers). Most mornings and nights we cooked our own meals, got up at sunrise and when to bed after sunset. We never had a campfire, although we talked about it everyday and always intended to. Bugs were not an issue. Clean water was never an issue. Wind was. On one night we got sand everywhere, except in our chicken tika masala. We had to plan our entry and exits well that night and in the morning. It felt a little like we were fleeing that campsite when we left. We had a few other windy encounters, but nothing like that again and we learned to cope with it better. We too metots of good and very talkative people on our travels. It’s usually one of my favorite parts of traveling, but we were usually in a hurry to get to the next thing before the sun got too hot or it got dark. We cramed a lot into 2-weeks, but honestly it never felt rushed and it was a great trip that we will remember forever and share with our little one again in person one day. Thanks Kit.
Hi there John!
I’m soooooo happy for you on ALL account! Your trip sounds just amazing! I do believe this is the area my daughter wants us to explore as we heads out in December, so I may have some questions for you as we get closer to that! I’d love to see some pictures… I will check your FB page, thinking you may have some there. This is, indeed, once you are set up – a very comfortable and convenient way to travel for sure. I laughed at the thought of you fleeing sand – I almost freed from biting ladybugs last night at this campground! HAHA! In the end they went away when the sun went down. Phew. Thank goodness. Angry ladybugs are a weird experience. Camping is a bit more expensive here in Canada I think with $30 being pretty average for a tent site in a provincial or national park. I haven’t got the hang of free camping yet, or maybe it’s just not for me. I think travelling alone I really do enjoy the experience of being in a specifically social environment, and I like knowing there ar people close by if I needed help or got sick or anything in the night. So … A NEW VAN TRAVELLER is in the works!! Congratulations to you and your partner John, I am soooo happy for you both! He is a lucky boy to have such adventurous and resourceful parents. Sending all the best to you all!! If there aren’t pics on your FB, please do send me some of your travels and the van of course!