• Sam Wilson

Solo Road Trip Lessons

Things I’ve Learned As A Solo Traveller

Road Trips can be absolutely awesome and I do love them - they require a lot of planning to be done right, but some things you just can’t plan for. Mostly these are good and you just soak up the experiences. So, sharing here some recent experiences and turn them into a positive - hopefully they can help you too.

Country paddocks with fog and sunrise glow with mountains and blue sky streaked with clouds in the background
Worth getting out of bed for early and hitting the road

And let’s face it, just like life, it isn’t always rosy despite our best efforts. What we can do though, is understand ahead of time that things aren’t always fabulous, but we can make the best of things when times do get tough.

Here are some of the things I didn’t consider on my recent road trip which was for 13 nights and covered just over 4500kms.

Person holding a coffee cup in front of a her of cows with a fog covered mountain in the background at sunrise with fog
Just Add Cows And Coffee - Perfect Start To A Country Drive

Planning Is Key

I’ve always considered myself as a pretty organised person and like to plan things to reduce hassles along the way. This has served me well, and planning a road trip is no different.

As I’ve done several over the years now, I’ve refined this as I’ve gone along, so here are my learnings and recommendations to hopefully help you also -

A full blog post is to come detailing all my planning process, but here are my go to’s to start with -

  • Select area/destinations to cover

  • Do a list prioritising must and maybe’s.

  • Use Google Maps to work out the total trip and then how to break up each day. I like to travel no more than 4-5hrs beginning to end each day. This can end up being 8-10hrs with stop offs etc but that’s a good starting point.

  • Book all your accommodation in advance - this will make you keep moving on those days that you may not feel like it, and also not leave you unsafe or nowhere to stay for the night.

Car boot filled with bags and camera gear including tripod
No One Said You Have To Travel Light

  • Check facilities where you’re planning on staying - supermarkets, laundries, cafes/restaurants, even petrol stations

  • Create a document outlining all of the above and save notes on your phone. I include the google maps link to all of these. I also have this on my laptop to refer to and refine plans as I go.

  • If going out of range, make sure you have a paper map and/or have the destination locked in on your gps so that when you lose signal you don’t get lost - trust me on this one.

  • Have a good travel kit - not just clothes but things like plastic bags, cutlery, crockery, wipes etc. Motels and cabins have seriously reduced what they supply these days so make sure you’re covered - it’s usually more expensive to buy on the road, and hey it’s a road trip so I’m sure it can be squeezed into the car.

  • To see more about what goes into my planning, read on here

Stubby of beer on table with a view to nice backyard and forest
Chilling After Planning Done and Packing The Afternoon Before

Road Trips Can Be Lonely

Yes, I live alone so I’m well used to my own company, but being in a different location outside of your regular comfort zone does make a difference.

Depending on the internet coverage (see below), you aren’t always able to tap into your normal social connections be that via phone calls, texts or FB/Insta messaging.

You are also out of routine - I tend to settle into my accommodation late afternoon (after all I’ve usually been up and going since sunrise), and don’t eat out at night a lot. At home I would have work around the house to do, gardening etc., not to mention spending time with my girls.

Tortoiseshell cat in motel room
A Regular Visitor While Staying In A Motel In Bright

When you’re away you don’t have that, and when you’re on your own you need to come up with solutions to fill in this time otherwise.

You Don’t Always Have Internet Coverage (despite what the accommodation advertises)

This caught me out a couple of times - firstly in Port Campbell and then in Shepparton - both areas that I thought would be fine.

I totally expected this on the country roads that I travelled and had prepared for that, but this was on another level.

Gravel road curving into the forest with ferns on the side of the road
Driving Through The Otways - No Internet Coverage Here

It meant I lost contact with people, and I couldn’t keep up with my blog posts and business activities like usual.

I always take a book and have music to listen to, but sometimes you really do need that human contact.

Eating Out Alone Is Not Always Fun

This one I did know, but had forgotten, and the world has changed over the last couple of years since my last significant road trip.

More than once I was made aware that I was taking up a table that could have been filled with another person or two.

On one occasion I was offered a stool to sit on at the counter next to the cash register for breakfast. This was despite the cafe being less than half full and no reserved tables anywhere. I requested a vacant table and offered to move should they need that one extra seat. That didn’t happen and I was able to have a table for my breakfast, but I will say it wasn’t the most pleasant experience.

Pancakes served with fruit and cream on a plate in a cafe
The Food Was Divine Even If The Experience Wasn't

Travel really has changed over the last couple of years

I tend to stay either in motels or cabins and eat out for most meals. This time I tried to economise a bit which meant either having breakfast or dinner at the accommodation.

While everywhere had a kettle and microwave, only a couple had a toaster, let alone cutlery or crockery. One I stayed at had a toaster and microwave but only a teaspoon and no plates or knives/forks etc.. Luckily I do always pack cutlery, but I’ve never had to think of a plate or bowl before - lesson learned.

Also, due to the staff shortages, many places are closed for days or even weeks at a time despite what searches on Google or Facebook show. Hopefully this is only short term and will improve soon.

King parrots feeding in a tree
More Motel Visitors Making Me Feel Welcome

Always Look Behind You

Ok, I may have known this already, but my new friend was a lovely reminder of this.

I was photographing some trees on the other side of the road, happened to turn around and found someone to share my coffee with.

Photographer holding up a coffee cup up in front of an emu in a paddock with a mountain in the background
Good Morning "Eddie" - For Some Reason I Believed He Was A Boy

Keep Vigilant

I also knew this, but it was a timely reminder seeing footprints (not mine) on the patio where I was staying one evening.

It was raining so I don’t even think I would have known otherwise as the wet footprints showed up on the wooden boards when I went out to get something from the car.

At home I can be very slack with locking doors and things and definitely try to be more vigilant when away. Luckily I was also on this night but it was a reminder to always be careful.

Selfie at top of mountain with a valley and another mountain in the background
Look After Yourself First, After All You're All You Have

Check The Google Maps Route

I LOVE Google Maps - it has given me so much freedom to travel to places I never would have without it - AKA, I’m terrible at reading paper maps.

But, have a look at the route it’s giving you - I absolutely loved the roads it took me down on my last trip, but there was one day that I didn’t see another car for over 3 hours, and it was 4hrs before I came to a real town or service station for petrol. This was something I hadn’t considered so it was just as well that I routinely fill the car up at the end of each day, and always have water and snacks in the car.

Having said that, it was an amazing drive and experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, and remains a highlight of the trip - I felt like an explorer heading into the unknown - so much better than mindless driving on a highway.

Car pulled over on the side of the road taking in the view heading up to Mount Hotham
On The Incredible Drive Up To Mount Hotham

Head Down (or up) Random Roads On A Whim

While I'm such a planner, it always pays to allow time for trips out of your way.

Taking Selfies Sux!

I used to get annoyed at people who asked me to take their photos (usually couples mind you), but now I totally understand it.

By now I probably should be better at taking selfies, but it’s just not a priority for me, so photos of me and my coffees, occasional selfies, and when I’m lucky enough to have a kind fellow traveller take a photo, it is what it is.

Further back is always better - maybe I should consider a selfie stick???

Keep Busy And Stick To Your Itinerary

Having an itinerary has saved me on so many occasions, particularly when you’re feeling lonely, or just plain lazy.

Time is always limited on a trip and if you don’t stick to your itinerary you may miss out on those things that you listed for a reason. It also makes you get going when you may not feel like it, and trust me, you'll always feel better for it

Perfect Example Of Being Rewarded By Making Myself Get Out There

For Balance Plan For Down Time

You can’t be on the go all day every day, and you need to acknowledge and respect those times that you just can’t make yourself get out and check off that above list.

To find balance, let yourself just chill and do nothing, even if it’s just for an afternoon, but take things with you to help with that so you’re not just staring at bad artwork on the walls.

How Do They Choose These Artworks???

For me that’s listening to podcasts or music, or just reading a book while chilling with a wine or coffee. For you it might be netflix, going for a walk, doing some yoga etc.

Whatever it is, allow yourself that time, just limit it and don’t stay there.

Final Words

Photograph everything and consider keeping a journal - it’s so easy to forget the little things along the way, and lots of those little things add up to bigger, more meaningful memories.

Would I do it again? Absolutely!!! I already have several more planned, now just have more things to add into my consideration and my kit - never stop getting out there.

That’s it for now - Keep smiling and stay caffeinated

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